Maz De Roxas is a young female leader and a visionary who has an excellent background in Marketing, Business and Finance, shares the most common assumption leaders make, the importance of empathy in these troubled times, as well as how her hometown shaped who she is as a leader today.
Q: How do you set the tone for your business?
I strongly believe that you need to walk the talk and practise what you preach. I believe that if I did something myself, my team would notice it, be influenced by it and do it at the same time.
Q: Why is empathy so important to you as a leader? Empathy is the ability to place ourselves in someone else’s shoes and understand how they feel about things. Considering the unprecedented times, many people are going through different types of challenges, so I think, as leaders, we cannot assume that we know what others are going through. We need to consciously remind ourselves to make time, listen to the team and find out how they are doing. I feel that leaders who take the time to understand the needs of their employees are the ones who can provide the support they actually need, to press ahead and deal with the challenges they’re facing. In the past, leaders, including myself, tend to make assumptions. That’s why I need to make a conscious effort to ask them how they are feeling and what they need from me.
Q: Who’s the first woman who inspired you?
That has to be my mother. She’s extremely resilient, no matter how bad the situation is. She never gives up and simply soldiers on. Thinking back on all the challenges that she has gone through over the years, I am still amazed. So whenever I am faced with tough times, I remind myself of what my mother would have done.
Q: Why is your hometown so important to you?
My hometown is Manila, Philippines, and it is important for me because that is where I grew up, where I studied, where most of my close friends still live, I also have my family there. It is also where I got my first job. I have many fond memories of Manila, and I feel that I am who I am today due to the years spent there.
Q: How do you practise bravery at the workplace?
When it comes to decision making, it begins with viewing things from a positive lens. This doesn’t mean that you are not doing your calculations or thinking about a safety net. Rather, it’s about approaching something with a sense of optimism.
Q: How do you unplug?
I like running and going to the gym. I enjoy being out in the sun. It energises me. Especially during the COVID-19 lockdown, I really discovered my love for running outdoors. You get to think about what you have achieved for the day and absorbing nature is also great. Having good music piped into my ears doesn’t hurt, either. I am currently listening to a lot of oldies, like The Beatles and The Carpenters, as well as new artists like Billie Eillish and her brother, Phineas. The rest is a mix of house, classical, indie and pop.
Q: Despite the odds, what motivates you to stay positive?
I think it’s about working the mind and training it to stay strong. That’s half the battle. It’s about starting the day right, having control of your time, so that you’re not just obsessing over a lot of negative thoughts. If something is bothering you, then it’s about how you put things into action. If you can’t fix it today, note it down and deal with it another day. Don’t brood over it because it’s not healthy. It’s the same at work.
Q: What are some traits that you admire the most in leaders?
Leaders who procrastinate are a big ‘No-No’ for me, so I admire those who can make decisions and take actions decisively, especially in situations like the current pandemic, where there is no clear right or wrong. Leaders who genuinely care for people and their well being, their personal development, those are the ones I look up to.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring female leaders?
Firstly, it is important that women are offered opportunities to test their skill levels. Through this, they build confidence in their own abilities, which creates the internal visibility necessary for their advancement. Many women I know are too harsh on themselves, and they unconsciously doubt their own competence. They are very good, but they also tend to think too much and are too hard on themselves. So I think they need to be given the opportunity to shine. The second thing is to look for a role model. Having a role model, especially at the senior level, plays a crucial role in overcoming the perception that success and career progression are difficult for women who want to achieve motherhood and have a family at the same time.