Leadership is not limited to leading a team, doing planning and sitting around in the cabin with board members. It also grows inside of a leader where one has to maintain a balance in his/her decisions, time management, mastering the balance of blending technical and relationship skills and focus as well. Alejandra Guzman, Vice president at New Orleans Business Alliance, one ﬁne business leader, a published author with international experience in the design and execution of new business initiatives and developing strategies, emphasizes on balance in leadership and the major traits for a business leader.
Below are the highlights of the interview conducted between Alejandra and CIO Look:
Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a proﬁcient leader.
The nature of the roles I´ve had in all of my professional positions required mastering the balance of blending technical and relationship skills. For example, working at the New Orleans Business Alliance requires an understanding of a complex web of internal and external relationships in which I have to act simultaneously as a diplomat, inﬂuencer, team player, leader and listener. Economic development does not occur in a vacuum, so it is critical that we work well with others to accomplish our goals. In my position at Capital Natural, a leading management and administration ﬁrm for private equity funds and real estate investment projects operating in Mexico, I had to lead a multi-sector group of senior consultants to design and execute an urban development proposal that required me to understand when to switch from a leader to a follower. Although I was ultimately responsible for leading our project, it was critical that I had the capability to step aside and follow the lead of technical experts to deliver a successful project.
How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to appeal the target audience?
At the Business Alliance, we are focused on enhancing the economic security of all New Orleanians by accelerating the diversiﬁcation of the local economy, developing local talent and expanding entrepreneurial opportunity. We attract new business and retain talent in New Orleans, by aligning our brand with the international business community’s increased focus on diversity and inclusion to drive innovation and enhanced proﬁtability. Our brand tag line: Culture. Equity. Prosperity.
Describe some of the vital attributes that every businesswoman should possess.
I would consider the ability of balancing and blending technical and relationship skills to be one of most importance. To achieve this one must be collaborative, empathic and supportive which allows a person to be team oriented and socially aware. I think that the success of most projects is multi-dimensional and that relationship skills inﬂuence execution.
As per your opinion, what roadblocks or challenges were faced by you in a corporate business? And how did you overcome them?
The nature of the roles I´ve had in most of my professional positions required mastering the balance of blending Most of my technical and relationship skills. positions have required an understanding of a complex web of internal and external relationships in which I have to act simultaneously as a diplomat, inﬂuencer, team player, leader and listener. I have also lead a multi-sector group of senior consultants to design and execute an urban development proposal that required me to understand when to switch from a leader to a follower. The project required that I assemble a very speciﬁc set of skills and professionals including trafﬁc and mobility engineering, architectural and landscape design, and sustainable real estate. Given the high-end nature of our real estate investments, we hired senior consultants, top in their ﬁeld. Although I was ultimately responsible for leading our project, it was critical that I had the capability to step aside and follow the lead of technical experts to deliver a successful project.
To master this career challenges, I have invested in my professional development. It is important that as professionals we have a clear understanding of what are the skills that we need for our current professional challenges and our next career move. I have worked with an executive coach to help me identify skill gaps and ways to address them. A coach can also help with preparations for salary negotiations and to address issues at work that have to do more with politics rather than technical skills.
Have you in any ways contributed towards the cause of women empowerment.
One of the favorite projects I have worked on focused on helping women to improve their quality of life and promote economic activity in their communities. We did this by providing training opportunities so they can acquire the skills to ﬁnd a job or set their own business. Also, we supported them with loans so they can buy building materials to improve their homes and local communities.
How do you upgrade yourself with volatile technological or business trends to boost your personal growth?
A big focus of my current work is real estate development. One of the reasons I love this industry is for its versatility and how it integrates a wide variety of disciplines – architecture, ﬁnance, community development, landscaping, engineering and many others. To be up to date on trends in the industry I have joined organizations such as the Urban Land Institute and also the U.S. Green Building Council. These organizations are the perfect platform to learn and stay up to date on trends. Another great way to stay up to date with industry trends is attending key conferences.
What are your future endeavors/objectives and where do you see yourself in the near future?
Through the New Orleans Businesses Alliance, I´m working to develop a strategy that includes real estate to promote development in dis-invested communities. One particular program that we are looking to leverage is Opportunity Zones. This is a federal program designed to drive investment to communities that have lacked critical investment. It provides an incentive for investors to re-invest their capital gains into ﬁnancial vehicles. I see a lot of potential in New Orleans and my objective is to have investors also see this and help them ﬁnd success in our community. With the right projects in place our local community will be able to enjoy better services and a great quality of life.