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Leadership Matters

Sonia Layne-Gartside is a Barbadian born Master Trainer and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Consultant (DEI) and leadership coach.

(Photo credit: Stonedwithcupidphotography)

Last year, she was featured in local media after she coped the Leader of the Year Award from the Pittsburgh Human Resources Association’s Engaging Pittsburgh: Innovative People Practices Award since then she had been spending time assisting national and global companies with implementing best practices in their companies.

(Photo credit: Stonedwithcupidphotography)

Layne-Gartside who was a former student of The Alexandra School and The University of The West Indies has become one of the go-to individuals for companies when they are having leadership challenges. She said that one of the tools that companies need to implement in their business is to understand that leadership is not only for the staff but also for the executive members as well.

“The larger the organization, the more important the skills of their C-suite leaders. That’s where my focus is in my work. They tend to send their middle managers to training and forget about themselves. All leadership training should start with them. I emphasize behaviour modelling and practice. It’s critical for senior executives to constantly upgrade their skills to create the environment needed for their companies to grow. You don’t need executives tackling today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. We work on upgrading and/or acquiring new skills. Then practising them to get feedback and then we apply, apply, apply,” she said.

(Photo credit: Stonedwithcupidphotography)

In addition, Layne-Gartside said that she helps professionals become more effective leaders and this all began when she was hired by her Organizational Development lecturer- Dr Jeannine Comma.

“I was hired by my Organizational Development lecturer – Dr. Jeannine Comma, after graduating with my first degree. I spent the first five years of my career working with leaders to determine where they had skills gaps and helping to address them. Leadership development is where I started, asking the question: how do we change leadership behaviour and improve their ability to create environments where people can thrive and accomplish goals? Since then, I’ve added the skills of change management, strategy and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). These are all areas where if you are going to be an excellent leader, you need to be experienced and skilled in,” she said.

The Organizational Change Management professional with more than a decade of experience said that one of the major challenges that businesses have when seeking to implement competent leadership is that there is not enough focus on their executive leadership team.

“One of the major challenges I have seen over the years is that businesses do not place enough focus on their executive leadership team. Instead, they send their middle managers to get training all the time and neglect to develop themselves. Then they wonder why their culture is still slow and bureaucratic when they need their people to be agile and creative. I’ve been working a lot with executive teams and helping them to understand that culture change only happens when you change how you lead teams, when you create better systems for them to operate in and when you remove leaders who are not doing their jobs. It doesn’t happen because you held a town hall and sent out a couple of emails. It's why you are seeing more organizations asking for a development program for their senior executives,” she said.

Layne-Gartside who offers her leadership services on her website said that businesses should seek to have leaders who understand that they are responsible for creating an environment where their team thrives, and employees can be the most productive.

These leaders are going to be leading people, so their people skills must be excellent. That means continually working on upgrading them. Stop hiring people who are only interested in becoming a leader because they see it as having a high-status job that makes them look important, but they don't want to put in the work,” she said.

Turning her attention to female leaders the debut author of the book Workplace Anxiety: How To Refuel and Re-engage said that female leaders face systematic challenges and because of them they are less likely to ascend to leadership and then when they get there they are judged more harshly.

“ As female leaders, we are less likely to be given the capital to fund our businesses, and in meetings, we’re ignored more often. If you don’t understand this, you’re going to spend a lot of time suffering from imposter syndrome, feeling guilty and remaining quiet instead of speaking up and asking for what you deserve. So, you’ve got to be fearless in your leadership practice if you want to succeed,” she said.

Layne-Gartside who is in Barbados on a mini-holiday said that with the onset of COVID-19 many companies have been reaching out to her for her services as they are making changes to be more innovative and creative during the global pandemic. Thus, she has been hired to help with the digital transformations, reorganizations and to help with the culture changes that comes as a result of the merger.

However, the DEI Consultant, Master Trainer, Author and Leadership coach said that today’s leaders must ensure that they are skilled at DEI especially in the onset of a global pandemic.

“I would say that today’s leaders must be skilled at DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion). In a period of such uncertainty and volatility, this is the only way you can get a growing competitive economy, by harnessing the contributions of everyone. Too many leaders are living in echo chambers. That means developing the skillset to build an inclusive culture where everyone feels they belong, regardless of race, gender, class, religion, etc. We must be able to remove barriers from our internal processes and systems so that our people can participate fully and equitably, and we need to see and recognize the diversity in our organizations for what it is – the gateway to more creativity and innovation,” she said. (Write Right PR Services)

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