If you do a Google search on leadership, it will produce over 2.95  billion results. The goal of becoming a great leader is something that many people across the globe share. 

Leadership is not something that is gender-specific and a person’s leadership abilities should depend on their individual strengths and personality traits. Over time, our vision of a great leader has evolved, but overall great leaders are great leaders, regardless of their gender. 

The experience of being a great woman leader can be distinctive and involve its own set of challenges and barriers. We spoke to two senior leaders at Scotiabank who provided some fascinating insights about what it takes for women to be great leaders.  Sloane Muldoon is Senior Vice President, Retail Performance in Canadian Banking and Anya Schnoor is Executive Vice President, Caribbean, Central America, and Uruguay. 

The 5 C’s of how you can become a great woman leader 

Being a leader today is an important balancing act of facing an ever-increasing daily list of complicated demands with the speed of disruptive innovation and cultural shifts. Here are five ways women can overcome these challenges and emerge as great leaders:

  1. Curiosity: “Follow your curiosity” 

    You need to be curious and always keep your eyes open for new opportunities.

    Sloane Muldoon explains how she changed her career path by thinking beyond her past experience, “I had always worked in Canada throughout my entire 20-year banking career. Then a few years ago, I started wondering about what opportunities might be available to work in one of our international markets, and what I might learn by working in our international banking department.  The opportunity soon came for me to work outside of Canada. It all started with a healthy sense of curiosity and exploring the horizon that’s constantly ahead of you.” 

  2. Comfort zone: “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

    The willingness to pivot from your comfort zone is probably one of the most celebrated attributes of great leaders.

    Anya Schnoor, who is originally from Jamaica and joined the bank 15 years ago, shared, “The Caribbean was my comfort zone, but I was enthusiastic about exploring other opportunities elsewhere.  Leaving my home country was one of my hardest decisions. But to be successful, you must be willing to take chances in your career, step out of your comfort zone to pursue your dreams. “

    Anya further explained, “As women, we are more self-reflective and by nature we tend to over analyse and are less willing to jump out of our comfort zones. This sometimes prevents us from taking bold moves in our careers. For example, if there are 10 requirements listed in a job description, some women will want to wait till they reach their comfort level of 9 out of the 10 before they apply.”

    Sloane also expressed that for women to realize their leadership potential, they must “get comfortable being uncomfortable and learn to get out of their swim lanes.”  

  3. Continuous learning: “You have to take personal ownership of your self-development.”

    Most of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs as well as the world’s most powerful women are well known for their continual pursuit of new knowledge.

    Sloane explained it further:

    “Take advantage of every learning opportunity that comes your way. When you are open minded, you are more intentional about learning, and growth naturally follows. It is important for you to have specific targeted developmental plans to support your own personal and professional development. You must take ownership of your self-development.”

    Anya also outlined her learning curve:

    “If I go into a new field and I have only 50% of the knowledge, that’s fine enough for me to start with. I take my time to identify the 50% that is missing and then learn it as quickly as possible. Be great at what you know and then aggressively learn what you don’t know by reading, mentoring, asking, and practicing. Eventually, you will move from that 50% very quickly.”  

  4. Confidence: “Do not sit at the back of the room.”

    Women must remember that self-confidence is what powers most successful women leaders, and it is the foundation of leadership growth. It enables you communicate, motivate and elevate.

    Sloane observed, “As women, we tend to be hard on ourselves, and sometimes this comes from a lack of confidence. As a result, we do not always articulate what we want, or readily put up our hands when the opportunities arise.”

    Anya suggested a confidence building formula for women: “You need to keep training yourself daily to be confident until it becomes a way of life. For example, when most people walk into a room, they tend to drift to the back. It’s the leaders that you usually see standing or sitting towards the front of the room. So, whenever I walk into a room, I want to go to the front. That is where I am more likely to be in closer contact with leaders that I can interact with and who could also influence my career trajectory.

    “In the same way, I always turn on my camera when I am in a virtual meeting. I want to demonstrate that I am in the moment. That way I can engage with my peers more meaningfully.”

