The challenges of leadership

Jen profile 1Jennifer Paice is the new CEO of SafeDeposits Scotland, the tenancy deposit protection scheme leader in Scotland which is the only one of the three approved Government schemes that is not-for-profit. She joined the company from Lombard Asset Finance, a company supporting UK businesses in Asset Finance, where she was Director of Origination Scotland.She was also the Vice President of Financial Services at Scottish Development International in both the company’s Glasgow and New York offices from 2007-2011. She is interviewed by Anne Casey

I believe that you have just taken over as CEO at SafeDeposits Scotland, the tenancy deposit protection scheme.  What have been the challenges for you in taking up this post?

The biggest challenge has been trying to find the company a new office! We are currently within SCVO serviced offices, and with not enough room for me to have a desk, it was an urgent requirement. But five months on, we are moving in next week which will be a major step forward in our growth plans.

In a senior position, such as this, there is an expectation that you will provide leadership to the organisation and yet your style may be very different from your predecessor’s.  Do you think that there are any specific challenges around this aspect of taking up the post of CEO?

I did find the change of leadership a challenge as I am very hands-on while my predecessor lived in England while in post, so wasn’t able to be here as much. We are also very different people. It was very important I communicated how I was going to provide leadership. And I think it was more difficult for the people in the organisation to adapt to a new style.

In being a leader, have you made conscious decisions about what leadership looks like for you or is it something that has emerged as your career has progressed?

I think my leadership has developed from the experiences in my career but also through my personality. I do like to be hands on, so find it unnatural to delegate but I’ve learned that to be a good leader you need to learn when to only offer direction and not take over and allow staff to take the lead on projects, to allow their own professional and personal growth.

Have you at any point in your career had a role model?  If yes, what was it that you found attractive about their style?

Early in my career, I had a great boss who was definitely someone I would class as a role model. His leadership style was definitely not conventional, but he taped into my personality and knew that to get the most out of me, he had to give me independence but at the same time offer praise when I’d something right or good for the company. It spurred me on to be the top sales person in the company, so he did something right! Another more recent role model was within RBS and she allowed me to see that even though she had an extremely busy job, when she had an appointment with you, she really listened, and offered advice and you felt like you were her priority in that discussion. She also had such a successful career, and was happy to share how she got to where she was, she in fact then gave me the confidence to apply for this role.

Your career has been in the financial sector.  A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows that women are “substantially under-represented in managerial jobs, including at the most senior level.  Clearly you are not typical but have you found it difficult to progress in this environment?

I am actually typical of the under representation, because in fact, I had to leave the financial sector to continue my move towards more senior positions. The financial sector is definitely under-represented in diversity whether that is gender, race etc. And it’s an issue that is being addressed successfully and with senior leadership input at RBS, and I was heavily involved with the diversity agenda before moving onto this role. Banking has primarily being a man’s world but it is changing. Currently a lot of work is being done in understanding people’s unconscious bias and how this affects decision making, which is a really interesting subject.

I have been told that you are happy for it to be known that you are pregnant.  Many organisations, at this level, would baulk at the prospect of its CEO taking maternity leave.  Clearly enlightened and well-managed organisations should be able to take this in their stride.  I think our readers would be interested to hear how the organisation is going to manage this, if you feel able to share the broad detail.

I signed the contract for SDS and a week later realised I was pregnant, which was a shock for everyone! Certainly not planned, but the organisation have been fantastic  and are very supportive. It’s also helped that this has been such an easy pregnancy so far! After an initial short period, of no phones/emails, I will effectively come back to work but work from home for at least 3 months so that I can breastfeed, and as I actually only work 3 days a week anyway, I will manage those hours throughout the entire week. It’s also my 2nd child, so hoping it will be a lot easier 2nd time round. Here’s hoping! No matter what happens, I already feel very comfortable that the organisation will manage my absence with no problem.

2 Comments on The challenges of leadership

  1. Great to hear of women being successful and willing to share their story and to hear that they are working to address gender imbalance in the workplace too.

  2. I can’t help wondering if your appointment would have been confirmed if the organisation either knew of your pregnancy or knew that you were looking to have a second child so quickly. I guess we’ll never know.

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