Author: Elena Gosse
Elena Gosse on authentic leadership
Manufacturing sector leader Elena Gosse explains how being authentic to herself and to others is what makes her a better CEO.
As CEO of an innovative and successful company I am often asked to speak at business events and share the ‘secrets’ to my success.
Having undergone a dramatic career transformation since moving to Australia 23 years ago, I love sharing my professional and personal experiences with people, particularly other women.
Prior to arriving in Australia I had a very successful entertainment career in Russia. It was quite an adjustment to start a new career, particularly in the largely male-dominated water disinfection industry.
I believe that authenticity has been a big part of my success. Authentic leadership is a term that is bandied about regularly but I firmly believe that staying true to your values, being open and honest, and even a little bit vulnerable has helped me greatly in my career.
For many years after arriving in Australia and when I was still learning the English language, I was worried about showing weakness or making mistakes. I thought it would make me look incompetent. I thought that I had to act one way at work, and another at home. I now know that honesty is a very powerful tool.
One example of this is when our company had a significant number of orders over an already typically busy Christmas season. We were waiting for some parts to arrive and I was worried that we would not meet all the orders on time.
I shared my concerns with my team and worked hard to lead us to success by personally coordinating deliveries and production, and regularly communicating with our staff and suppliers. The AIS team showed its true spirit and all the orders were completed.
Some days after, at our staff Christmas lunch I thanked everyone for their great work. To my surprise, I burst into tears. At that moment, I was worried that my emotion could be perceived as a sign of weakness, however I now know that this expression of honesty, vulnerability and gratitude was highly valued by every staff member in the room.
Since I have accepted and adopted my more creative ways of thinking, and used it to focus on innovation, our business has never been better. Although I understand the complexities of water science and how our products work I have left the qualified engineers and scientists to concentrate on what they do best.
Another part of my authenticity is that I am not afraid to ask questions. One thing I have learned is that it is OK to admit that you do not know something. You will gain much more respect by being authentic and I find people are always happy to feel included.
My team is always happy to provide me with technical presentations or material. In fact, one of my sons-in-law works as a technical advisor with AIS and attends presentations and meetings with me. This is because I value his feedback but also because he is a great support when it comes to the more technical side of water science.
As a proud Australian citizen of Russian heritage, I am a passionate person and not interested in being the most politically correct person in the room! I lead with my heart as well as my head and am not afraid to show my emotions. I think honest communication is critical to achieving successful outcomes. Of course, this means communicating professionally, respectfully and with empathy too.
Authenticity means believing in yourself but not for the benefit of your own ego or money. It is about achieving goals for the benefit of all.
It is not about acting. Never underestimate the intelligence of employees, suppliers and customers. They can spot an imposter a mile away!
On a personal level, I think it is very easy for women to ‘lose’ ourselves and our sense of identity. Of course, this can apply to men too but it is my observation that women play so many roles and devote so much time to each. We are mothers, grandmothers, partners, wives, carers, sisters, aunties and friends.
Outside of work I have reignited my love affair with dancing and singing. I have learnt to say ‘no’ to things that no longer serve me. I surround myself with family and friends who are positive and authentic. I try and take care of my physical and emotional wellbeing.
Being authentic, to myself and others, is what makes me a better CEO.
Elena Gosse is CEO of Australian Innovative Systems. Elena is a regular guest speaker and panellist at the Women’s Leadership Symposiums. Her Brisbane based company designs and manufactures water disinfection technology for salt, mineral and fresh water commercial and residential swimming pools. For more information about AIS’ products and services visit the AIS website.