Welcome to our ‘Unlocking Leadership’ series, where we tap into the wisdom of some of the most inspiring founders, leaders and business minds of today. Explore insider stories, strategies and insights, as we unlock the secrets of successful leadership.

Jacquie Duckworth is a business leader and co-founder of Visible Inc. an organisation that helps midlife women relaunch their careers in the media and advertising industry.

Her company’s coaching programme ‘Visible Start’ is a movement that aims to “unleash the power of midlife women”, offering game-changing support and mentorship for women in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond, who are embarking on Career 2.0.

What are three key principles or qualities that guide your leadership?

For me, a huge part of leadership is empathy, and connecting with people across the organisation in terms of how they function, how they operate, what the issues are, and concerns.

I’ve always made sure I have one-to-ones with every member of my team, so I understand what their expectations are, what makes them tick; their pressure points, their grievances, aspirations and inspirations — so I could see how I could help them.

Secondly, it’s the ability to prioritise. Understanding what the short-, mid- and long-term objectives are in terms of your purpose.

Also, I think it’s really important to have a sense of humour. We’re coming to work and having fun; I think that’s really important.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?

To always do your preparation — that’s really key; investing time in preparation. Also, to make sure that you surround yourself with diverse types. If you only surround yourself with people like you, then there are going to be gaps in your offering. Surround yourself with brilliant people; covering all ground, and you’re going to shine and offer brilliance to your customers or clients.

It’s a default position that people tend to migrate towards others like them, but a good leader sees their own shortcomings and doesn’t pretend to be brilliant at everything they do.

Which leaders inspire you? 

Charismatic leaders with the ability to get the best out of people inspire me. It might sound cliché but I’d say Richard Branson. He’s got bags of charisma, appeal and charm. Inspirational leaders are more than happy to pull up their sleeves and get down and dirty with everybody in order to make something happen.

How do you foster leadership skills in the people you work with? 

I think listening is really pivotal. Often in conversation, people aren’t really listening to the whole bandwidth of what you’re trying to say; they’re already wanting to answer a question; or they might have a point they want to make, a story to share… but what often happens is they miss out on potentially great nuggets of advice. Listening well is crucial.

What’s the single most important thing you want to achieve in your career?

We always say we want to get to the point where our company is redundant because there’s no need for us, because midlife women are part of the dynamic of any company, across any sector, and that there are creative people who really understand how to target midlife women, because we’ve shown them the way.

I love the feeling I get from changing these women’s lives, and making them feel that they can conquer the world. It’s not what we’ve done; it’s what we’ve enabled them to do.

And finally, what’s a favourite motto or quote that you often draw on?

Christine Lagarde, who was head of the European Monetary Fund, in the collapse of 2009 said, “Do you think if it had been Lehman Sisters we would be in this kind of ****?”. For me, that just says it all.

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