The Leadership Talks with Young Professionals 2— Anastasia Chatziioannou
My today’s guest, Anastasia Chatziioannou (born in 1996), is a PhD Candidate in Organizational Behavior with emphasis on Leadership. She finished her Bachelor studies at the School of Economic Sciences of the Faculty of Law, Economic and Political Sciences at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and her Master Studies Program “Management and Information Systems” offered by the Schools of Informatics and Economic Sciences at AUTh. Now, along with her PhD studies, she is attempting to establish and grow her own business called ThessHR in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Thank you Anastasia! Your thoughts as a young professional makes me be hopeful for the future of the business world. I hope that all the leaders will be as you describe: humble, empathetic and open minded, and I also hope that all the workplaces will be happy and fullfilling environments!
· What does the concept of leadership mean to you?
I strongly believe leadership is a service that helps you contribute your best and live out your values in every circumstance. Through leadership, a team is supported by the leader to thrive. Leaders in my mind are humble, empathetic, authentic, and open people who have the courage to accept their obligations and are willing to learn from their mistakes. Leaders are trusted by others as they avoid carrying out selfish decisions and generate in this way a collective sense of purpose. This is additionally achieved as they lead by example.
· How would you compare a leader and a manager? Should a manager always be a “leader”?
Well, a leader is way different from a manager. First, as we learn in academic books a leader represents a person who promotes a vision that aids the team growth whereas a manager only sets goals usually quantitative. Thus, a manager focuses on the final product while a leader works towards the group benefit through inspiring and engaging others in turning the vision into reality. Leaders’ vision imposes change and uniqueness as they invest in innovation, lifelong learning, personal growth, and long-term motivation. They deliver new ideas to the table taking the risk of the reactions that may occur. Besides, they always try new things even if they eventually fail in contrast to managers’ perspective that tends to maintain the status quo, control risk, and copy behaviours. Additionally, leaders acquire self — awareness and they are willing to stand out seeing their colleagues as competent and full of potential. Finally, through leadership, it is significantly easier to have efficient and effective employees who manage to do the right things successfully. Summing up, managers should be leaders as this is the way to success through building trust, team spirit, empowerment and engagement.
· Which one would be more effective for a successful business and talent management, a dictating leadership or empathetic leadership? How?
I could say I am a hopeless romantic, so I support empathetic leaders. On the odd occasion, a dictating model of leadership is thought to be unavoidable if for example employees are Type X and they need to be directed closely to achieve organizational goals. However, empathy helps leaders decipher how their colleagues feel and offer them their assistance. In this way, employees that have “philotimo” (literally meaning ‘love of honor’), as Greeks say, can behave like Type Y and support their organization’s vision. Empathetic leaders are good listeners and denote openness, too. Such behaviours can reduce tension, stress and uncertainty through phrases like “You are important” or “I will not judge you”. On top of that, job insecurity is decreased, trust and respect are built and there is a conducive environment to problem-solving through collaboration. Thus, teamwork and success are one-way.
· What kind of workplace would you like to work regarding the management approach?
I would like to work in a workplace that appreciates dedication and ethics while giving me the choice of flexibility and autonomy as long as deadlines and goals set are met successfully. Work-life balance is a must for a thriving organizational culture. I seek to unlock my own and my colleagues’ potential through enhancing our self-efficacy. Over and above, I need to have mutual trust with my team and lifelong learning opportunities. Each day is a new day and a chance to discover something that will alter your life!
· How important is mental health in a workplace?
Mental health represents a basic asset for organizations in which they must invest. We must consider that when workplace anxiety and depression exist an economic negative impact is inevitable as employees are not going to be productive. These situations can cost the global economy up to 1 trillion dollars per year according to the World Health Organization. Employees’ morale is going downwards influencing their overall health, mental and physical, too. Stressors, bullying, and harassment at work are contributory factors to health problems. This is why mobbing is gaining increasing interest from professionals. For instance, there can be diabetes and hypertension while stress is able to induce the symptoms of thyroid diseases worse. Mentally, employees may suffer from burnout and they may disengage. Consequently, we should promote employees’ health and support them to boost their self-confidence, reduce absenteeism and increase productivity and loyalty.
· How would you react if you were bullied, overstressed by your colleagues and/or superiors, or when your knowledge, abilities and work were not acknowledged?
I think most of us have experienced, unfortunately, this kind of situation. As expected, we may feel they don’t value us. This leads to lack of motivation and conflicts on a routine basis. In cases like these, we should first talk openly to our colleague or boss and state that something bothered us while being calm and defending ourselves without being defensive as possible. Frequent meetings can unravel problems like that in contrast to gossiping that will make things worse. We should remain positive as the changed behavior may not be our fault. We don’t know what people have to cope with within their personal lives. It is possible the person confronting us deals with anxiety or an illness. We should tell them “Are you okay? I noticed something changed since last month/days, etc.”
If our coworker or boss continues to bully us, we have to act and not react. This situation needs to change. We search for solutions and documentation and try to understand our fault. Needless to say, we should not accept derogatory behaviors or someone’s tendency to take credit for our own work. We must be more assertive and not nervous about saying “No” if they keep pressuring us. If they keep underestimating and disrespecting us we should escape this toxic environment and wish for them the best. I know it seems difficult, but they are the ones who need to heal first.
· What should a leader’s approach be about mental health at work?
Leaders are the ones who can bring change to the workplace environment. This can be achieved by educating their teams and facilitating supportive organizational cultures. They can lead by their example through clear communication with their colleagues and routine checks — in meetings. Implementing supportive policies and providing accommodation about mental health at the workplace can work towards this aim, too. Leaders should come to an agreement with top management to create an Employee Assistance Program and provide confidential access to the employees in need. As one would expect, they should encourage self-care, flexible working and use of surveys to monitor employees’ mental health and/or complaints in compliance with GDPR.
· How do you think the education system and the business world should evolve, especially considering the Covid-19 era?
People should understand our health is the most precious asset we possess. Put differently, we must identify ways to keep our colleagues healthy, both physically and mentally. Education system needs to focus on personal values like being ethical, authentic and optimistic, as well as in continuous learning and e-learning practices. These will assist us to adapt to changes and make the best of them. Businesses should, additionally, focus on establishing their organizational culture even remotely (frequent meetings, e-party etc.) and making employees part of a “corporate family”. The Covid-19 era taught us that we must value everyone’s life and stand next to each other no matter our differences.