Inspirational Woman: Justine Lutterodt | Director of the Centre for Synchronous Leadership (CSL)

I am Director of the Centre for Synchronous Leadership (CSL), a consultancy aimed at helping senior executives become more ‘in sync’ – with themselves, their colleagues, their organisation, their clients, and external stakeholders.

We do this through a blend of leadership consulting, executive coaching, training workshops, and community-based events.  Our approach is very holistic, integrating expertise across a broad range of topics – from career development to team effectiveness, diversity to cultural change, governance to business strategy, etc.  We also do action research and have an ongoing focus on translating the latest research into practice.

I am passionate about helping my clients.  Most of them undergo significant personal and professional transformation, which I find incredibly rewarding.

What is your background, and how does it relate to your work?

I’ve been a consultant in different capacities for over ten years now:  first as a strategy consultant at a large firm, then as head of marketing at a training consultancy, and finally in my current position.  Along the way, I’ve had experiences working with leaders, managing teams, mentoring colleagues, starting up leadership networks, volunteering as a crisis counsellor, etc. – all of which have helped shape our current direction.

In terms of academics, I started off at Yale with a Bachelor’s in Maths and Philosophy.  The maths background is still relevant since a strong component of what I do now is identify patterns relating to clients and their context.  Also, my philosophy studies were focussed on ethics and philosophy of language – both of which are integral to my current work with business leaders.

The concept of ‘Synchronous Leadership‘ emerged from my Master’s in Organisational Psychology at LSE.  Having completed the degree, I saw that the approach I’d developed was unique, and felt that it had the power to transform ‘business as usual‘ into something more inspiring.  It seemed that the only way to do it justice was to start a business with Synchronous Leadership as the main focus.  Hence, the Centre was born.

Can you tell us about the “Inspire Like a Man, Lead Like a Woman” initiative?

This is a community-based initiative which I started in 2011 as part of CSL’s commitment to “living leadership.”  At the time, I was attending numerous evening events on business ethics, gender equality, and leadership but felt that something was missing.  Firstly, these three conversations seemed to be happening in isolation from one another.  Secondly, good points were being made, but it felt like an intellectual exercise.  Finally, I felt like people were so focussed on the big scandals that they were missing the role of their own everyday work interactions in planting the seeds for these disasters to take place.

Lead Like a Woman started as an event series that highlighted inspiring women at the top of the professional services sector, surfaced untold stories of key challenges they had faced, and leveraged the collective wisdom of the audience in working through potential solutions in a more “synchronous” fashion.

It has been amazing to see how well it has been received, and to watch the community grow and evolve over time.

We have recently expanded beyond professional services and, more notably, beyond just women.  Inspire Like a Man, Lead Like a Woman was launched at Pearson in May, and our first event with male panellists will be taking place mid-September 2013.  Additionally, we’ll be launching an accompanying workshop series this summer on “Rewriting the Rules of Corporate Success,” along with various diagnostic and training tools.

What has been your biggest challenge?

When I announced that I was starting a business around ethical leadership on a continent where I had no contacts, few people understood my vision or believed I would succeed.  Back then believing in myself sufficiently to convince others of what I had to offer was a challenge.

Now it feels like everything has changed.  We have a solid track record and appear to be building momentum.

That said, the resilience I had to gain in that first year has left me with a lasting sense of confidence and resolve.

What’s been your greatest achievement personally?

My own personal transformation which is ongoing.  Starting a business has just been one component.  I continue to look at every area of my life and ensure that I am living life purposefully, and helping others where I can.

If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing?

If I wasn’t running a business, I’d be a professional songwriter.

I believe in keeping both sides of the brain active, so still haven’t ruled this out.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My parents – immigrants to the US who were ahead of their time and raised us to believe that anything is possible.  My father is a mathematician and my mother is a business entrepreneur.

I am very grateful to have their example, encouragement, and support.

What does the future hold for you?

It is exciting to see the Centre for Synchronous Leadership grow into something much bigger than me.  In the future, I won’t be leading the Centre, I’ll be co-leading it with others who share the vision and can help to shape its evolution.

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