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Q&A with Harriet Green

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A withHarriet Green, Executive Chair, Founding Trustee @Mission Beyond

How could you describe your career path in few words? 

I have had a diverse career path that has allowed me to grow as a leader, founder, and philanthropist while making a positive impact. I started in the electronic components industry and rose quickly through the ranks as Managing Director at Macro, and working globally at Arrow. I moved into the travel industry and became CEO of Thomas Cook Group, where I grew the business’s market worth from £148m to more than £2bn. Later, I joined IBM, where I held leadership positions such as head of the IBM Watson Internet of Things business unit and Chairman and CEO of IBM Asia Pacific. In these roles, I positioned the company as a leader in cloud and cognitive computing and drove IBM's EDI agenda. Since then, I have focused on making a positive impact on society. I founded academies for young children with potential in Thailand and mentor over 33 global leaders. Additionally, I am passionately driving change at Mission Beyond, a social enterprise that connects underrepresented youth with employment opportunities. I prioritise positive and inclusive thinking, always striving to understand how those around me feel and how I can work effectively with them. Overall, my career has been characterised by purpose-led missions and a dedication to making a positive impact on the world's most pressing issues.

What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset?

Although my career has been filled with many challenges and opportunities to overcome them, losing my father as a child was by far the most difficult experience I have faced. It was a deeply personal challenge that left an indelible mark on my life and changed my mindset forever. The trauma of losing my father at such a young age taught me valuable lessons about life, and helped me to develop a new perspective on the world around me. As I struggled to cope with the loss, I began to understand that every day is a precious gift, and that we should cherish every moment we have with our loved ones. I realised that life is full of unexpected challenges, and that the best way to face them is with courage, determination, and a positive attitude. This challenge shaped the way I approach both my personal and professional life. I have learned to be resilient in the face of adversity, and to remain focused on my goals no matter what challenges come my way. It also gave me a deeper sense of empathy and compassion for others who are going through difficult times, and helped me to become a better leader and mentor to those around me.

When you get surprised by unusual or uncertain context, what do you think? 

When faced with an unusual or uncertain context, I approach the situation by evaluating the best and worst possible outcomes. I acknowledge any fear I may have but do not let it take over my decision-making process. Instead, I rely on my instincts and dive headfirst into the unknown. To prepare for the situation, I gather as much information as possible, including whether or not the missing pieces of information are essential for success. I recognise that no challenge can be overcome alone. To succeed in an unfamiliar environment, I surround myself with individuals who possess the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate such contexts. Collaborating with others allows us to share ideas and perspectives, and ultimately work together to achieve a common goal. Moreover, I understand that each team member has their strengths and weaknesses, and I encourage others to showcase their strengths. It is crucial to allow individuals to leverage their unique abilities to contribute to the collective effort. I lead by example, giving my best effort and inspiring others to do the same. In uncertain contexts, it is very important to remain calm, rational, and proactive. By evaluating risks, gathering information, collaborating with others, and leveraging individual strengths, I can navigate the unknown and achieve success! 

Based on your experience, what’s the key success factor for a female leader / manager?

This is a question I get so much! The first thing I would say is: don’t think like a "female leader, manager”! When it comes to the key success factor for any leader/manager, I think it is crucial to focus on leadership qualities and skills, rather than gender. Obviously, it is important to acknowledge the challenges that women in leadership positions may face due to historical and societal biases. However, I strongly believe that it's essential for female leaders to be confident in their abilities, and to not let gender stereotypes hold them back! In my experience, a successful female leader/manager should possess several qualities. Firstly: effective communication is critical: the ability to clearly communicate expectations, goals, and feedback. Secondly, a leader must be able to build strong relationships and trust with their team. Building a culture of openness, honesty, and trust is essential. Thirdly, having a strategic vision and being able to make tough decisions is also important. Leaders must be able to adapt to changing circumstances, anticipate problems, and make quick decisions! I am also convinced that being a successful female leader requires having a strong support system. Surrounding oneself with a diverse network of individuals who provide inspiration and guidance can make all the difference. So, don’t think like a “female leader/manager”, but focus on your effective communication, your team and your vision!

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