Welcome to the third instalment of our new interview series Leadership Insights: 3 questions with… where we ask the same three questions to each of the exceptional leaders we interview, revealing some very unique and insightful answers.

This month we spoke to Zaina Muir who I have had the pleasure of knowing for many years and seen first-hand her strength as a leader. Zaina has over 25 years’ experience at a senior level in design and branding agencies. She is currently UK MD at BrandOpus who she joined in April after and an 11-year tenure at Bloom, the last 2 years as CEO, leading growth and transformation.

Zaina is a strategic leader who believes that focus on developing strong leadership skills and optimum team dynamics deliver excellence for clients. she has led on clients across many categories including Diageo, Unilever, PepsiCo, and Virgin Atlantic.

Here is what Zaina had to say…

 

  1. If you could rewind the clock to when you started out on your leadership journey, what advice would you give yourself?

I would believe in myself more. I certainly feel like I had the narrative in my head that my success was as a result of being in the right place at the right time, considering myself “lucky.” However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that I underestimated my own talents. Luck may place you in a favourable position, but you must still deliver results. You really do need to be your own cheerleader.

Young professionals, especially women, often don’t give themselves enough credit for their success. Perhaps men are allowed to be more confident, it’s not a trait that is encouraged in young girls. When I was younger, I didn’t recognize my own capabilities and lacked the confidence that many of my male colleagues had, regardless of their actual ability.

Confidence is crucial. It has played a significant role in my career journey 

  1. What is the best advice you have been given about creating a positive team culture/being a leader?

The best advice I’ve received is about the importance of relationships and communication. To be a great leader, you need to build strong relationships with your team members. I believe feedback is a gift; it’s essential for continuous growth, and regular feedback is key to improvement.

To deliver constructive feedback effectively, you must have  a good relationship with your team but that also means letting go of the need to be popular. Early in your managerial career, it’s challenging to transition from being friends with your peers to leading them. You do want your team to like you, but respect is crucial.

As I advanced in my career and aimed for the top of my profession, the availability to have a great mentor or a senior champion within the organisation became invaluable. Building relationships with senior leaders in your company is crucial. To demonstrate your capabilities, you need opportunities, and those opportunities often come from leaders who can see the potential in others.

You should also seize these opportunities and not fear failure. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is essential, and you can’t be preoccupied with what might go wrong.

Ultimately, it all comes back to believing in your ability to succeed.

  1. What is the one book that has most influenced your approach to leadership?

I have two books that I recommend. The first is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. I recommend this book to new leaders or those struggling in their roles. It’s written in the style of a fable, making it easy to read. I’ve read it multiple times and have recommended it so often I should be getting commission.

The second book is Radical Candor by Kim Scott. While the title emphasises having challenging conversations, the book is fundamentally about building great relationships. It’s such a well-written book and one I revisit frequently.

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