“Leadership isn’t about being great, it’s about enabling others to be great”, says Agneta Jacobsson, Head of Sweden. We had a very interesting conversation with her about modern leadership and why gender parity could be a competitive advantage.
Viviana: Do you think that the real estate sector is a man’s world?
Agneta: Traditionally in many aspects, yes, but with respect to future potential, no. The real estate sector offers a huge variety of fields of activity for all different types of people, men and women: from the construction of buildings and infrastructure on site to branding of shopping malls and everything in between. It is about bricks and concrete as well as human wellbeing and beliefs. Indeed, the sector has never been broader than today. However, like in all sectors, we need more female role models on all levels, also on different leadership levels and in boards.
Viviana: What are the most critical challenges to overcome this man’s world?
Agneta: Most critical is always the culture and to open the employees’ hearts and minds. An important aspect is also the equal responsibility for family and children. For example: The decision of the Swedish government to pay the full parental benefit only to those parents who split the parental leave equally had a huge impact. Also the view on parental leave is very important – it is a positive period in life when you grow and develop as a human being. It is not a “problem”, just a matter of resourcing and planning for the employees and employers. On top of spending time with and taking care of our children, it is the best leadership training I’ve ever had.
Viviana: Do you think driving gender parity can be a competitive advantage?
Agneta: Yes, definitely: Cushman & Wakefield needs to excel in inclusion and why not being best in class? Doing so will enable us to select from a broader pool of talent – which is not only the “male pool”. Sooner or later our clients who will also become more female in the future will surely ask us to improve and become more equal. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that a diverse environment performs better.
Viviana: Male or female – which boss is better?
Agneta: “Leadership isn’t about being great, it’s about enabling others to be great” someone said and it is very true. As a leader, you need to keep your eyes open and enable every individual to be the best possible version of themselves as they can be. As a modern leader, you must therefore easily get in touch with others and show compassion and motivate others.
A good leader today thrives in a diverse work environment where different people contribute differently to the team. A leader must be good at taking responsibility and giving employees the security and encourage risk taking for a successful result. A modern leader is also open, transparent and willing to share information and involving employees which decreases the stress level.
The description of a modern leader could for sure fit both men and women and we are far away from the former stereotype male leaders who were convinced of their own excellence looking down on others.
Viviana: Women’s quota – are you for or against it? Why?
Agneta: Generally, I am against it. I think you will have a much easier way forward in a board or on a job if you are elected for your personal qualifications and not for quota reasons. It is so easy for someone to say that you got your seat because of the quota and thus reduce you as a person as well as your efforts. On the other hand, it is proven that men tend to choose men whereas women often would choose women. That is why we need to make sure that nomination committees are staffed equally. And if they are not we need a quota there.
Viviana: At Cushman & Wakefield we have an initiative called WIN. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
Agneta: WIN exists in the US and the aim is to introduce WIN in EMEA and APAC very soon. The focus of WIN, The Women´s Integrated Network is to supporting women to the benefit of our firm and our clients. By sharing experiences, information and best practice as well as developing and supporting women in leadership skills and career advancing opportunities, WIN strives to encourage our female employees to take on more responsibility for and to attract other high level women professionals to join our company.
Viviana: I know that you also have children? How old are they? How do you manage job and family?
Agneta: I have three children, all boys. They are all grown-up now and have started or almost started their own careers. I am not particularly smart but rather structured and hard-working. I find it rather easy to switch from one task to another and I love flexibility – both in professional and personal life. I think all parents need to create their own solution for job and family life. I started a kindergarden at home when the children were small. At that time the municipality funded the costs for a nursery if three families organized the child care at home. This gave us the flexibility and security for the children.
Great at that time, our kids were home at the time I came from work and they learned fast to share their home and toys.
Viviana: Agneta, many thanks for your time and your thorough answers.
Agneta Jacobsson, Head of Cushman & Wakefield Sweden
This interview was conducted by Viviana Plasil, Head of Marketing & Communications Germany at Cushman & Wakefield since December 2017. She leads the Marketing & Communications team, has extensive knowledge in Digital Marketing and will build and expand this area at Cushman & Wakefield Germany.