Leadership | Excellence | Achievement | Diversity
As we proceed with the Women’s LEAD Initiative, we are asking women in the community to answer questions around their own LEAD experiences (Leadership, Excellence, Achievements & Diversity)
Danielle Skipp on Her Path to Leadership & What LEAD Means to Her
Danielle Skipp, Managing Director, Ontario and Chief Legal Officer at Nicola Wealth draws on her decades-long experience as a career woman, mom, wife and friend and shares what she has learned in the areas of leadership, excellence, achievement, and diversity.
Tell us about a time you experienced bad/good leadership:
Jackie was my boss (my leader) for only three short years but during this time she was incredibly impactful and helped launched my corporate career. I believe I was 30 years old when Jackie and I first started to work together. Notably, when our working relationship ended because of my decision to stay at home with my first child, she generously continued to share her valuable personal time and guidance; evolving from my boss to my mentor, champion, and friend.
Simon Sinek in his book “Leaders Eat Last” asserts “Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead… the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own.” An example of Jackie in action as an excellent leader was her deliberate steps to bring me along to her meetings so I would gain exposure to other senior leaders and observe, for my own learning and development, how things worked and got done. She was, and continues to be, generous with her time, advice, and guidance. This generosity and thoughtfulness continues to motivate me.
In my 20+ years working in law and finance, it will not be a surprise to learn that I have bumped up against many people in leadership roles who were not excellent leaders – they led (hard to use this word) with intimidating behaviour, and fostered an environment where colleagues felt the need to compete with each other for personal advancement. Simply put, if any sense of team existed, it was not because of their leadership.
The observation about “putting the right people on the bus and in the right seats” is bang on. We need people with excellent leadership skills in leadership roles and we need to avoid putting people into team lead positions just because they are a strong producer especially if they will do more damage than good. Great leaders are both skilled at their trade and skilled as leaders, working deliberately to foster a sense of team and putting their own personal needs behind others.
Tell us about a time you experienced excellence:
An opportunity to “toot my own horn” – ok here it is – I graduated with the highest marks in my law school graduating class. I recall a discussion with my husband several years ago – I was in my 40s and I was embarking on a new role and had been asked to provide my resume. I asked Matt, should I remove the reference to graduating at the top of my law class because that looks self-promotional, and it was so long ago? He said, of course not: it’s a massive achievement that is very relevant to the value you bring as an employee – keep it there and put it in bold type.
It is interesting that leadership coaches such as Sally Helgesen speak about a socialized female tendency to reluctantly claim your own achievements. In support of each other, our female and male colleagues, we need to celebrate personal excellence and value what these people bring to the team for our mutual benefit.
Your greatest achievement?
I am very proud of the balanced and integrated life I live every day. This has taken deliberate effort to carve out time for family, career, friends, sport, personal time and social time both with girlfriends and couples. There is a lot to fit into a busy day, week and month and my high energy level certainly helps me pack it all in. I know (100%) that I am a better wife, mother, daughter, sibling, aunt, friend, colleague and leader because of the balanced and integrated life I aim to live every day. The only thing that suffers because of the diversity of my activities is my tennis game – I definitely need more court time to win any trophies! 😊
Tell us about diversity in your own life/career:
Something I practice in connection with diversity as it relates to my social and work environments is to “celebrate difference.” I challenge myself to approach all situations with an open mind and judgment-free. I acknowledge that I am comfortable in familiar settings with like-minded people, but I am also very aware that this is limiting. My life is richer and our organization will be more successful when doors are open and we invite diversity to come in to take a seat at the table.
Lastly, a few sentences on my experience as a woman working in law and finance. Absolutely, I have tackled some roadblocks in my career that can only be described as uniquely female. More to come. I tackle these roadblocks in my own personal way but with the benefit of wisdom, support and encouragement generously shared by both women and men I respect. I am passionate about the importance of building communities with a supportive “female spirit.”