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Brigette Hyacinth: Leadership Is about People


Journalist: Yu Yanjuan  |  Source: PMR  |  Updated:2019.04.01

Introduction to the interviewee:

Brigette Hyacinth is a Bestselling author, and an International Keynote Speaker on Leadership, Management, HR, Social Media Marketing & Influencing, Digital Transformation and Artificial Intelligence. 

Brigette has been named as “Top 100 Most Influential people of African Descent under 40”, “Top 20 EMEA-Based Tech Experts to inspire Digital Transformation Efforts”, “Top 100 HR Influencers (Leadership & Development) of 2018”.

She is the author of 4 books: The Future of Leadership: Rise of Automation, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence; Purpose Driven Leadership: Building and Fostering Effective Teams; The Ultimate Leader: Learning, Leading and Leaving a Legacy of Hope; The Edge of Leadership: A Leader's Handbook for Success 


Leadership Is about People

Q1: You’ve said that leadership is about people. Would you please elaborate on this point? 

Brigette Hyacinth: Leadership is about people. You must have a passion for people and a foundation of caring about their welfare to truly lead them. Leadership is built on trust and you cannot influence people to support or follow you by using dominating and controlling behaviors. To lead people, you need to win their hearts and minds and this takes vision, passion and inspiration. Once they believe in you and trust you, you won’t need to rely on a title to get them to complete tasks.

Q2: You’ve been making efforts to promote “holistic leadership”. Why? What does “holistic leadership” mean?
Brigette Hyacinth: Holistic leadership is leadership which benefits the leader, followers and society. Today, we see often one-sided leadership where the person in charge benefits the most. Leadership is about making people better off, not just yourself.

Leadership Skills in Digital Age

Q3: In the era of digital transformation, what are the top attributes of an effective leader? 

Brigette Hyacinth: The top 10 attributes are digital literacy, vision, adaptability, creativity, communication, integrity, humility, authenticity, emotional intelligence and inspiration. Today, the emphasis is on soft skills rather than hard skills as in the previous industrial revolutions. People and social skills will be in demand since these cannot be easily automated. 

Q4: Trust-building is essential for leadership. In your opinion, what are the behaviours that make employees lose trust in their leaders?
Brigette Hyacinth: Some of the behaviours include micromanaging, blaming, taking credit for someone’s work, lack of integrity and not having your teams’ back. Loyalty is a two-way street. It cannot be bought. It must be earned by leaders “walking the talk”.

Q5: Appreciation is an important leadership skill. So what should a project leader pay attention to in order to show appreciation to team members?
Brigette Hyacinth: A leader should pay attention to the effort and commitment shown by employees. Always be quick to recognize, appreciate and reward employees’ efforts. Instead of being quick to criticize, be quick to point out some of the great things you see your employees doing. This will not only reinforce these positive actions of the employees that performed them but also encourage other employees to do the same. 

Q6: Would you please offer a list of things that leaders should never do?
Brigette Hyacinth: Here are things leaders should never do:
Make people feel small – Insult or intimidate employees
Fail to set clear goals 
Ignore contributions of others
Practice favouritism
Micromanage employees
Act unfairly
Surround themselves with “yes employees”
Order people around like dictators
Demand the impossible
Threaten people

Leaders should not practice these bad behaviors because it ultimately leads to a loss of credibility. Leadership is about influence which requires trust. Once trust is lost, it’s very difficult to regain.

Micromanaging Is the Opposite of Empowerment

Q7: I’ve learnt that you are against micromanagement. You believe that micromanaging is the opposite of empowerment, so what harms will micromanaging lead to?

Brigette Hyacinth: Micromanagement leads to reduction in productivity, reduced innovation, low employee morale, high staff turnover and loss of trust. It chokes the growth of the employee and the organization and fosters mediocrity. 

Decreased productivity. When a leader is constantly looking over their employees’ shoulders, it can lead to a lot of second-guessing and paranoia, and ultimately leads to dependent employees. Additionally, such managers spend a lot of time giving input and tweaking employee workflows, which can drastically slow down employee response time.

Reduced innovation. When employees feel like their ideas are invalid or live in constant fear of criticism, it’s eventually going to take a toll on creativity. In cultures where risk-taking is punished, employees will not dare to take the initiative. 

Lower morale. Employees want the feeling of autonomy. If employees cannot make decisions at all without their managers’ input, they will feel suffocated. 

High staff turnover. No one likes to come to work every day and feel they are walking into a penitentiary with their every movement being monitored. 

Loss of trust. Micromanagement will eventually lead to a massive breakdown of trust. It de-motivates and demoralizes employees. 

A leader's job is to provide guidance and support. It’s not monitoring an employee’s every movement. It's facilitating a healthy environment where employees can perform at their best. A high level of trust between leaders and employees defines the best workplaces and drives overall company performance. When you empower employees, you promote vested interest in the company. Empowered employees are more confident, more willing to go the extra mile for employers, and more willing to do whatever it takes to care for customers. 

Good Followers Help Leaders to Grow

Q8: The success of a project calls for both effective leaders and great followers. Obviously, "yes employees" are not great followers in your eyes. Please share with us the necessary qualities of good followers.

