As Warren Berger rightfully wrote in an HBR article, we have cruised into the era of the curious leader, where success is less about having all the answers and more about the questions being asked. Curiosity is what facilitates the ability and willingness to explore, take part and experience new paths.
Siki Giunta, Managing Director of Accenture, is a woman leader whose innate curiosity for the future has always made her stand out from the crowd.
Understanding the Future from the Past
Born in Rome and raised in France, Siki Giunta had progressive and open-minded parents who encouraged her to read books, travel and listen to music. “Our family was very open about discussing different situations and people and cultures. That is probably the root of my curiosity.”
Although Siki now works in a technology-focused field, she studied arts and history at college. The overlying theme of curiosity remained: How does one properly study the past to understand the future? She made it her strength to look at the future by forging an understanding of the past.
Delivering Unrivaled Services and Solutions
Accenture is a leading global professional services company which provides consulting, strategy, technology, operations and digital solutions. The company’s clients are from a wide range of industries around the world, and include 95 of the Fortune Global 100 companies and more than three-quarters of the Fortune Global 500.
The company boasts an initiative named “Skills to Succeed,” through which it has equipped more than 1.7 million people with the skills to get a job or build a business. “Our goal is to reach and empower 3 million people with these skills by 2020,” adds Siki.
The company has also made great strides in closing the gender gap. “By the end of 2020, women will account for 25 percent of Managing Directors worldwide. We’ve already met a big goal, which was to have women comprise at least 40 percent of our new hires by 2017.”
Additionally, Accenture is closely involved with sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives.
The company works with some of the smartest, most hard-working people who strive to deliver optimal efficiency. The company was recently named on Fortune Magazine’s 50 best companies that put purpose at the center of their business strategies.
Balancing Professional and Personal Life
Speaking about the hardships of balancing between work and personal life, Siki says, “I think we all struggle with balance.”
To cope, Siki exercises regularly; it provides her with an escape from an overactive brain and creates a constructive outlet for surplus energy. She has a passion for movies, and since last year, has developed an interest in audio books. She has also increased her listening and reading, especially of non-fiction, which she says are akin to bedtime stories for her.
Reaping Happiness through Confidence
Siki says women often torture themselves with the notion that they are not good enough at the jobs they do. The panel at the inaugural Women in Leadership Forum hosted by the University of Louisville last year agreed that women are often too hard on themselves. It is important, they said, to take risks.
“Women’s approaches might be different but we have the same business growth goals and expertise as our male colleagues and we should be looking for the same opportunities and pay as men,” claims Siki.
“Sometimes, though, women can be overly perfectionistic and that can hold us back. A great phrase I heard at the forum is that ‘it’s OK not to know everything.’ You should be emboldened to say yes to discomfort.”
Envisioning Empowered Women
“First, I see her smiling confidently,” says Siki of her vision of an empowered woman, “She is alert, ready to learn and ready to contribute. She is not trying to ‘win’, but neither is she inclined to give in on matters where she has knowledge and experience. She is comfortable in her own skin.
“It is difficult for any woman not to think in terms of society’s standards of ‘beauty,’ but the empowered woman knows that beauty radiates from within. In a business environment, she is not simply an imitator of others. She knows what her competitors are doing and therefore knows how to set her company apart from those organizations.
“Perhaps most importantly, she knows how to draw power from those around her. She cares about the people who work with her. She is concerned not only with her own success but also with their success.”
To sum up, Siki’s ideal example of an empowered woman would be someone who prompts others to exclaim, “Wow, I want to be like her!”
Commitment to Diversity
With rapid digital and political change around us, companies need to find the right talent to stay ahead of the competition. It is predicted that 85% of the jobs in 2030 will be completely new, and this will place an enormous stress on the shoulders of corporate and educational systems, as well as on political, religious and cultural systems.
On the positive side, Siki is encouraged by Accenture’s commitment to diversity. The company has set and published clear, measurable targets to increase the number of women in its workforce. It has published its workforce demographics in many countries, including the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Japan, India and ASEAN countries.
Last year, the percentage of Managing Directors across all its departments stood at 30% — Accenture’s highest percentage ever.
The company has even launched initiatives that help women develop in-demand skills. To highlight this, Siki explains, “Accenture’s Women in Technology program helps fast-track the careers of high-performing women toward the position of Technical Architect, a high-demand and short-supply role.”
From an LGBT perspective, Accenture was recognized as one of Stonewall’s Top Global Employers in 2017, as well as a consistent Stonewall “Star Performer.” “This reflects our exceptional and continued commitment to creating an inclusive workplace where our people can be themselves.”
The company has also been featured in Working Mother magazine’s Hall of Fame, recognized for 15 consecutive years as one of the best places for mothers to work.
Making Decisions that Matter
As a Managing Director, Siki shoulders P&L responsibilities and makes decisions only after taking various factors into consideration. According to her, decisions concerning the workforce have the most significance and importance.
“Who will we retain and advance? Who will we counsel to find a different career path? Who will we assign to our most important upcoming projects?”
One cannot simply open a book and find the answers to those questions. A successful leader is one who listens to both their mind and heart, and uses intuition to make a sound decision. Siki firmly believes a leader must connect with his or her workforce on a very personal level to climb the ladder of success, and strives to embody that philosophy herself.
Curiosity – The True Essence of Leadership
Siki believes that curious leaders not only grow themselves but also help the entire company to grow.
“Leaders often need to have answers and set a clear direction. But how can you know what direction to take if you’re not open to ideas? If you’re not always asking and probing for answers?”