Irine Gaasbeek currently serves as the Dutch country managing director of global professional services and consulting company, Accenture. Irine has generously shared her knowledge and wisdom with Rise and Lead members, serving as a speaker at the last Rise and Lead Summit. Recently, she sat down with Rise and Lead founder, Ebere Akadiri, to share her thoughts on leadership, how raising her hand, led to her current position, and more in our Inspiring Women Leaders series.
Check out the highlights of her interview below:
Ebere: I read somewhere, in one of your interviews, you said that if you hadn’t raised your finger, you wouldn’t have gotten this position. Tell me about it.
Irine: That’s right, well actually a number of times. I think often you hear that people, specifically women, do not dare to raise their finger or stand up and say “Hey, I am interested in this role”. I think we miss a lot of opportunities because of that, and if I looked around in my company and I saw my colleagues and I never made a distinction between men or women, for me everyone’s the same no matter what your background is. So I never made it an issue myself and it was more like “Hey, I can do that as well”, and I raised my finger. If you do that in your own authentic way, people will know that you’re interested and they will keep you in mind. If I wouldn’t have done that, they wouldn’t know that I was interested in those roles, and they wouldn’t have asked me. I always say to the people in my team as well, “If you don’t share with me what your interests are, what your ambition is, it’s difficult for me to think how you think and just ask you. If I know what you want then it is easier for me to think of you when I have those kinds of positions”.
Ebere: I also read about one of your interviews where you talked about leadership style. When we look at a role model, you said that we shouldn’t copy their style; otherwise, you miss that part of you that makes you who you are. Tell me about that.
Irine: I like to look at other role models and other people to pick up bits and pieces and learn from that, but I use that to find my own style to become the better version of myself. I will never be able to become the best version of you. I can look at you and pick up ideas from you and how you handle situations, but the only way to do that is to become the best version of myself. Sometimes I see people and you clearly see that they copy the style of others, but then you’re not your authentic self, and if you want to gain the trust of your team then you have to be honest about yourself and who you are, then you get what you give is what I say. So if you are honest and transparent in yourself, people will do that as well and everybody would be able to become the best version of themselves.
Ebere: Beyond raising our hands, I believe there are other skills that you need as a leader – for Accenture to even trust you and hand over the entire organisation to you. What are those skills and how did you acquire them?
Irine: I think to start, what is important (to know) is you can’t do this alone. I can’t make this business in the Netherlands successful, the team is doing that. A skill of a good leader is being able to build a good team and listen to the people – (be able to) develop and look at what their strengths are and give people the room and freedom to operate in that strength. And give them responsibility where they can really work on their strength and help them develop that. Because the team is the one making success, I am not. I am supporting the team by giving the podium to make this company successful, and that means being clear in leading them but also know to take a step back, giving them the podium to shine and to grow and to learn. Don’t be afraid that others might in the end be better than you and surpass you; that is perfectly fine. That means I did a good job if there are people in my team who outgrow me.
In her full interview, Irine and Ebere go into more in-depth discussions on leadership styles, decision-making and the importance of learning how to say no. You can find Irine Gaasbeek’s full Inspiring Women Leaders episode here.