Denise Malecki, a Partner in PwC's Health Advisory Practice, discusses SAP's role in bringing women into leadership positions and the importance of authenticity in business today. Topics of this discussion include:
- What makes people authentic and the many ways this kind of leadership supports business
- Factors that impact a leader's ability to be authentic
- How authentic leaders can motivate and change a workforce
Listen to the podcast, and read the transcript of the conversation here:
Natalie Miller, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Natalie Miller with SAPinsider and welcome to the SAPinsider Podcast. Today I am speaking to Denise Malecki as part of a Women in Leadership Podcast series. Denise is a Partner with PwC and leads SAP’s health industries practice.
Hi Denise, thanks for joining me today.
Denise Malecki, PwC: Hi Natalie, thanks for having me.
Natalie: So Denise, in your experience, can you describe authenticity in business and your thoughts around how that supports business?
Denise: This is always interesting; there's many articles that are written about what is authentic leadership, and as I step back and think about the characteristics of what makes anyone, whether you are in a leadership position or not, what makes anyone authentic, I think it really is being true to who you are. It’s being self-aware and genuine. It’s making sure that you are inclusive. It’s making sure that you lead with your heart. And in order to do that, you need an environment that you can feel trusted and you can be trusted. And I often think about authenticity as very much hand in hand with diversity.
When we talk about leadership, we many times say, ‘Well, gee, we need more diversity in the leadership; and how do you get that diversity?’ It really is, is your organization prepared, and is your organization ready to allow people to be who they are regardless of what their gender is, what their ethnicity is, where their religious views are. If we can allow people to be who they are and be true to themselves, to be genuine, then we create an environment where there is trust. And that trust then exists at all levels. And having that trust allows us to create a workforce and a business that can grow, that can take risks, and take chances in an environment where it’s OK to be different.
When I think about authenticity, and I think about business and why it’s so important, I think that the businesses of today, especially, need to be on top of what the current environment looks like in terms of how people live and how people want to lead their lives—and there isn’t one size fits all. Some of the old fashioned ways, if you will, that business was run, those days are gone. We see a lot of innovation, particularly in technology. And when you think about that level of innovation, it requires people to think differently on a constant basis. Year to year people don’t know what the world is going to look like that we live in as it relates to innovation around technology, so I think having an organization that believes and trusts in people being their authentic true self, being true to who they are, creates a trust-based environment from which many people can bring the best of who they are to create something greater than a standard set of thinking.
Natalie: What are some factors or issues that might impact a leader’s ability to be authentic?
Denise: Leaders who don’t trust in their people, and leaders who don’t trust in their peers, become the biggest barrier to not having diverse organizations or organizations that are ready to be successful or be successful in the world in which we live in today. And what we see today in the workforce, particularly the younger workforce, is that this is not a workforce that says, ‘I’m going to start in one organization and I’m going to stay there for 35 years or 40 years.’ This is a very mobile set of people that are willing to jump from organization to organization. And that creates challenges, because turnover can destroy business value. So it’s all about, how do you keep and retain the best people. And how do you create an environment and a culture where people want to stay. Very few people I’ve met, in fact none of the people I’ve met, want to work for somebody they don’t trust. People don’t want to work in environments where they can’t be who they are, where they have to lead double lives. I think with the advancements in technology, certainly at PwC, what we see is our people are very open to expressing how they feel and what they want. We are no longer in an environment where we can say, ‘Well, there’s the door.’ We have to be responsive to all kinds of people, because those are the ones that are bringing the best ideas, that are allowing us to continue to grow and be successful in the market.
Natalie: So turnover, you said, is a repercussion when leaders can’t lead in the proper way; can you talk about some other repercussions?
Denise: You also have within organizations, how do you keep people motivated to show up as their best day, every day? I recently was in a conversation with a client who was talking about two divisions within the same organization. One of the divisions was really popular and the other division was considered boring, too structured. So this particular client brought in a new leader for that old-fashioned, structured business, and they brought in somebody who was considered, in the way described to me as so real, so approachable, someone that told it like they saw it, was willing to listen, wanted to see lots of different thinking, and created an environment where the employees that were part of that division started to become very excited about that business. That business quickly became the leading business in this organization, and the people that were in the cool business wanted to jump over to this business. And when I asked the question, I said, ‘What made that leader so inspiring?’
And they said, ‘They were real. They were authentic.’ That leader, one person, was able to motivate and change a part of an organization that literally has thousands of people around the world, and when I think to what are the specific things that I heard this leader did, it was being self-aware, being genuine, it was someone who was really focused on what the mission is and why each person’s role was so important. It was someone that’s approachable; somebody that leads with heart; somebody that isn’t afraid to show emotion; and somebody that’s excited and shares that excitement and helps the rest of the people understand that they are part of that and they are contributing.
Natalie: Great, well thank you so much for your time today.
Denise: Thanks a lot, Natalie.