May 14 2019| Leadership | Interview
by Phil Eyre Founder
As part of our series of interviews showcasing the guest speakers for Leaders’ second high-impact leadership conference next month, we spoke to geochemist Dr Ellen Moon, PhD.
An illustrious career in science has enabled Ellen to truly make a positive difference to the world. She talks to us about enacting change, being a minority in her field and the importance of staying true to your values.
What does being a leader mean to you?
To me, being a leader means bringing out the best in your team to reach a common goal.
This involves understanding people’s strengths and weaknesses - including my own - encouraging open communication, and knowing when to step back and let other people shine.
Did you set out to be a leader?
No, my goal was always to have a positive impact on the environment through my research.
Along the way, I realised that because I was a ‘minority’ in my field - women make up just over 20 per cent of physical and earth scientists - I had the opportunity to also make a difference by working my way up to leadership positions.
This meant I could enact change to make my field more inclusive to women and other represented minorities.
What makes an inspirational leader?
I’ve always admired leaders who can hold up their hands and admit when they made a bad decision, and most importantly, to learn from that experience.
I think it’s important to normalise failure, or at least things not quite going to plan, as a critical part of success.
You are a powerful advocate for women in your field; what advice do you give them to set them on the leadership pathway?
My advice is to stay true to themselves and their values.
When you’re part of the minority, it can be tempting to try to change yourself to fit in, but some of the best leaders are those that can bring a different perspective, and a different set of experiences, to the table.
Your leadership journey will be more personally fulfilling if it is grounded in your values.
Your work focuses on sustainable strategies which involve continually looking to the future, do you think enough emphasis is given to looking over the horizon and on long-term thinking?
The type of significant challenges we’re facing as a global society - the UN’s sustainable development goals are an excellent summary of these - will require a legacy mindset. It’s about more than just fixing things, but providing long term, sustainable solutions.
To me, this seems at odds with the current political culture of quick-wins and short-term security.
I worry that in a time where it is essential that we come together to create solutions, across political divides and national borders, we increasingly hear the rhetoric of division.
A big mindset shift towards long-term thinking is needed if we want to effect positive change.
Dr Ellen Moon will be speaking at our Leadership Conference on Thursday 20 June.
This year’s panel of speakers will draw upon their diverse experiences to challenge leadership thinking and stimulate discussions around the theme of ‘horizon thinking’.
For more information and to reserve a ticket click here.