‘What I’ve learned about leadership’

‘What I’ve learned about leadership’

We chat to Kellie Barnes, Trade Marketing and Tech Sales Director at Carlton United Breweries.

BY Business Chicks, 4 min READ

Diversity, positive conflict and learning what drives people are all key to leading like a pro, says Kellie Barnes. Kellie is the Trade Marketing and Tech Sales Director at Carlton United Breweries, and has successfully navigated a transition from IT into sales. She is one of few female sales directors in beer suppliers in Australia and the first ever female Regional Sales Director at CUB.

What do you think great leaders have in common?

Being real, resilient and humble. They always have time for people, and they have a firm but fair approach. They’re driven and, most of all, authentic.

What is the single biggest lesson you’ve learned about leadership?

Vulnerability. It’s not a weakness. It’s a strength.

What are some roadblocks you’ve experienced as a leader?

Juggling priorities between work and life. I find it’s about understanding your limitations and creating an environment which empowers a team to be better than you. To do this you need to know what drives individuals in your team; what excites them. Then you trust them to give it a red-hot go. Collectively, more times than not, everyone wins.

Have you experienced poor leadership?

I have encountered managers that have had different agendas – a different approach that can come across as mean. This doesn’t work. It’s counter-productive. If faced with this management style, it’s really important to understand your own values and not compromise on these. In some ways, you need to compartmentalise and realise that their behaviour is not necessarily about you, but more often a reflection on them. Understand what drives them and then always use data to back you up. It’s also good to remember that no one can ever argue with how you feel.

What have you learned about growing as a leader?

Diversity is king (or queen). I have learnt that when a team brings different thoughts and different approaches, as well as ideas and thoughts that conflict with my own, that is where the gold is. It holds me accountable. It stretches my thinking and often tests my bias. Positive conflict is awesome. Harness it. I have also learnt that it is really important to understand what drives people at the core. Not their job title, but what it is that gets them up in the morning. When I understand this, I harness it so everyone gets to love what they do.

What have you learned about fostering leadership in the workplace?

Leadership is not about hierarchy. I often say to my team that it’s important to lead from above, alongside your peers and to those who report or look up to you.

Who are some great leaders you admire, and what have you learnt from them?

My son. He has 12 illnesses and has had thousands of procedures. How he faces this adversity, how he continues to smile in spite of it all and how he lifts everyone he meets, is inspirational. I have also had a number of people in my life that have been able to see me for who I am, give me opportunities that I didn’t even know I needed and provide me with the flexibility I needed to thrive. They know who they are and I am forever grateful.

Read next: Change is brewing: meet the woman blazing trails in the beer industry


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