Sheela Maini Søgaard is Partner and CEO at BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group and is thus leader of more than 450 people across New York, London and Copenhagen. She has been with the company since 2008.
What characterizes leadership today?
Successful leaders must be accessible. Speak about stuff people don’t expect and have conversations you otherwise wouldn’t. Know when to use the hierarchy and when to be just a fellow human.
I see the most delicate leadership dilemma as when to give people mandates without pushing them too far into areas where they are not comfortable
The young people nowadays are very driven and they have a unique sense of self-worth which I truly admire and don’t remember my generation having to the same extent. They have more complex demands and expectations of their employees and I find that we are often confronted with how exactly to meet these.
How does New York and Copenhagen differ?
In New York, I’m the CEO, in Copenhagen I just blend into the office. We need to work harder at BIG NYC to get rid of the orthodox hierarchy.
Danes have a really pragmatic approach to solving challenges, issues, problems. The work culture here in NYC is very much characterized by liabilities. Liabilities take up so much space in conversations and contracts and we need to be conscious of not becoming overly careful and holding back from doing new things.
In my opinion, there are some infrastructural things in the US that make people a bit more anxious. I sometimes think that it is easier to be innovative in Scandinavia because people feel safe and know that they can get healthcare and education for their children.