“Leading by example,” says Petra Kahancová, without hesitation. “That is the most important leadership skill, in my opinion.”
Johnson Controls, which employs Petra at the Bratislava Business Center, clearly agrees. The company is leading by example in workplace equality, with a 65% female workforce and an equal number of male and female managers. The company has long promoted diversity and equality within its ranks.
Petra, who manages six people on the Vendor Master File team for Johnson Controls, thinks more businesses should follow their example and encourage women to be leaders.
“Women in business need to see the support and trust of their colleagues,” says Petra. “This trust can be on multiple levels: from being given more complex projects to manage, to being trusted with flexibility when they need work-life balance. For example, it’s possible to work from home on certain days and still lead a team very effectively, especially if that team has been well managed and already is confident in their processes.”
Women in business need to see the support and trust of their colleagues.„
The Bratislava Business Center, which was established in 2007 and now employs more than 1600 people, was built on the foundations of quality service and trust. And Petra believes that foundation comes from leadership, with people like Kristína Gaál Drobcová, the centre leader, showing how it’s done.
“You have to show your team how to analyse any project before you begin, teach them the correct methodology for approaching the process. You lead by example in this case, by showing the team how to approach the work but the execution is their responsibility. You have to trust people to do the work once you show them the best method. That way, you will start to see people grow in their roles, which is one of the best parts of the job!”
Zlatica Rosípková, who is a Procure to Pay (PTP) Finance Manager for Johnson Controls, knows how to nurture large teams well. She manages more than 70 people on the PTP team. For Zlatica, the key to leadership has three elements.
“I think responsibility, trust and communication are the pillars of leadership,” she says. “As a leader, I am responsible for the success and failures of my team. We have a common goal and we need to reach it together. To do that, I need to be honest and have clear communication. My team doesn’t always like the messages I deliver, but I am honest with them and they appreciate it. Because of this, my team really understands the tasks and targets given to them.”
As a leader, I am responsible for the success and failures of my team.„
In Bratislava, Johnson Controls has already achieved parity for women in leadership roles, but what about other businesses in Slovakia? How can we improve the statistics elsewhere?
“If women see the real examples of female leaders, they will not be afraid to step up and make the next career move themselves,” says Zlatica. “Apart from the regular development path, I think interviews with women leaders, virtual meeting sessions and the creation of a female-driven workplace community is a good start. From the company side, it is crucial to treat women equally and give them the opportunities to develop and step up.”
“I think what women find most discouraging is seeing leaders who are working 24/7 without having the proper work life balance, which includes time for family, friends, and hobbies. This doesn’t have to be the case if you set the boundaries. Encouraging women to be leaders should be a part of the company’s culture.”
Katarína Fecková, Manager of Corporate Controlling and Accounting for the EMEA region, agrees that communication is a key factor in becoming a good leader.
“Communication is the key to success in this information jungle,” says Katarína. “Clear, straight and brief communication saves time, energy and eventually money. Good communicators can make everyday life at work much easier, because that provides direction and clarity for everyone involved.”
Katarína believes there’s more to leadership than just communication, however. A good leader, she says, needs to have a strong personality too.
It is important to identify what makes each person unique and ensure their own voice is heard and their individual talent is positively employed.„
“Self-confidence is vital to being a good leader in my opinion,” she says, “because leaders often handle the responsibility, stress and emotions of running a team. That is a unique, authentic characteristic of each individual leader which cannot be pushed, acted or learned. It is something that comes from the inside. It is believing in what you do and how you do it.”
Encouraging that self-confidence is the key to creating more female leaders, according to Katarína.
“We have a great new program in Johnson Controls called The Mentoring Program for Women. It is important to identify what makes each person unique and ensure their own voice is heard and their individual talent is positively employed.”
Kristína Kuricová, Finance Manager RTR for Cash and Bank, believes her greatest leadership skill is connecting with her team.
“It’s really important to be in touch with people, to be a human being,” she says. “The processes you can learn at any time. The top priority should be to have a good relationship with people.”
“I think the opportunities are the same for men and women, but the difference is that the workplace is generally male-driven when it comes to management so it can be harder for women to make the same connections in that environment.”
Don’t think about possible limitations. Have an open mind and be positive. Anything can be achieved. The limitations are only in your mind.„
“To be encouraged, women need to see examples of female leadership, like we have here at Johnson Controls. Don’t think about possible limitations. Have an open mind and be positive. Anything can be achieved. The limitations are only in your mind.”
As for comparisons between men and women in workplace, Kristina does feel like there are differences.
“For me, men are more process-orientated, while women generally have better people skills. It’s good to have a balance between the two.”
Luisa Guzman, who leads ten people on the RTR intercompany team, says there is one leadership trait that she values above all.
“Patience. Patience is the key,” she said. “Adaptability is important too. You need to adapt to all situations. And it’s crucial to remember that people reflect how you feel so if you feel cheery, people will reflect that. The teams often reflect the disposition of their manager.”
Luisa says that it’s important to look on the bright side of life.
“We shouldn’t take everything so seriously, or things won’t be fun anymore. We won’t be able to save the world through accounting, so we should just concentrate on doing a great job and enjoying it. We have to remember to have fun too.”
“Personally, I wanted to become a manager to pass on the knowledge that I had. To share the same experience and knowledge that my previous managers shared with me. Before I became a manager, I was learning so much – and I’m still learning now – and they supported me with that.”
“The fact that there might be less women in leadership is not because of a lack of encouragement, it’s because of opportunities given. I think women are sure of themselves and that they can do the job, but the appointments aren’t always so objective.”
“I think we need to be more objective and select people based on ability and what they are really capable of. There’s a difference between analytics and people management, so the job should go to the person with skills that align with the role.”
We shouldn’t take everything so seriously, or things won’t be fun anymore.„
Finally, Luisa offers a picture of what an ideal workplace might look like, if all businesses followed the example set by Johnson Controls.
“I believe women by nature are more nurturing. Recently, our team was split up and hired more members. So now we have two managers, myself and a male colleague. The team behaves differently with both of us – we are pretty much their parents! I think it’s a great balance that works really well for the team.”