Sandra Di Moise is the former Managing Director - Partnerships Segments, Retail and Travel and Entertainment and Affinity for Barclaycard. We talked to her about life and leadership in a global business.
What is the most important thing about leadership that you have learned?
If there was a recipe for leadership, it would combine several elements of different styles – two cups of democracy and listening to others, a cup of authority, a dash of pacesetting and another of coaching. Potentially, your style will evolve along the journey and adapt to the situation.
If I had to label myself, at this moment in my career, I would say I am between ‘affiliative’ and ‘coaching’ – it is more about creating bonds that bring people together with the organisation and developing them for the future. I try to bring passion, enthusiasm, positive energy, celebration and fun, whenever possible, to the work environment. Everything I do in my life, I do with passion - why should work be different?
You learn many lessons during your career. Most recently, in my previous job as CEO of Barclaycard Southern Europe, I was given a challenge – to lead the sale of the business following Barclays’ decision to become transatlantic. It was probably one of the toughest jobs I have ever had, but also the most interesting and rewarding one as a leader.
The team went on the journey with me, engaged, delivering results, completing the transition process – with lots of communication, transparency, mutual trust and collaboration.
Being a leader means thinking beyond your own immediate teams, you must infuse a spirit of openness, collaboration and loyalty. We are all culture carriers.
There is an African saying that I think is one of the key learnings for any leader, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ Simple, yet sometimes difficult to live by. When you lead, you lead others and that is the single key element that you must always remember.
What advice would you give to women currently progressing their careers?
In my opinion, there is no specific recipe, there is no right or wrong career, international or local – it is about what drives you, motivates you and excites you.
But there are basics to follow. It is going to be a journey and you should be prepared for it, so understanding your development needs is key - build a network, get the word out there, be in tune with the opportunities, look for role models and get a mentor.
But more important, follow your dream because life is too short.
What is the most important attribute of an effective leader in a global world?
Integrity. It may sound like a cliché but I believe that is the most important thing, in a global world or a local market. For some reason, integrity is the one constant attribute in the set of values of the biggest and most profitable companies around the world – and, potentially, it’s the most challenging of them all.
We all lead by example, but integrity is about more – it is about doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. It is choosing courage over comfort, what is right over what is fun or what is easy, and practising your values rather than professing them.
Successful people often talk about reframing ‘lack of experience’ to ‘independent thinking’ – what points in your career have required a leap of faith?
I can think about many moments in my career like that - where I took new roles in which I was not yet an expert, had to learn everything from scratch and move to geographies I had never been before. I have always been attracted to the unknown and a good challenge.
Success requires a lot of self-confidence and an adventurous spirit, risk-taking and a brave mindset. Pave the way, with the right attitude - I believe we can learn anything. It’s all a question of attitude and passion.
I was working in Brazil leading Cards for Citi and I had offers to lead Cards in Mexico or Investment Head of Sales, based in the US. I took the latter because it was unknown; I had lots to learn, hired 1,000 brokers, learnt a lot with the interview process, with each one of them – and together we took this business from $3B to $10B.
It never passed my mind that I could become a CEO until a senior female at Citi invited me to join a group of internal candidates for a Central America CEO position. I ended up being selected – the first woman in 100 years of Citi in that region, which still makes me proud.
At the end of the day, you must be brave, accept the challenges and believe in yourself.
What aspect of your job moves you forward? What are you passionate about?
I have had an international career in two big financial organisations (Citigroup and Barclays), and in three different regions (Latin America, North America and Europe), which almost immediately gives it away: I enjoy working in culturally diverse environments, where I can learn with others every day.
There are opportunities of growth, a multiplicity of areas of business (card payments, retail, private, corporate, all so different from each other), that allow you to continue to move and progress in an almost totally different industry inside the same organisation.
What makes me go forward is that feeling that I will challenge myself, as there is a lot out there that I still don’t know! And what’s even more important for me nowadays is that I can share my learning with others and help develop them.
I am passionate about mentoring – something that I have done inside and outside the organisation for a good number of years now – and about driving the Diversity and Citizenship agendas, as an organiser, as a speaker and as a board member. Anything that can make the difference.