PEOPLE AT WORK: Women Leaders and Role Models

 

AS a corporate working mom for over 20 years, I had reported to more than two dozen bosses in my career. Some of the most exceptional managers and leaders I had encountered were women. Some people think women managers are hard on female subordinates but my experience proved otherwise. I learned and developed the most under these women bosses.

Most of them were working moms themselves, or became working moms in the process. They were all outstanding in their respective fields. From each, I learned lessons that proved quite useful in the development of my career.  I would like to share what I learned from three memorable lady bosses.

SJM was (and still is) a consummate diplomat and leader. She was able to secure resources from superiors, generate support and cooperation from colleagues and mobilize personnel for the numerous projects that she would conceptualize for public service. SJM was so dedicated to nation building that on her wedding day, with the required documents on hand, she was able to secure a budget of millions for her beloved agricultural projects. As her executive assistant, I’ve always wondered at her choice of the managers and staff for her projects. As a newbie at work, I only saw their faults. I also wondered what strengths she could possibly see in me, a new graduate with barely enough experience, on her first job. SJM, however, only saw their (and my) strengths. Working for her, I learned my first leadership lesson: utilize the strengths of your people rather than harp on their weaknesses. By doing so, you motivate them and earn their undying loyalty. True enough, at a snap of her finger, she would have us working till the wee hours of the morning preparing feasibility studies and this at a time when computers were not yet in vogue! Yes, it makes sense now not to force people to do things they are not equipped or interested enough to do. By tapping into their strengths and passions, a visionary leader could inspire people to do the seemingly impossible.

EDA, as the feisty icon of progressive media, seemed intimidating at first. I always had the sneaky suspicion that probably one of the reasons she hired me to head the human resources department of the newspaper was the fact that my sister was also a familiar name in print media.  EDA though was far from intimidating upon closer interaction. She had (and still has) the sharpest of minds, a vision that could easily pierce pretentiousness and hypocrisy and an amazing ability to see humor in every situation. She also never lost her sense of the masses, so to speak. EDA gave her management team lots of latitude which bolstered our sense of accomplishment and encouraged our creativity at work. From EDA I learned that the best way to manage people was to give them enough room to manage themselves. It was “empowerment” at its best.

ARP learned the ropes of the business from the bottom up, notwithstanding that her family was the majority stockholder of the company. I always marveled at how she quickly absorbed information and acquired competencies needed for her leadership role in the company. She was the first boss I reported to who was younger than I was. But she grew into her post by leaps and bounds. Her values and principles were clearly reflected in her decisions. As a human resource manager exposed to the “realities” of conflict-ridden labor management relations, I sometimes was exasperated at how she could see the good in every person she dealt with and gave them the benefit of the doubt each time. When I was about ready to give up on a person who had incurred so many disciplinary offenses, she would prefer to give them another chance, and yet another. Any project that would contribute to the development and growth of the employees, easily got a nod –and the required resources—from her. From her I learned a critical leadership lesson: always value your greatest asset—your people.

This column is a tribute not only to these three great women bosses but a tribute to all working women, who by the dint of their own hard work and sacrifice, have “intruded” into the highest echelons of management, in effect, breaking their glass ceilings at work. Let this tribe multiply!

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. Published in Metro Working Mom March 2005.

Photo credit: www.sxc.hu

(Postscript: SJM is Sylvia J. Munoz now, Sylvia M. Ordonez, former Managing Director of Technology Resource Center; EDA is Eugenia D. Apostol, the founder of Philippine Daily Inquirer and ARP is Alexandra “Sandy” R. Prieto now Alexandra P. Romualdez, current president of Philippine Daily Inquirer.)

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