Lessons I’ve learned along the way

When I reflect on the lessons that have helped me most, what comes to mind are the colleagues and mentors who have generously shared their experiences (and mistakes). Having benefitted from shared wisdom and lessons learned, I take as many opportunities as possible to return the favour. In a mentoring conversation where I’m sharing personal experiences and guidance, there are three common pieces of advice that I consistently offer:

  1. Lead with your strengths

Taking the time to understand what you’re good at may seem like an easy task, but getting it right requires reflection and self-awareness. Once you identify your strengths, seek out situations and roles where you can shine. While building up your weaker qualities can be beneficial (including when it’s a skill you need to be successful in your role) you’ll make greater progress focusing on your strengths.

  1. Differentiate yourself

Identifying your strengths is an important first step towards differentiating yourself. Whether it’s your professional experience, education or activities outside of the office, determine how you can stand out from the rest—particularly when you work in an area where everyone has a similar background. As someone who can bring a unique perspective to the table, you’ll automatically be a step ahead in terms of establishing presence and authority.

  1. Remember that it’s okay to say “I don’t know”

Most of us fall into the trap of thinking that real leaders have all of the answers, but the reality is that nobody has all of the answers all of the time. More important is knowing how to navigate the situation and find the answers. By asking questions and engaging others, you’ll establish yourself as someone who’s open to new ideas, and there’s a good chance you’ll learn something as well. True leadership is trusting yourself enough to say “I don’t know” and asking for help.

While these words of advice have stuck with me throughout my career, they’re only a subset of the lessons I’ve learned along the way—lessons that have been made possible in large part by having great colleagues and mentors. Engaging and sharing as a mentee and mentor will always be a priority for me, and I hope it will be for you too, regardless of where you are in your life or career.


Nadine Ahn, Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer of Wholesale Finance, RBC

Nadine has global accountability for financial governance, control, valuations and performance management for Capital Markets and Investor & Treasury Services, and is a member of the Operating Committees for both businesses. Nadine is also a member of the CFO Operating Committee.

Nadine joined RBC 17 years ago and has held various senior roles in Corporate Treasury and Finance, including Vice-President & Controller, Global Head of Financial Control, Capital Markets Finance.

She is a CPA and holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Toronto.

How to Carve Out Your Unique Leadership Style


Have you ever wished you were a more inspiring leader but feel you’re too busy in the execution of the job that you really haven’t spent much time reflecting on how you want to carve out your own, authentic leadership style?

I encourage you to take five minutes now to read this article and begin thinking about some simple steps you can put in place to set you on the right course.

Regardless if you are just starting at a new company or have been there for 25 years, there is an opportunity to look within yourself and bring more to your job. I am not talking about giving more hours or even energy; it is about giving more of who you are to the role and your people. How do you do that?

Where you can start:

  1. Identify what is important to you in terms of leadership characteristics. List three to five characteristics.
  2. Where are you acting inconsistently with these characteristics now?
  3. Assess the development gap.
  4. Write down a quick action plan for yourself to progress on leading in a way that feels right for you.

Challenges you may face:

What if the organization’s culture doesn’t align with the values you hold or if you are working for an extremely different leader? How do you operate authentically within those environments?

  1. Spend some time assessing your leader’s style. Avoid being judgemental of him or her and saying things like, “they are a stress case.” Simply list characteristics such as procrastinator, charismatic, introverted, etc.
  2. Ask your leader how they prefer to communicate with you. Is it once a week, email, open door anytime policy? Really understand their needs—what they want and how they want it. The best way to know is to ask!
  3. Now, assess your culture (both departmental and organizational). List characteristics of these cultures. Are they consistent with each other? No need to judge them. I am just asking you to understand them.
  4. It is time to review your own aspirational leadership characteristics and compare them to that of your leader, department and organization? Consider where you can be of service while working to be a stronger leader in your own right. Where can you fill a gap that others in your area do not have the skills to do? How can you work with your leader, department and organization as a partner, considering ways to bring even more of your true self out in the work place?

We don’t often spend the time to make these more formalized assessments of ourselves and our working culture. Then we find ourselves morphing into the culture around us—whether we realize it or not. I am encouraging you to bring more awareness to who you want to be that feels authentic for you. Understand that there is a need for the real you in the workplace, not just for someone who acts the part. This is the path to greater work and life satisfaction. And if people don’t like the person you are, there are always other opportunities with people who will appreciate the special qualities you bring to a leadership role.


Blogger Carey-Ann Oestreicher, MBA, BA (Hons.), Chief Engagement Officer, Potential Unlimited

Recipient of a Top 40 Under Forty Business Achievement award, Carey-Ann Oestreicher, owner of the career development firm for women, Potential Unlimited (www.potentialunlimited.ca), holds a MBA and has worked in a variety of senior positions including vice-president level. Her focus is her family and helping women in business find true peace and happiness in their lives while achieving new heights in their careers.

