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Transcript: Advice for leaders: Be yourself and focus on your strengths


Karl Moore, Talking Management

KARL  MOORE – This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University with Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. Today I am delighted to be in North Hatley, Que. where we are talking to five senior women leaders about the nature of leadership today and what can we learn from it.

How can you be yourself? There is so much pressure as a leader and so many expectations for your position that you have to deliver. How can you be authentic?

INEZ JABALPURWALA – I think you can only deliver if you are authentic. I am not saying this to be cliché but that is where you bring something that maybe other people can't bring and that's when you distinguish yourself because you have brought your authenticity – what it is you do really well and are passionate about. And it's that old adage about saying that we are always asking people in interviews what their weaknesses are – you don't want to hire anyone because of their weaknesses, I don't care what their weaknesses are. You want to figure out what your strengths are and do them very well. I don't need you to spend all your time trying to compensate for weaknesses. You have to focus on the things that you are really good at, that you are really passionate about, and that's what will attract other people to be around you. Being mediocre at a lot of different things – you are never going to distinguish yourself, that's not leadership.

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LOUISE OTIS – Do what you have to do and don't take yourself too seriously.

KARL MOORE – When you're in your 20s it's a time when you are trying to fit in. When did you start saying, "hang it, I'm going to be myself"? Do you remember a time when you said, "That's it, I am going to be who I am?"

INEZ JABALPURWALA – I have never felt like I fit in any particular community. I have a mixed heritage; I still get asked constantly, even though I was born in Quebec and have four degrees from Quebec University, "Where are you from? No, really, where are you really from?" When I was younger it was this big chip on my shoulder because I went to a very homogenous high school in a suburb and I was different – no one could pronounce my last name.

I remember I won this public speaking award and the presenter said, "Now a woman we all know, Inez Jabapalinski." And then he said, when I went to receive it and I corrected him, he said, "Don't worry, one day you will marry and you can change your name."

It took me the longest time to understand that you can go through your life with a chip on your shoulder about this, or about numerous other things that we all have, or you can decide on the things you want to focus on and that was the most freeing decide I ever made. Because it is true, there are some people that may make judgments or there are some people that may not perceive me being part of a particular vision that they have of society, but if I spent all my time worrying about that then I don't think I would have accomplished anything.

I found a place, in science, which I believe is one of the true meritocracies that still exists because it's a global talent search and nobody is going to care who found the cure for cancer if someone finds it, or Alzheimer's or depression. They are going to care about the fact that it was done. My parents always instilled that in me – get the job done, do it the best way you can, act with integrity, and that's all you can control.

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