Ruth Brett is Marketing Director and member of the Senior Leadership Team at Woodie’s, Ireland’s market leader in DIY, Home and Garden retailing for the last four years. Woodie’s has 35 stores across Ireland and trades from woodies.ie. She is responsible for the recent repositioning of the Woodie’s brand, brand strategy & communications, customer insights, sponsorship, PR, promotional planning, customer experience, CSR and general business leadership.
She has as wealth of experience working at a senior level in a wide variety of industries including FMCG, Banking and Tourism for both national and global companies.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
Yes! True leaders are always learning and honing their skills. Of course, there are many attributes of a leader that are innate, but most of them can be learned, must be learned and must be practiced.
I belief self-awareness is one of the primary skills of a leader – a real understanding of your strengths, weaknesses and potential blind spots. And, of course a commitment to improve! Being present and actively listening to everyone is another skill that requires effort, discipline and practice. It is something that most people struggle with in an increasingly fast-moving world where there are distractions everywhere. Giving gratitude, recognition and having humility are all key to leadership and require dedication and practice. Most of these things all fit in to the realm of emotional intelligence, an area where many people have a natural strength while many others are naturally weaker. However, the great thing about EI is that it starts with self-awareness and an understanding of what you need to do. Whatever your starting point, it is all learnable if there is genuine desire and commitment to be a true leader. Start with really knowing yourself, warts and all. Build from there.
If you could wind back the clock to when you were starting your career what advice would you give yourself?
Look inwards before looking outwards. It’s easier to blame others. Separate the message from the messenger. Don’t confuse personal bias from genuine feedback. When someone criticizes you, or takes the time to give you feedback that you perceive as negative, view it as a golden opportunity to learn more about yourself and understand how you can improve. There is learning in everything. Embrace difference. Keep an open mind. You will find inspiration in the most unexpected places. Believe in yourself and what you do – always. How can anyone follow you if you don’t? Take risks and make your own mistakes. Know that when you fail, it doesn’t mean YOU are a failure. It means you are growing. Learn from it. Life is short. Time is precious. Find the project or job that puts fire in your belly. Find joy in what you do and the people you work for. Help and coach others along the way. Don’t be so sensitive. Work hard. Be loyal. Learn how to switch off. Leave work on time and always look for balance in your life. Have fun!
When you are filling a leadership role in your organisation who qualities do you look for from candidates?
A combination of many things, some of which include self-awareness, humility, empathy, compassion and an ability to coach and have a clear vision for the future. Leaders in our business must understand how to empower people, inspire them, make them feel valued and bring them on a journey.
What are you doing today to make sure your organisation will be relevant in 10 years’ time.
We do a lot of future gazing and planning informed by customers insights and emerging trends. We must balance that with short term needs to hit profit for the next quarter, half year etc. to keep our shareholders happy! That said, we are doing our best to prioritise investment in areas that will support our future like systems and product innovations. Key thing for us is to stay in touch with the changing needs of our customers.
What leaders outside your own organisation do you admire and why?
Richard Branson, Barack Obama and Reece Witherspoon on a global scale. As a female, I love that Reece took control of her own destiny. She challenged the movie industry and their poor record on female casting and proved them wrong. She has dogged determination, passion and vision and she is fearless. These are all core traits of a true leader.
Paul O’Connell, Joe Schmidt and Nora Casey on the national front. All are passionate, humble and visionaries. I’m also very inspired by Simon Sinek Ted talks on leadership
What people and resources have inspired your leadership?
Ted talks, Harvard Business School articles, my own colleagues and my postman! He has taught me the importance of being happy at work. If every colleague in Woodie’s was as happy and fulfilled in their work as my postman – I would consider my job done!