In every issue, The LINK speaks with an interesting thought leader from within the Chamber’s extended network. This time we caught up with the inspiring Lina Jorheden, Country Manager at Atlas Copco, Eastern Africa.
At the tender age of 32, she can already boast both an impressive CV and the number one spot on the Female Leaders of Tomorrow list, selected by the Swedish manager’s magazine Chef and Ledarna, Sweden’s union for managers, in May 2015.
“Good leadership is when employees are given the support they need when it is necessary but also the authority and the trust from management to act on their own initiative”, Jorheden tells The LINK.
Despite the many challenges that her role implies, (she is responsible for 14 countries in Eastern Africa) Jorheden has managed to turn negative trends into positive, having increased employee satisfaction from -13% to +37%, as well as improved profitability with over 40%. Her achievements and successful leadership style is what has led to the award and the first place on the Female Leaders of Tomorrow list. When asked, she is very humble about her secrets of success.
“I was truly surprised when I received the award. I guess you are more visible when you do something that stands out a bit, like working in a very traditional and male dominated environment and in a part of the world where a lot of things are happening but maybe not so many have insight into”.
However, she believes that her leadership philosophy has helped. Jorheden has a very modern leadership style, and she has showed that this works even in an environment that traditionally is perceived as hierarchical and old-school. Her very broad background; having worked in four different countries, changed from finance to management and marketing, and that she is breaking a lot of stereotypes may also have contributed.
Her current area of responsibility covers mining and rock excavation in East Africa, a sector with few women in leadership positions. Being the only woman in a business where the majority are male can be lonely and it is impossible to blend into the crowd.
“I sometimes find it frustrating that I don’t look like people expect a country manager to look and therefore judge me based on that”, Jorheden tells The LINK.
However, she believes that most characteristics of a person’s leadership are more individual than gender-based and that it is difficult to say if any of her leadership qualities or characteristics have to do with her gender. Even though being a woman has sometimes been used against her, many people react positively when they find out they are dealing with a female country manager.
Not previously an expert in the sector in which she is working, Jorheden tells The LINK that as a Manager she has been focusing on enabling her team members’ strong sides, making sure that the potential of the team as a whole is utilized.
“I aim to make sure that everyone understands the goals we have as a team and how each person will contribute to these. I involve the full team in the decision making and want them to understand and embrace the reasons behind actions and conclusions,” Jorheden continues.
Working in Africa poses both challenges and opportunities. The area that Atlas Copco covers includes some of the world’s poorest countries. Some are also affected by terrorism and civil conflict. But some of the world’s fastest growing economies are also there, with all the opportunities and challenges that comes with this. To make the most of the potential, Jorheden think it is vital to develop local expertise and to work with their entire product portfolio.
What is it about your job that motivates you on a Monday morning?
That I’m learning new things every day and consistently develop with my team. There are a lot of challenges in Eastern Africa but also a lot of opportunities and it is fantastic to be part of the development these societies are going through. Our products contribute to infrastructure, access to water and energy provision – basic needs in a developing country. Besides, there’s room to be creative and to build things up from scratch. There are no fixed structures, no routine ways of working and no “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” thinking, which allows for a dynamic working environment in which you can really make a difference.
What is your advice to others who wish to become a young, successful leader?
Make sure to have a good manager supporting you and learn from him/her. Take every chance to stick your head out, participate in meetings, jump on new projects and try to be where the decisions are taken. In the beginning and without much experience, it is difficult to get the most attractive positions, so be open to accept difficult missions and do things that few people are willing to do. Be yourself and don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
What does the future hold? Plans, dreams?
I enjoy being a manager, I like to challenge people and work together with them to reach goals, and I hope I can continue to do that in the future.
How would you describe your professional self in three words?
Clear, listening and adventurous.