Vic Crone was the CEO of Xero until the end of 2015 when she decided to stand as a candidate for the Auckland mayoralty. It’s been a little while since we heard directly from a senior woman, and we were delighted when Vic agreed to answer our questions about her career, her views on women’s progress, and more.
Q: In your career, you reached a CEO position – rare for anyone, and especially so for a woman. What’s the story of how you got there, and what lessons did you learn along the way?
A: Success in business is just like success in other areas of life, lots of hard work, training, being prepared to change the way you’re doing things and never ever giving up. I’ve learnt so many lessons along the way, like the value of listening, the power of diverse teams, that culture does indeed eat strategy for breakfast and you can deliver ten fold by empowering those around you to be their best.
The values I learnt in my childhood (teamwork, love of learning, ambition and compassion) alongside the early jobs I had in service industries have had a great influence on who I am as a leader.
Q: Because our readers will be very interested, we’re going to ask you the question no man is ever asked: how have you successfully combined your family and your career? What was the hardest part?
A: There is no doubt my greatest challenge has been carving out a successful career while raising my children. I did it with a lot of planning, hard work, good support networks and constant fine tuning of routines!
Q: What reasons would you give for the lack of women in senior positions in New Zealand and the slow progress to change the situation? If you could wave a magic wand, what things would you change to improve the situation?
A: There is good representation of women in junior management roles. However this drops off significantly as roles become more senior. Part of this is the challenge of balancing family and a career. However, even women without children aren’t progressing as expected to senior roles.
Research by McKinsey and Lean In Org shows it’s a combination of women facing greater barriers to advancement and a steeper path to senior leadership. To address this organisations need:
- the CEO to lead the diversity agenda
- to address the gender bias that exists and
- to create a level playing field for talent of all age, gender and culture.
Q: You’ve blogged recently about the need for leaders to embrace diversity. Can you share what diversity means to you?
A: Diversity means having a very wide range of skills, experience, beliefs and ideas around the table. It’s about diversity in thinking based on age, gender and culture amongst other things. In my experience diverse teams are more creative, challenge the status quo more frequently and are considerably more tolerant to explore a wider range of views.
Q: You’ve put yourself forward as a candidate for Mayor of Auckland. (Good luck!) Can you share with us how you came to that big decision? What, in your view, makes for effective leadership?
A: The Super City is the largest Council in Australasia, and I think Aucklanders are waking up to the need for a strong leader with experience in large businesses to bring these disciplines and efficiencies to Council. I’m standing as a candidate so Auckland has a strong alternative choice to a career politician. Effective leaders are great listeners, collaborative, courageous, empower those around them and use these skills to rally people to a better future.
Q: Can you share what your personal definition of success is? And can you tell us what, in your view, makes the successful women you know, successful?
A: Success for me comes from having a strong vision and purpose, being open minded to how to achieve these, empowering others to deliver their best and creating win win outcomes when working with others. A strong dose of courage comes in handy as does being deeply connected to your staff, customers and stakeholders.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: Don’t sweat the small stuff!
Q: What’s your favourite advice to pass on to other women in the working world?
A: Be confident, be authentic, dream big and get great support networks around you.
Thanks, Vic! I’m sure Professionelle members, among many others, will be watching your progress with real interest as the year goes by!
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