"Leadership", "being a leader" – what does this mean exactly? Over the last ten years, I have worked with CEOs of large corporates, with coaches and have attended extensive leadership courses myself. I love to observe the leadership skills of those in power: Many think that leading means consequently applying mangement skills which leads in turn to frustration among employees.
A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure to meet Dr. Anna Lartey. Anna is the Director of Nutrition of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). She is a true food and nutrition expert with a bachelor in Biochemistry-Nutrition, a master in Nutritional Sciences and a Ph.D. in International Nutrition. From 2013 - 2017 she was the President of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS) - the first African woman to head this prestigious global nutrition body of nutrition scientists. Anna also is a passionate mentor to future nutrition experts. During our meeting we spoke about her career, leadership skills and how she applies her experience in her work. Although the conversation was five years ago, Anna's words are still on top of my mind and inspire me every day:
What were the most important career steps in your life?
First, education is important. I come from a family with four girls and two boys. My Dad insisted we should all have a proper education. Education is the best that you can give and that is for which I am very grateful to my parents and what I gave my two children. As circumstances improve, you
should always expect your children to be better than you and give them all the opportunities.
Second, accept the opportunities offered to you. Take the opportunities that come along your way and take them confidently. If you fail, you will know yourself even better and it will help you
to grow. I also have advice for women who often think that you can´t do it: Believe in yourself and be optimistic about possible challenges. You are just as good as or even better than a man!
Third, the African Nutrition Leadership Platform (ANLP): Participating in the ANLP helped me to grow further.
What was a key situation in your career?
When I was offered the position as a Director of Nutrition at the FAO in 2013, this was an important decision I had to take in my life. You ask yourself “will you take the opportunity or continue your current job?” I decided to take the opportunity.
What is good leadership for you?
There are three core attributes a good leader has:
A good leader is a servant and serves a group, helps others and is a mentor. Teaching, mentoring and supervising are essential to empower the next generation.
A good leader must have a vision and provides with this an image of a better future for an individual or group to follow. Thinking about the future, a better future is essential for a successful leader and: the leader doesn´t leave without ensuring succession.
A good leader has integrity and is doing the right thing. He or she serves by doing the right thing at all times also when no one is watching!
And: A good leader can´t do it all and will delegate the work yet acknowledges and shares the successes. No one gets to the top alone.
Where do you find inspiration?
I am a very religious person and praying is an important part of my life. The prayers give me the confidence to move on and find strength. My husband and children also do a very good job of supporting me.
What is your tip for young leaders?
Never stop learning! Make sure that you are always in an environment that makes you learn. And you need someone to grow up. It´s always good to have a mentor! As a young person use the experienced people around you to learn from them. Old persons have good experience and it is up to you to share. Learn from mistakes! Play your part! It´s doable to combine family and professional life!
If you would compare yourself with an animal, which animal would you be?
I compare myself to a hen, as a mother and “early bird”. I wake up at 4 am and go to bed early, around 9 pm.
This interview was carried out by Simone K. Frey, for the European Nutrition Leadership Platform (ENLP) when Simone was leading the ENLP network.