Four ways to hone your leadership voice

Genesys CFO Sharon Virag on how to be the leader your team needs by adapting you communication style to the situation and the person.

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Feeling confident in your leadership skills doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a challenge we all face as we grow in our careers and one that takes years of practice to truly own. For Sharon Virag, finding her voice cultivated the success of her twenty-year career in finance, including stints at Deloitte, General Motors, General Electric, and more.

Sharon, currently the Chief Accounting Officer (CAO) at Genesys, has found that there isn’t a cookie-cutter way to lead people. At the end of the day, it’s all about creating a space for others to grow.

We recently interviewed Sharon on our podcast, where she shared the steps she took to become the leader she is today.

The following are Sharon’s top four tips for up-and-coming leaders looking to find their voice.

1. Speak up

One of the most valuable lessons Sharon learned early on in her career was the power of sharing her opinion.

It’s easy to want to go with the flow and not challenge the popular consensus, but Sharon says when you have an opinion that differs from the rest of the group – whether that group is your colleagues, the board, or shareholders – that’s when it’s most important to speak up.

It can be scary to disagree, but Sharon says using your voice is a necessary tool for any leader:

‘I’m going to not worry about being wrong. I’m going to actually be willing to be wrong once in a while in order to move the ball forward’.

Whether you’re right or wrong, sharing your opinion helps further the discussion so the group can make a better-informed decision.

2. Be a chameleon

The stereotype of a traditional leader, Sharon says, often coincides with acting ‘like a man’ by being assertive, authoritative, and in control. But if you want to get the best out of your team members, you have to match your leadership style to each person’s personality type.

Not everyone responds well to the same kind of leadership style, so you have to use whatever approach brings out the best in each individual. Sharon says:

‘[Some people] want to hear you talk in an assertive, authoritative voice, and then there are people who you would never get the best of them if you were to speak to them that way’.

While it’s more work to learn and use different styles of leadership for different people, it’s the best way to help your team members thrive.

3. Find a balance

Being a leader is all about adjusting to how your team works best.

Sometimes, you need to work through every detail, one-on-one, and other times you need to let go of the training wheels so your team can work independently of you.

As a leader, Sharon says, it’s your job to help your team learn and grow:

‘You just have to put in the time to teach them and then step back, let them fail, and help them through it. You’re developing them as you go, and you have to start thinking of development as your job, not the task’.

Knowing when to be hands-on and when to delegate is a balancing act all successful leaders need to master.

4. Listen well

Listening is a vital skill for any leader, but it is especially important when you are stepping into a new role.

Sharon calls the first few months in a new leadership role the ‘disruptor’ period, where you learn the ways of both the company and your team so you can help them work more efficiently.

For Sharon, this process involves a lot of listening, organising, and prioritising:

‘Any time you’re going in to be the disruptor, I think you have to do a tonne of listening before you do any talking. And then you have to really quickly be willing to trust your own instincts and put together a plan and begin to execute’.

When you’re stepping into a new role, don’t make changes just for the sake of making changes.

When Sharon started with Genesys, she didn’t bring any original processes to the company, she simply helped them organise and prioritise their existing operations.

If you listen to your team members, find what’s working, and then change what isn’t working, you can help everyone get organised without reinventing the wheel.

But first, find your passion

To be a good leader you have to speak your mind, accommodate the needs of your team members, know when to step up and when to step back, and how to listen in order to make positive change.

But there’s one other element you need to truly succeed as a leader: you have to love what you do.

Sharon has been in finance leadership roles for over two decades, but it was only recently that she pinpointed what about her job she really loved:

‘I finally realised that for me it’s about the challenge, and so I don’t worry that much about what my title is. I worry about whether I’m learning something new every day. Because that’s what fuels me’.

If you can find what you are passionate about and hone your leadership skills, you can learn to lead well in any company.

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