Trust is a key trait of a good leader, but they must also be able to maintain a good work/life balance, Charmaine Hast, partner and head of family law at Wedlake Bell told the fourth eprivateclient leadership seminar.
“There are always dozens of other people who could do our job,” she told attendees of the seminar, which was sponsored by Ruffer LLP and held at the London offices of Deloitte. “We need to ask ourselves how do we stand out? How can we move from management to being an inspirational leader?”
She said that although there were many qualities in an inspiring leader, trust was the most important. She said it was always said of the next leaders that they are good at managing and leading and that “people know they can trust them.”
To help build this trust she said individuals should always deal with everybody as though one “you may need to call them for a favour.”
But it is also important to maintain a strong worklife balance, Ms Hast added. “Nothing is impossible but to achieve it you need to have the energy,” she said. She warned attendees against working “20 hours a day” as they will not have the energy to work at their best or to inspire those around them.
“The people who stand out always have a good balance and are able to shut off from work in their downtime,” she explained.
Ms Hast also spoke of her career and how it had shaped her as professional.
She qualified as lawyer in South Africa during the apartheid era. As well as the race discrimination inherent in the system, Ms Hast said there was also discrimantion based on gender. She was the only female within her law class and became one of the first female partners in a South African law firm.
There was also difficulties in getting a job as there was a perception that, as a young woman, she would leave too soon in order to start a family.
When attending a Law Society event at the Victoria Club, as a woman she was not allowed to enter by the front door but had to enter by the back door. The event made the national press after the male president of the Law Society decided to enter the back with Ms Hast in her support.
When Ms Hast did start a family, by which time she was a partner, there was no maternity leave provision. She was very quickly back at work but was able to bring her baby to the office.
These were turbulent times in the country but they helped build Ms Hast’s experience. She was one of those involved with getting books to Nelson Mandela whilst he was in jail and they were not being supplied.
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