“Growing is like shedding a skin. When you shed your skin, you are vulnerable and have to grow a new skin. Growth has to include some pain. So I would tell my younger self to be much more relaxed, sit down and get on with it!”
Ida Beerhalter is Co-head of IOME, a private investment partnership of women principals from the Gulf region with its head office in Riyadh, KSA. Additionally, Mrs Beerhalter also serves as Member of the Board, Trustee, Advisor, and Expert to various for-profit and not-for-profit organisations around the globe (amongst others Astia USA, Omnia Strategy UK, WIP – Women in Parliaments Global Forum Switzerland, Bellwald Partner GmbH Switzerland, Impact Investment Partners LLP UK, MedXperts Germany, Yunus Social Business GmbH Germany, Social Business Earth Switzerland, First Light Trust UK, TBLI Group The Netherlands, Charité Foundation Summit Germany) specialised in a wide range of issues including, social business, entrepreneurship, impact investment, gender inclusiveness, women empowerment, investment in emerging markets, and wealth management, family governance and succession planning.
See her Linked in profile here. This interview is part of the Trailblazing Women Series on global women role models.
Who is your role model as a leader?
I try to pick out the best things from different people and then piece them back together to make sense to me. Then there are quotes, inspirational sayings and behaviours that add to that. I don’t try to idolise people as you mostly only really see one facet of the person, not the real person. For example with Hilary Clinton, there are pieces from the things she says and facets she shows that I admire, but not necessarily the whole person, also because I do not know her well enough to know if I would like her or not.
“I admire the silent, genuine, authentic person, not someone who hides behind an image of what they want others to believe they are. I want to see what’s behind that image, what is the motivation to do or say something and to understand the whole person.”
You don’t have to look far to find role models, actually real models. My personal role models are my father and mother. My father, because he endured great hardship during the war, lost his younger siblings due to hunger and worked hard all his life to give his children the best of everything. My mother, because she is the quiet, effective woman behind the scenes, who was able to handle my father’s depression and who taught never to overlook the positive side of things.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
My greatest achievement is that I can do what I want, and have the freedom to work with people I respect and that I do not need to put up with “jerks”. It is also a wonderful feeling when people come to me to ask for my opinion and help, because they believe I can add quality.
What has been your biggest challenge as a Woman Leader ?
Not to fall into the trap of stereotypes and generalisations that limit you. I think each woman has to look at her own specific individual situation and find a solution that works for her and what makes her life meaningful to her.
If you want to have an impact, you need to look at the problem. For example, on the topic of having more women on boards – I think that is too general. What we in fact need is a new board culture, with more diversity and inclusion that will naturally increase the number of women on boards. Throughout my career, I was not aware of the glass ceiling. I ignored it all the time and tried to strategically put myself in a unique situation. One boss advised me to do the things that nobody else wants to do, but with passion and dedication. By “owning” a niche you are also forced to think outside of the box. Plus it’s more difficult to replace someone who owns a niche and adds something very specific to the company – it also puts you on management’s radar. My biggest challenge has been linked to stereotypes and to keep my own biases in check. I have found it easier to move ahead with people who are less emotional and more pragmatic and who put the task in the centre of their motivation and not themselves.
How do you grow people in your organization?
“I like the odd eggs in the basket, the people who stand out – be it shy or loud – and because they tend to be more creative and think out of the box. I like to give them a challenge and room to grow – we all have achieved most of our successes because others believed in us and gave us the opportunity.”
I tell them they should do every year at least one thing out of the box. For example, I convinced a rather shy woman on my team to do 20 hours of singing lessons to help her get out of her comfort zone, open her mind and do something she was not familiar with – the effect was amazing – for her and for us all.
“I think the further you move away from your comfort zone and go exploring, that’s when you may find a hidden talent or – what is also important – something which makes it much easier to face and accept a weakness.”
When growing people, you find out what they can do better than you- that helps you to delegate better and helps you to keep your feet on the ground. It’s important to give each team member the feeling that what they are doing has value for you and for the organisation. And encourage them to venture out – it gives them a different perspective, boosts their confidence, feeds their creativity and increases their satisfaction of working with you.
If you could do 1 thing differently, what would it be?
I would go to University, not necessarily for myself, but to satisfy other people’s need for the security of having a degree. I am a voracious reader, and consume books on every topic from India to philosophy. But some people and organisations absolutely require the security of that piece of paper. That has been the only stumbling block in my life so far, when I was being considered for a Board seat I was really interested in. Unfortunately, the criteria for the selection required a university degree and I did not get the seat. On the bright side, not going to university opened up time for me to be able to meet other people and push me out into a different environment, which made my experience unique.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I would say my leadership style is based 100% on trust. I go by my gut feeling. When you work with me, you get my complete trust and loyalty. For me leadership is about trust, loyalty and giving people the room to make mistakes.
“I see myself as a conductor. I try to bring the individual “instruments” together which are necessary to perform the piece perfectly. I don’t pretend that I can play each instrument myself. I put people together in a team and am ruthless about getting people out who intentionally don’t play the right tune or even worse – play another piece.”
I believe that all members of a team should stick wholeheartedly to team decisions – and should also stick together to fix outfall from mistakes. When we start going in a certain direction, the whole team needs to be on board. A good leader has to be a good communicator and be able to set and manage the expectations of his/her team members and the “satellites” of the team. She does not put her career and image in the center but rather the team and the task /result.
“I am passionate about understanding the motivations of other people. Understanding why they do or not do things, is my most important compass.”
How would you describe the difference between men and women’s leadership styles?
I see more differences among men leaders and women leaders themselves, than between genders. A leadership style is a very personal thing and is also dependent on the personal life of the leader and what she is going through. For example, if a male leader is going through a divorce, that may affect the way he interacts with women back at work. Or, if your child is seriously ill, your leadership back at work will surely suffer. I don’t believe in one type of leadership style, rather that it changes throughout your life as you mature, change and grow. And different tasks require different styles.
“A really “mature” leader, is her / his own worst critic, has an adaptive style and is empathic enough to form and maintain a team spirit. This leader does not choose the team members to serve best his style or out of nepotism but the ones who best serve the task. I believe you need to find the right leaders and people for each task / project to achieve a goal. It’s not about gender.”
What advice would you give to your younger self?
My mother always said, that the things that make you cry, the people who stop you from sleeping at night and the things that hurt you are the ones that make you grow.
“Growing is like shedding a skin. When you shed your skin, you are vulnerable and have to grow a new skin. Growth has to include some pain. So I would tell myself to be much more relaxed, sit down and get on with it!”
I would also tell my younger self to have more patience with others. It takes time to learn to “walk”. If you don’t have time, then you must be able to “walk” with them until they can or dare to “walk” or hire someone who already knows how to walk who is doing your job!
“And I would tell my younger self to be more gentle with me – most people never smile at themselves or trying to find out the positive and beautiful things when looking in a mirror. I learned from my kids to just do that. If you do not like yourself why should other people?”
What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?
I would like to stop working in the financial field and leverage my network to better connect the dots between women in politics, women in business, wealthy women and entrepreneurs.
“I want to do things I am passionate about and help to unleash the huge untapped potential of women. It’s about building a movement. It’s not about men or women – it is about inclusiveness.”
Women often tend to stay in clusters without much connection between them. I believe that when people get to know each other on a personal level, and share what they care about, they can build a connective tissue and help other people understand their world.
3 key words to describe yourself?
“Be generous, respectful and gentle with yourself – and others . Do not try to be somebody else because everyone else is already taken. Find out who you are than you can become whoever you want.”