Carey-Ann has been featured in a variety of media because of the success she has experienced with her holistic approach to developing women leaders and entrepreneurs. Her appearances include: CTV’s Canada AM, TSN, CBC News, Global Television, City TV News, The Globe and Mail, Canadian Business magazine, The Toronto Star and The Canadian Press.


Talent Talks with Boyden Featuring Robert J. Deluce, President & CEO of Porter Airlines

by Brian G. Bachand & Kevin Gormely

WXN and Boyden Talent Talks is a feature series highlighting leadership, talent and diversity discussions with top leaders of today. The series focuses on topics and themes with a purpose to inspire women and our diverse community to lead.

PORTER AIRLINES PRESIDENT AND CEO, Robert J. Deluce, credits exceptional customer service through a dedicated team as critical to being one of Canada’s great success stories. With a vision to bring back features from the golden age of air travel, Robert’s mission was to enhance the traveller’s experience in every aspect. Game changers in their own right, Porter now leads an initiative to bridge the diversity gap in the industry. Boyden partners, Brian G. Bachand and Kevin Gormely, sat down with Robert to talk leadership, diversity, talent, and how Porter is expanding as a global player.

BOYDEN: Porter recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Over that period, Porter has become known as one of the most innovative airlines in the industry. What was your vision and how has it been realized?

ROBERT: Ten years has gone by very quickly. We set out to change the way airlines were regarded and how aviation was viewed. To some extent, we wanted to bring it back to a point where passengers looked forward to travelling. It has taken a lot of attention to detail and it’s been a lot of fun. We now have 1,400 team members and everyone has played a role. As CEO, you have to be mindful of all aspects of business and detail, but it is not something you can do by yourself. It requires everyone’s involvement as a team.

BOYDEN: How would you define the differentiators that have contributed to success?

ROBERT: We built the airline with the idea of speed, convenience and service, but today more than anything the service aspect of the business is what really defines us. Everything we do is designed to enhance the travel experience. The lounges and amenities on board are a throwback to earlier times, while also using technology to further enhance the passenger experience. Certainly all of these things, including our unique location at Billy Bishop Airport, work in tandem to give passengers a sense of value.

BOYDEN: How does this translate into your leadership style?

ROBERT: I like to get out on aircraft and go to airports. I like to meet and greet passengers and our own team members. We established some core values here that we all live by: everybody being valued as a person. Having a passion for it as well. What makes you get up, stay late and follow-up? At the end of day, you really shouldn’t be in anything you’re not passionate about.

BOYDEN: This is a tough competitive business. Political challenges, regulatory hurdles, talent management. What do you think drives your team?

ROBERT: You come to realize, no matter what happens, you have to have a really good team on board. You need everyone to have a clear understanding of how they positively contribute. Today is a sunny day, but a day of heavy snow or some other irregularity will happen. We are remembered for how we treat people when they miss a flight or their journey is disrupted by some other issue. Ensuring your team is empowered to do what has to be done is critical—treating people with respect and dignity is key to our culture and our success. We are essentially a customer service organization and if you don’t have happy satisfied customers, you don’t have much going for you.

BOYDEN: What is unique in the Canadian market for leadership diversity within transportation/aviation?

ROBERT: The aviation industry in general lags behind others. It is an industry that has been male dominated, particularly in certain segments. While this has changed over time, it was pretty much accepted in the past that pilots were male and flight attendants were female. We have put a lot of attention toward making sure that we make progress. Our “Women Soar at Porter” program was established to bridge that gap in all aspects –pilots, aviation engineers, senior management and the board of directors. Do we have more work to do? Absolutely. The key is ensuring you get right back to grass-roots, bringing awareness of the industry and its value as a career option.

BOYDEN: What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

ROBERT: My father always said: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you apply that in customer service, there isn’t any situation you find yourself in that can’t be dealt with using this core principle. Another would be building credibility, as a corporation and as an individual. Being good to your word and following through. That is pretty fundamental to success.

BOYDEN: Porter recently announced a new partnership with Emirates. Looking ahead, what can we anticipate to hear more about from Porter?

ROBERT: Yes, we have select key partnerships with companies that share our culture and core values and expand options for our customers. We are also working on concepts such as U.S. customs pre-clearance at Billy Bishop Airport. All this will enable us to offer more to our customers. We feel honoured to be in the top 10 international airlines for Condé Nast Traveller and Travel + Leisure, but it’s humbling at the same time because hard work got us here and we need to continue working at it.


This interview has been edited and condensed. It also appears on www.boyden.com.

Brian G. Bachand, Partner and Kevin Gormely, Managing Partner, are part of the Boyden’s Toronto team.  A global leader in executive search for over 70 years, Boyden is committed to excellence in leadership and values diversity as an essential force towards achieving this commitment.

Twitter: @BbachandG @kgormely @BoydenCanada