5 Questions With Anna Leon

“5 Questions With” is an interview series from executive search firm Amrop Rosin. These are quick-hitter interview discussions between Amrop Rosin’s Partners and Canadian executives on the topic of Purposeful Leadership- a strategic framework used at Amrop to identify, assess, and position leaders in roles where they can drive impact for business, society and the planet.

In this first-ever edition of “5 Questions With”, Aaron Rosin, Consultant at Amrop Rosin, speaks to Anna Leon, Partner, Technology Strategy and Digital Transformation at KPMG in Canada on what makes a Purposeful Leader in the constantly evolving Tech industry.

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Aaron Rosin: When you think about leaders who can balance profits, the planet, and people, what do you think are the most important leadership characteristics that those leaders need to embody?

Anna Leon: One thing that sticks out is empathy. I think many people have gone to work and compartmentalized who they are as a human, and really focused on their corporate agenda, profits, and making sure shareholders are happy. What the pandemic has really done is allowed us to understand and be more in touch with our humanity and really develop that empathy. I have started to see a cultural shift happening within organizations that really want to meet their employees where they are at. When organizations really start tapping into that understanding of and embracing who you are as an individual - ensuring that our employees to feel supported and heard – there is an inherent benefit of aligning culture with organizational values and achieving corporate goals. In the end, you've got a much more motivated workforce that feels valued and more motivated to give back to the company too. So, empathy, for me, is the big one.

AR: Well said. When you think specifically about your sector and the work that you're doing in Technology consulting, do you see a societal issue emerging that leaders need to be ready for that they didn't need to have on the radar five years ago?

AL: There's never a dull moment in my industry because the technology that is innovative today is no longer going to be innovative a few months down the road. So, for example, with the tech industry, you're starting to see a lot of noise around Chat GPT, AI, and machine learning. This is leading to some fear and trepidation amongst employees, where many are seeing their skills become obsolete in a more rapid manner. Historically, folks would pride themselves on having a specific certification to manage certain technologies. But even many technology management and coding capabilities are suddenly becoming irrelevant. So, fear is something that I'm seeing a lot of, not just from the employee’s standpoint but even from an employer’s perspective where they're trying to understand whether their organization is structured in the right manner to meet these ongoing challenges. The landscape continues to evolve rapidly.

AR: When we discuss Purposeful Leadership at Amrop, we point to the importance of leaders and organizations embedding an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion mindset across their organization. Can you share your perspective on an EDI mindset that is critical to Purposeful Leadership as we have that conversation about leaders who are balancing profit, people, and the planet

AL: I grew up in an Asian, culturally subservient environment. I was always told to listen and do as I was told and not to be “so opinionated”. And so, I lived my whole life being a very submissive, and quiet individual. I was a hard worker who always did what I was told. And I started to notice the impact of how I was raised in terms of on how I operated day-to-day, and how this would create differences between myself and my peers who were making a more positive impact. I yearned to be that type of Purposeful Leader who would influence change.  But I also noticed that there weren't as many opportunities for me, because I was never really in the forefront. It wasn't top of mind for leaders to promote individuals like myself because I never made an impact in the workforce. When I see organizations making a very intentional move to diversity, equity, and inclusion, it’s heartwarming because I do know that - and this has been proven as well - that when there is diversity of thought in companies, and when companies are representing a workforce that is reflective of the fabric of the communities that they serve, they do better. They're financially more profitable. When you have a group of individuals that come from very different life experiences and perspectives, you come up with a much more wholesome solution that can really meet a much broader fabric of stakeholder needs. I am seeing many of my peers feel more empowered and uplifted because they are being heard. We still have a bit of a ways to go, but it is great to see that there is a positive shift in the right direction.

AR: As a Purposeful Leader yourself, when you're hiring people on your team, how do you practically assess and screen for their own Purposeful Leadership potential?

AL: I interview, and am part of the hiring process for up to about 20 to 30 individuals a year across all levels. The question that I sometimes ask is: “when have you noticed that you weren't cut out for the job and what did you do about it?”. Individuals have very different perspectives on how they handle that. But the ones who don't hesitate to reach out for help – their vulnerability is impactful. I think there's a lot of power in that because I don't profess to know everything. In fact, I sometimes know a lot less than my peers and even my team members. And I'm okay with that because I'm also learning and growing, too. I want to surround myself with smarter people because that will help me develop. I want people who are not afraid to raise their hand and admit that they don’t have it all. I look for someone who can work with the team in collaboration because it fosters relationship-building and elevates the team's collective value. When individuals are sought after for help, they feel more valued. So, when you have multiple individuals who are reaching out, collaborating and appreciating each other’s strengths, that builds a powerful team dynamic and culture, that collectively elevates the entire group.

AR: What do you do outside of work to make you the best version of a leader? 

AL: I've got a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old now. A lot of what I do is really for them. But I guess inherently that fills my cup. It brings me joy to see my kids happy and healthy. What I do outside of work is hang out at the volleyball courts, swimming pools, and basketball courts and watch my kids compete and play. Beyond that, I love traveling. I love experiencing different cultures. I think that's my retirement goal. I just want to continue to travel.