    Anya however cautioned that “confidence is best carried without the ego. The line between self confidence and ego is always a thin one. But when you know where you are coming from, and where you are heading to, you will have the wisdom to get your ego under control and walk the fine line successfully.” 

  5. Comeback: “What defines you as a leader is not the mistakes you make, but how you overcome them.”

    Elite athletes are applauded and adored because of their abilities to pull out victories from near defeats, even after huge mistakes. Lack of resilience and inability to handle mistakes is what makes some leaders buckle down and slowly slip into mediocrity.

    How do you deal with mistakes and remain a great leader? This is what Sloane does: “When I make a mistake, I step back and ask myself two questions: what's the lesson to be learned and what would I do different next time. It is also important to have mentors that you can lean on. They can offer valuable advice and share their experiences.”

    Anya has a similar comeback strategy. She said, “I list out all my mistakes and put the pieces of paper in a box. I take time to learn from the mistakes, I ask myself tough question and figure out what I need to do differently. Then I put the box away, because you are defined not by your mistakes, but by your recovery.”

    Anya continued, “The most important part of leadership is looking forward, not looking in the rear-view mirror. If we spend all our time looking in the rear-view mirror, we will never get to the desired destination. Failure need not be a curse. It can be a blessing when you turn a failure into success.”

Where does leadership start and end?

Leadership starts right from where you are. For women to grow to become great leaders, Sloane said, “Preparation for your next role begins with where you are today. Deliver results, treat people well, be a team player and demonstrate that you are ready for any challenge put your way.  Delivering results, or over delivering, is the ‘what’ that will get you noticed, but the ‘how’ is equally important. We can not forget that.”

Anya explained, “Leadership is listening, moving forward together with the team, because success is not just about you. It’s about the team and how you build a high performance team together.”

And when do you finally arrive as a great woman leader? There is no one destination. Keep growing and learning so that you are continuously striving to actualize your goals and become a better leader. 

Learn more about Anya

Anya Schnoor was appointed the Executive Vice President, Caribbean, Central America & Uruguay for International Banking in October 2020. In this role, Anya leads the development of the overall strategic direction for the Bank’s personal, commercial, corporate, wealth, and insurance operations in the regions.  Scotiabank provides financial solutions and services to over 2.2 million customers in the CCAU region through its retail branch network, contact centres and digital channels.

A native of Jamaica, Anya’s experience in the financial services sector in the Caribbean spans more than 28 years in the areas of wealth management, insurance and banking. She is widely recognized as a strong business leader in the Caribbean region, receiving the Caribbean Luminary Award in 2019 by the American Foundation for The University of the West Indies for her contributions in the business community

Anya first joined Scotiabank in Jamaica in 2006, and has held progressively senior roles across the bank, including her most recent role as the Executive Vice President, Retail Products in Canadian Banking. In that role, Anya spearheaded major critical initiatives, including the development of the new Scotia Mobile Banking app in Canada, the launch of several award-winning credit cards, and the introduction of new banking packages, to fundamentally transform the way Scotiabank serves its retail customers in Canada.

Anya is currently a Director on various Scotiabank subsidiary boards and is an active member of the community. She is also a member of the International Women’s Forum (IWF), an organization dedicated to supporting the next generation of women leaders.

Find her on LinkedIn here.

Learn more about Sloan

Sloane Muldoon is Senior Vice President, Retail Performance. Sloane was appointed to this role in November 2020, to build on and further drive culture and change within the Bank to maximize productivity in key areas of our Retail business. Sloane is also an Advisory Board member and the Chair of The Scotiabank Women Initiative.

Sloane joined Scotiabank in 1991 and has held progressively more senior roles including most recently, Senior Vice President, Prairie Region, Canadian Branch Banking. Prior to that, Sloane was Managing Director for the Caribbean East Region and Country Head & Managing Director, Cayman Islands & British Virgin Islands, where she supported the development of the Bank’s long-term strategies in the region. Sloane has also held a number of Senior Management positions including District Vice-President, Alberta South, and Vice President, Agriculture, Commercial Banking.

Find her on LinkedIn here


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