Brigette Hyacinth: “Yes employees” unintentionally set leaders up for a great fall. They never point out the truth and try to avoid conflicts at all costs. Good followers provide honest feedback and fresh ideas and opinions. They don’t tell leaders what they necessarily want to hear, but what the need to hear. They are neutral and not afraid to let leaders know when a decision is not in line with their stated values. As iron sharpens iron, good followers help leaders to grow and be at their best. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

Leaders Are Different from Bosses

Q9: You’ve posted an article to advise people not to be a boss / manager but a leader. What are the things that distinguish a leader from a boss?

Brigette Hyacinth: Here are 4 traits that distinguish bosses / managers from leaders:

Decision Making - Participative VS Directive. Managers delegate and assign duties while leaders actively participate. Leaders show how it is done and back up their team with the support to help them succeed. 

Power - Influence VS Formal Authority. Leaders command respect. Managers demand it. The term “manager” means you are a steward, custodian of someone else’s belonging. Managers are the instruments of corporate policy whereas leadership is selling a vision that you require others to buy into.

Focus - People Oriented VS Task Oriented. A manager is interested in the bottom line. A leader is interested in his / her followers (the people who will deliver the process that leads to the bottom line). 

Motivation - Achievement VS Compensation. Being a manager is a job in which you implement the practices of the organization. Being a leader is a role in which you guide, inspire etc. A good leader puts the interests of their followers before their own, and they measure success by whether their followers are better off.

Three Pills for Leaders: Stillness, Silence and Solitude

Q10: You have recommended “three pills” for leaders in the prevention of degenerative diseases that can curtail leadership life span. Would you please explain that in detail? 

Brigette Hyacinth: Being in a leadership position can be quite draining and demanding since people are always looking to you for all the answers. In this digital era with information overload and shortened attention spans, your ability to absorb crucial information decreases. The “3 pills” of Stillness, Silence and Solitude creates an environment conducive to peak performance. 

Stillness allows for information to be absorbed and will give you a chance to focus. The competition may be steep and the market ever evolving, but effective leaders know they have to get it together and focus. "A wise woodcutter indeed is he who rather than constantly chopping wood will occasionally stop to sharpen his axe." Leaders that can appreciate the value of stillness can move forward and sustain momentum after pausing.

Silence can be an effective tool when emotions are high or if you want to learn more. The best way to learn information is to stop talking and listen. Emily Dickinson said, “Saying nothing sometimes says the most.” Silence can be a powerful tool. Think before you speak. Today many leaders talk far too much and listen too little, when it should be the other way around. 

Solitude cures chronic burnout. Taking time for yourself is crucial to leadership. While leadership is about execution, getting things done and action, it also requires time to pause and reflect. Solitude is one of the most important necessities of true leadership. It’s a time of rest, peace, strengthening and refreshment. Distancing oneself from the distractions and taking the time to listen to your thoughts is the path to wisdom. 

These “3 pills” enrich the body's internal environment to support repair, regeneration and the renewal process. However, overdosing on any of these 3 pills will have detrimental side effects. Discernment is key. It’s important to know the prescribed doses to apply in any given scenario.

Female Leadership

Q11: As a female expert on leadership, have you observed any differences in leadership among females and males? What strengths and weaknesses do female project leaders have? 

Brigette Hyacinth: Research has shown that women leaders have higher emotional intelligence than men. Women outperform men on nearly all such emotional intelligence measures as inspirational leadership, coaching, relationship building and empathy. One Gallup study concluded that women managers consistently outscored men in engaging their employees. Another study conducted by Peterson Institute study showed that the increasing number of women in leadership roles was linked to increased profitability. I don't want to take this too far, but it does begin to feel like a pattern emerging.

The weakness I have seen in women project leaders are: 

Overly apologizing. Some women believe they need to be quiet or less visible to make their intimidated male counterparts feel more comfortable. Women shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for who they are and the skills they bring to the table. Be more confident.

Adopting a tough persona that they think is necessary to achieve success. Some women feel they have to prove themselves so they act in a bossy style or wear a tough image to be a leader. It is imperative that women in leadership maintain their intrinsic style. Be yourself.

Overly embracing the democratic leadership style. Sometimes the need to fit in can cause women to always collaborate. However, if you keep depending on or continuously seeking advice from others before you make every decision, you will seem weak. Be assertive and decisive. You can do this job.

Q12: Which leadership style do you adopt in your work? As a female project leader, how do you find a balance between life and work? What are your tips for female leaders?
Brigette Hyacinth: I have adopted the transformational leadership because it focuses on change. Leadership is about change and as leaders we should always prepare people for change. It’s leading by example. This style tends to use rapport, inspiration, or empathy to engage followers. It’s about making sacrifices for the greater good. Additionally, my style may change at times depending on the situation. Situational leadership style is effective since it takes into account the individual and specific situation. 

My tip for female leaders is to be you. Accept and believe in yourself and embrace your uniqueness as women. In this digital age, time management is key. Develop a plan to wisely manage your time. Additionally, take care of yourself. Ultimately your well-being is very important to your overall success as a leader. Unless you are healthy, you cannot lead your team with vitality and vigor. It’s important to take care of your health. Exercise, eat healthy food and get adequate rest. This will help you deal properly with stressful situations. Only when you take care of yourself can you enjoy the fruits of your leadership.

Q13: With 4 books published, you are a productive author. Do you enjoy your work? Where does your job satisfaction originate from? 
Brigette Hyacinth: I love what I do. I love to help, inspire and motivate people. My job satisfaction comes daily from the messages I receive, and the people I meet as I travel around the globe who continuously tell me, “You inspire me or you have helped me.” It lets me know I am creating a positive legacy.  

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