My favourite variant of poker is Texas Hold’em. The basic set up is that you have 2 private cards and 5 community cards. The winner is the person with the best 5-card poker hand utilizing the 7 cards. You must do your best given the cards you’ve been dealt.

When it comes to leadership in business, the cards I’ve been dealt look something like this:

1.     Woman

2.     Southeast Asian heritage

3.     Grew up in the US, but my values span both Western and Eastern ideologies

4.     Technical background (Statistics)

5.     Social Sciences background (Psychology, Sociology)

6.     Marketing and Advertising expertise

7.     Data & Analytics expertise

There are four main betting rounds in Texas Hold’em and I've mapped out scenarios from four stages in my career, illustrating leadership strategies that will help you play the cards you’ve been dealt.

SCENARIO 1 - HOLE CARDS: You are a leader with a growing group of early career diverse talent

As an early career researcher, I did not have women leaders to look up to. My leaders attempted to connect me to other successful women but the connections were mostly to my peers. There was opportunity to build the path for women leaders within my discipline.

Here are two ways you can help support early career diverse talent:

·       Utilize or create womens’ leadership programs or opportunities

·       Create networking opportunities, connecting your peers in leadership to with promising team members of your team


SCENARIO 2- THE FLOP: You are a leader who has fledgling leaders within your team

As a fledgling leader, I participated in nominated management training to prepare me for people management. While the training was helpful, to be really helpful it needed to be put into practice, again and again to build up my experience and develop my leadership skills.

Here are a few practical actions to help fledgling leaders:

·       Identify opportunities for leadership and management training available to your team

·       Build on this by creating leadership opportunities on projects that leverage the skills they have learned in management training


SCENARIO 3 - THE TURN: You are a leader inheriting a team

As a leader who has inherited multiple teams at differing stages of maturity, I wanted to establish credibility and authority as well as help the existing team members to build trust and safety in the change. Management enrolled both the team members and myself in new leadership transition workshops. These workshops were very helpful in creating cohesion within the group, explaining the organizational drivers for change, and reinforcing the belief that this change was good.


Here are some actions you can take to help transition an evolving team:

·       Invest in new leadership transition education for newly formed teams

·       Support a culture of 360 degree feedback


SCENARIO 4 - THE RIVER: You are a tenured leader recognising there is still more to be done to promote diversity in leadership

This is where I am now. The change is happening slowly, in fits and spurts, and sometimes seems to involve taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back. The work has not been done to establish diverse leadership, reflecting a lack of women leaders in particular.


Here are some actions I’m taking to help others:

·       I'm creating additional resource and support systems for navigating professional-personal challenges

·       I'm advocating for and exploring flexible work arrangements


So, as a leader who has been dealt a certain hand and is also navigating complex social ecosystems, what are the lessons here?

1.     Identify your particular scenario and style of leadership.

2.    Make a positive impact on our teams by learning what people need to grow in their careers.

3.    Don't waste timing implementing some of these actions to see what works for you.

I’m playing my hand, and I raise you your leadership.