Leadership is a craft

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

In 2018, Carola Boer left her 27-year career in commercial marketing to pursue her passion for helping people develop as leaders. Today she works as the Director of People & Organisation Development at tech company bol.com, where she grows leaders and builds strong teams. Carola will be joining us as one of our keynote speakers at the 5th annual RightBrains awards event on November 16.

Build people before you build your organisation

After working for years with businesses that put strategy before people, Carola Boer left her marketing career to found LeadUP, which focuses solely on developing people in leadership roles. Despite having little intention of joining another organisation, Carola soon caught the eye of e-commerce platform bol.com, whose values and people-first ethos dovetailed perfectly with her own. “bol.com is one of the first companies I know of that doesn’t just talk about being people-centric, it actually is people-centric. Employees are not just resources there.”

Carola joined bol.com in July 2020. Growing at the rate it was, she set about developing the existing leadership framework to support team development and help managers grow into their leadership roles. “The scope of a manager’s role completely changes when a company grows as fast as this,” says Carola. “It requires a totally different set of skills.”

Give your team the north star and let them define the route

One of the first lessons Carola imparts to her colleagues is that a manager’s main focus should be their people, not the product. As simple as this may sound, Carola notes that many people who are promoted into managerial roles fail to do this, unaware that the new position demands a shift in priority. She believes the top-down model for leadership is outdated, and promotes a model that embraces vulnerability, connection, and humility, where leaders define the ‘what’ and let their team define the ‘how’. “A good leader builds trust in their team,” she says. “They set aside their own ego and are honest when they don’t have all the answers. Your team will be much more receptive to you with this approach.”

Women make great leaders

Carola is committed to improving the gender balance in tech, and actively contributes to helping women secure leadership roles. Ultimately, she hopes for a future where we won’t need to talk about getting more women in positions of leadership. “I hope we can normalise having women in leadership roles and break the archteype of a ‘leader’ being a white male with masculine traits. A good leader needs both masculine and feminine traits – and this is possible for anyone, regardless of their gender.”

Create on account on RightBrains' Career & Mentor Platform and meet more women like Carola!