In Linh’s Facebook interview with Antoinette Brandi, they share insights as well as experiences on what it takes to become a great leader.

About Antoinette Brandi
Antoinette Brandi is Linh’s mentor and someone who has had a big influence in molding her into the leader she is today. Antoinette came from a family of immigrants. She started her career as a high school teacher but after a few years, she decided that it was not for her. She worked in six different industries, with at least 14 years in the public sector and the rest was spent in the private sector. She was willing to take on jobs that no one else wanted to do as a hard-working single mother in a male-dominated world. She took on challenging roles which helped shape her into a strong and independent woman.

Journey as a Leader
Antoinette’s basic principle was taught by her mother, which is you should be the best person you can be. She never asks anyone to do something she would not do. The lessons learned through her education has really influenced who she is today. Antoinette was fortunate enough to have a couple of good mentors from whom she learned about the premise which is something she still practices today; One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated. Another thing that motivated her to excel is the negative feedback she received as a teenage mum. People said she wouldn’t be able to become successful and she would only ever be seen as a teenage mum. However, that didn’t faze her and she took it as a challenge to do better and aim higher.

Qualities of a Great Leader
A great leader is someone who inspires others, who listens, sees potential in others that they don’t even see in themselves. A great leader has to have integrity, this is an essential trait needed. She had walked away from a couple of job offers because she didn’t want to sacrifice her integrity. Integrity is one of her core values that she also looks for in her other people. A leader needs to be passionate about what they do and knows how to put people together for collaboration. They must be able to determine who in their team are able to work together well to get the best results.

A leader needs to look past what’s written on one’s resume and to see the potential from the individual. Once when she was choosing between two applicants, one of them told her that his mother would be very happy if he got the job. Antoinette chose that applicant since she was impressed by how much he cared for his mother. She gives people a chance even if they are still lacking in experience, as she is willing to work with them until they improve their skills.

Furthermore, good leaders do not take credit for other people’s work. Recognition is fantastic for everyone as long as it is given to the right person. Eventually, leaders who do this will get caught out while making the lie. Everything flows down to integrity, from the way you treat your subordinates and being honest about what you are good as well as how hard you work.

Another great trait that Antoniette got from her mum is work hard. Leaders need to be hardworking and diligent. One challenge that she had as a leader was not realizing that not everyone wants to go up the ladder. Some people are more passionate about their own roles and purpose in life. Leaders should be able to recognize the different goals of their members and help them realize it.

How did you learn your own leadership style?
Antoinette read the book ‘The Leadership Dilemma’ where she got the premise that when a crisis happens, people reboot their natural leadership style. Her leadership style is just being herself. Once, while working in India she tried one time to be strict and serious as what was advised but she was miserable, so reverted back to her own style. She also learned how body language tells a lot about a person. That way, she could determine if something is not right. A good leader also needs to be able to balance situations since there are instances wherein you need to be in a difficult conversation. You can’t always be everyone’s friend. There are people with whom you can’t be totally open with.

Tips to improve your leadership skills
One great tip is train yourself to be a good listener, take take to listen to what other people have to say. Once, she had coffee with an old friend who shared about a new consulting firm he opened. Fortunately, she had a talk with another friend who was looking for some consulting services that fit the first friend’s description, she was able to bring the two together. It was a good feeling to be able to help out and not think about anything in return.

The other thing is to note that coaching and mentoring are two different things. A coach has to allow a person to come up with solutions themselves while a mentor gives you examples of what they did and gives advice. Some people are more adept at coaches while other people go very well with mentors. You just need to determine what your team needs.

Another tip is to study study study. It can be informal. You can keep on learning through any media in your capacity. Antoinette just read articles about the topics and issues that are interesting to her.

The last tip is to take time to appreciate others, by making them feel valuable and special. You can do this by guiding them on how they could improve on skills and tasks they aren’t good at. Help your team members to grow and provide more opportunities for them to learn new tasks. You can encourage your team to step up so that they can realize their potential, and gives them a chance to participate.

How did you find your mentor?
Antoinette used to have a mentor that was engaged by the government as part of her role. But most of her mentors were people who she worked with people she collaborated with. She usually picked someone opposite from her to compliment her personality. She once had a mentor whom she did not speak with for a year since she had difficulty accepting the advice she received. There are things that you don’t want to hear but if you want to grow then you need to do what is necessary.

One key takeaway
Life is like a bank. You can’t always make withdrawals. You need to make deposits as well. It’s how you want to be remembered. Were you a person whose deposits outweighed their withdrawals? It’s a Christian value but at the end of the day, you need to be able to give and share your with others in order to receive something in return.

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