Anouk Schaap

Why do human qualities sometimes come above hard skills? And why is Conscious Leadership a future-proof approach for companies across different industries? Find out what the leadership traits of the future are in this interview with Conscious Leadership expert Anouk Schaap.

Anouk Schaap is an Executive Leadership Mentor and Public Speaker advocating for bringing the human aspect back into leadership and therewith in companies. She is currently building the Home of Conscious Leadership where the human aspect is the strong foundation. She found her calling through self-discovery and started her entrepreneurial journey of changing businesses and leadership, after her extensive experience of working in finance.

Taking a human approach to leadership

From the very beginning of the conversation, Anouk’s principles and values stood out. She strongly believes that human traits and capabilities come before hard skills, especially in leadership positions. 

According to Forbes, it’s already long recognized that soft skills, or human capabilities are indispensable when looking at job engagement, performance, employee well-being and the company’s bottom line. In a survey conducted by LinkedIn, “92% of talent professionals and hiring managers agree that strong soft skills are increasingly important”. In fact, the emphasis on soft skills is already embedded in the idea of leadership and it’s being differentiated from management. According to Bargau (2015), leadership is about “promoting change and fluidity within organisations”, whereas management “drives consistency, which in turn should lead to an efficient-running organisation.”. 

Anouk is taking the focus on soft skills in leadership positions even further: “It’s really about ‘coming home’ in your leadership and taking off the mask people think they should wear. It’s  important to bring the human part back into organisations. And that starts with the leaders and their leadership. Awareness is key to grow as a leader; when you’re not aware, you can’t take responsibility or ownership and change. Being aware of something creates space to initiate the change that you and your company are longing for. It requires leaders to look honestly in the mirror and to stop looking outside of themselves for solutions.” 

Most important traits to have in the contemporary finance world

If leadership fails, no strategy will be successful. And even if you are not the one who leads a team, the following abilities are to be kept in mind no matter what the hard skills of your job are! 

  • Self-knowledge

    “You don’t know what you don’t know until you know. To truly drive success in a company, you need to embark on a journey of self discovery and awareness that will give you the ability to change for the better. So, examine yourselves.“

  • Listening and asking the right questions

    “It’s important that we learn to listen to understand instead of listen to react. I think we’re wired to listen to respond. But instead, listen to understand. How do you make sure that you understand the other person? And how do you make sure the other person understands you? So, be quick to listen and slow to speak.”

  • Humility

    “Helping others, serving the purpose of the company, serving your team, serving your community. Everything starts with you, that’s why you need self-knowledge. But then it’s really not about you any longer. Leadership should be all about people, and not about hierarchy, rules, or egos. So, use your gifts to serve one another.”

Lessons for the future

What did Anouk learn after 10 years of experience in Corporate Finance? Most importantly, don’t try to be someone that you’re not.

“This can be tough, especially in a field like finance, where there are certain traits that are usually the standard. But more and more companies pay attention to opening up and they are more than willing to change – however, this takes time. It’s difficult to take off the mask, show emotion and become more human in the working environment.” 

How to navigate through these times of change? Open up the conversation, point out things that you observe at work and find yourself a mentor who has your back and knows how to navigate the company culture. 

Anouk Schaap is a Conscious Leadership Expert and works as an Executive Leadership Mentor and Public Speaker. She is currently expanding her vision through Home of Conscious Leadership. Find out more about Anouk here.