Amid all of this uncertainty that 2020 has brought upon us, we all looked at leaders for reassurance, empathy, and guidance to the path forward. Usually, leadership is being associated with one’s ability to lead and motivate others towards achieving a specific goal or vision. However, this year we were reminded that being an effective leader comes with two main responsibilities: doing and being. “Doing” refers to the actions a leader takes, such as making the operating decisions or handling finances. “Being” represents the human side of leadership and requires a specific skill set to be able to connect with others.
A product manager of SafeMetrix and SafeLearn, Valentinos Steliou, shares his view on effective leadership within the workforce. Currently, he is leading the development of the maritime-specific online assessments and courses and is passionate about creating a continuous development culture for seafarers.
How did you rise to be a team leader in the maritime industry?
While being a highly demanding industry that never sleeps, the maritime industry gives an individual the ideal platform to contribute to the continuation of a cycle that keeps the world moving. As a product manager with a passion for technological advancements through commercial means, I was always fascinated with being part of this challenging process.
I have been fortunate to engage with Safebridge since 2016. This engagement brought me face to face with a great mentor and a successful leader Capt. Ralph Becker-Heins. As a great leader himself, Capt. Ralph Becker-Heins was always keen to transmit the company’s vision and bring out the best of the skills I have been developing for the last 14 years of my career.
Great leadership is about recognising the diverse qualities that each team member brings to the group. This way, you start leading from a place of influence rather than a place of authority. From this perspective, the positive impact starts from within each team member and is transmitting to the whole company and ultimately to the world.
By being led under this perspective, it became clear that rising in the maritime industry needed to start from me and my daily interactions. Part of the role I hold is being the light bearer of concepts bigger than me and, at times, even bigger than the company. It was evident that rising successfully would mean that the entire workforce needed to be part of these concepts and visions and feel appreciated. This way, we all work for a bigger common objective. Business leadership has gone beyond merely making things happen.
Currently, you are leading the core products of Safebridge - SafeMetrix, and SafeLearn. How did you decide to take this leadership role?
Both SafeMetrix and SafeLearn are interconnected to the development of seafarers. Continuous development has always been a crucial condition for the sustainable future of the industry. As a professional who challenges the norms, I was captivated with the chance to further enhance the professional development of seafarers by assessing new elements, digging into traits and areas that were not approachable in the past, identifying improvement areas, analysing training needs, and ultimately bringing forward a personalized/customized growth for each seafarer.
I am even more fascinated with the prospect that this objective has the potential to be a game-changer, which sometimes finds its barrier to itself with an immense number of regulations and a diverse pool of leading gain players. By leading such change, we had to visit the core of the problem and find the most effective solution. My fascination with the industry triggered my motivation to lead the two products, and growing with these products is an absolute thrill.
Deciding to take on such a vital role meant that, together with a capable team, we had to bring together knowledge and ideas that will create the ideal tool of preference for our business customers while serving the seafarers’ needs. We had to go beyond what is considered a must and question how customers are treating important data today. Such data support important decisions related to the recruitment, promotion, and professional development of the seafarers.
How do you develop and support your leadership skills?
Leadership is not developed in an instant, and there is no magic capsule to change this. It takes consistent commitment towards improving individual characteristics, choosing the right development programs, and being surrounded by the right people to practice such skills.
Although there are multiple ways to develop leadership skills, through formal training, self-directed training, peer feedback, coaching, etc., I choose to look up to the most successful leaders who combine education with the right recommendations from the right people. It is like SafeMetrix and SafeLearn (Assessments and Training): The right assessment will give you the right recommendations for the right e-Learning Course, either for you or for a colleague or a crew member.
Would you say that "leaders are leaders," regardless of the industry they work in?
Leadership is a combination of traits and skills. The traits part is amongst the individual characteristics, while the required skills will vary depending on the situation and position. Given that the situations which a leader is frequently exposed to may vary from industry to industry, this constitutes that the combination of the most desired skills will also vary. For instance, this is exactly how the norms for the SafeMetrix Psychometric Assessments are being determined. Therefore, to answer this question, I would say that leaders are leaders regardless of the industry. However, the exact combination of skills they must possess and apply will vary under the given operating conditions.
What are the 3-top soft skills you would say a modern leader should have and why?
- First of all, for a great leader to be empowering, Achievement Striving is a vital skill. A leader with Achievement Striving will be determined and goal-oriented to lead a team to the next objective. The maritime industry is moving fast and leading within it, means that you are relentlessly passionate and motivated. Such a professional, leading a crew ashore or onboard, will be eager to achieve more than expected. Therefore, with the combination of a complimenting skills-set, such a leader will be part of a great performing team.
- The second top skill a leader should have is Resilience. Especially in the present times, a good leader will have embedded a belief in his/her abilities to cope under pressure. Will be able to adapt in the face of stress and adversity while having any support sources available for the team under leadership. Resilient leaders are the ones who accept help and are willing to provide it at any given time. These are the elements that create a persona connected with the leadership of grace and survivorship.
- The third but not less significant skill for a leader in a global scenery such as the maritime industry is Assertiveness. Assertiveness is one of the greatest interpersonal skills with which a leader can stand up for his/her own beliefs, positions, and decisions positively and calmly. Assertive leadership creates trust and confidence in the team, and it is shown through the leaders’ actions, posture, and organization.
I believe that the 3 skills above are the top soft skills that can move the industry ahead because achievement striving leaders who demonstrate assertiveness and resilience can lead a team to success.