Insights into leadership challenges: What are the essentials for being a good leader?

Susan Uthayakumar: Insights into leadership challenges

Leading in the new disrupted world of work is different to a few decades before. In a worth reading interview, Eva-Lotta Sjöstedt has already delivered first insights into the major challenges of leading today. But what is really essential for being not only a leader but a pathbreaking leader in times of digitalization? Susan Uthayakumar answers this question in the following interview. She points out, that she has learned two lessons that really stand out throughout her career. Be curious about it and find out more about the biggest leadership challenges!

Susan has been with Schneider Electric for the past 13 years working in both the U.S. and Canada. She is currently the Country President for Canada responsible for the entire operation of Schneider Electric Canada.

Previous to this role, she worked in a variety of roles including leading National Sales; leading the Building Business Unit in Canada, Finance leadership roles in the U.S. and Canada and leading Acquisitions for North America. In her tenure with Schneider, Susan has been a key player in transforming the company from a product manufacturer to a specialist in energy management and efficient technologies.

Susan holds Board positions with Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Electrical Federation of Canada, and the France-Canada Chamber of Commerce.

Customers and Employees must be seen as the pillars of companies

Susan, you are leading one of the largest electrical manufacturers in the world, tell us a bit of how your daily routine looks like? What’s the first thing you do when you arrive in the office in the morning?

My day is usually anything but routine, however I do take some time each morning, normally on the drive in, to reflect on the day or week before. Doing this with a fresh mind in the morning helps me calibrate and be prepared for what lies ahead. I also try to start my day by either connecting with employees or working on a customer facing activity. Customers and Employees are the two pillars of Schneider and I feel good about starting the day focused on one of these pillars.

Two things are essential for being a good Leader

You have been with Schneider Electric Canada for many years holding various leadership roles before assuming the Country President position, what is the one most valuable lesson you learnt working your way up to the top that you can share with our readers?

This is a great question, and an important one. I have learned many lessons throughout my career, but there are two that really stand out:

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First, I learned the importance of having the courage and confidence to get out of my comfort zone, early. There was always a feeling of vulnerability each time, but the varied experiences helped build depth and resilience which are essential for being a good leader.

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Second, leading with a moral compass. As a leader of the country, there are often tough or difficult decisions to be made. To best balance the needs of the company, customers, and employees, I always drive the decision by looking at doing what’s right. Sometimes it may not be the most popular decision, but leading with this discipline guides the best outcome for the situation, and for everyone.

Smart Decisions are vital to preserve the economy and protect the earth

Let’s talk about technology and digital transformation, what does it mean for you and for your company and what are the biggest challenges you are encountering today?

As the demand for energy continues to skyrocket, and digitization is unfolding at record speed, we know that digital transformation is a key driving force of all our markets today and that the Internet of Things is here and opening up huge opportunities for all businesses. At the same time, it’s crucial that businesses and industry, who are significant users of energy, are also stewards of the environment. Businesses and industry leaders must take the necessary steps and make smart decisions that will preserve the economy for our businesses, and more importantly, protect the earth for future generations. It’s estimated, for example, that by 2050, there will be 2.5 billion more people living in cities than today.

We are talking about nearly 10 New Yorks to be created every year, for the next 30 years.

Susan Uthayakumar, Country President, Schneider Electric, Canada

At Schneider Electric, we are proud to lead the digital transformation of energy and automation, for efficiency and sustainability for our customers.

Power and Digital is our collective challenge and opportunity

How do you see the world of business and society in the next five to ten years as far as digital is concerned?

The technology revolution is transforming our world and occurring at an unprecedented speed. We have all watched over the past 20 years how digital technologies have altered our lives and the business landscape in ways largely unimagined during the early days of the Internet revolution. When we look at our customers, we say the present is digital. The social and digital platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Spotify, and others have already had vast impacts on individuals. The first wave of the internet was all about connecting people. The next wave of the internet is the Internet of Things – connecting the 5 billion people to 30-50 billion things and machines. So, with IoT we are today where we were with the Internet of People in the 90s. The IoT is now digitizing things. More capability will come as we unleash more data as a result of this. And IoT is getting boosted by both Artificial intelligence and Augmented Reality.  Therefore, power and digital is our collective challenge and opportunity.  We need to be smart on how we use energy and other resources (with the help of digitization) so that the future generations can have a sustainable world!

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Martina Große Bley

At Management Circle, I lead the content marketing team. Amongst others, I manage and oversee the Global Female Leaders blog. I am also responsible for the topics soft skills, project management and trademarks on the Management Circle blog. I am delighted to inform you about current topics, trends and creative ideas. I look forward to hearing from you!

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