We are living in an age of disruption where business and the very pulse of life is fast-paced and in a constant flux of change. In this era, domination as a leadership style is less popular and there’s a growing appreciation of the traits that female leaders bring to the boardroom. Despite this, and the fact that their potential and abilities are undeniable, the density of women in leadership roles is still nowhere near what it should be. This is the opinion of Nadine Hardy-Petzer, the Managing Director of Nutriseed and the Health Food Emporium.
Supporting this opinion, Hardy-Petzer says, “The 2019 Fortune 500 list released in May reported that just 6.6% of the highest-grossing firms are being led by female CEOs – a number that sits at 33. What’s scarier is this is a new record. In 2018 this figure was only 4.8% – 24.”
Being in the business of health it’s no surprise that Hardy-Petzer is concerned with the health of her business – not just the bottom line but the culture of the organization. She believes leadership with integrity is the difference and this starts with embracing the qualities that define female leadership.
“Celebrating who we are means never apologizing for being a woman. Too many women still try and emulate men in the workplace – assuming aggressive leadership styles and ignoring their innate God-given wisdom. As a woman at work, we need to embrace our female virtues – tapping into them as strengths rather than seeing them as weaknesses to be changed. To chameleon and become someone you aren’t is not healthy and it’s not sustainable,” she says.
Hardy-Petzer says that the best way to achieve this is to be your authentic self. “We need to shift how we think about our emotions and embrace them so that we lead with energy, empathy and intuition. We have qualities that men seldom bring to the equation and that puts us in a unique position of strength. We are naturally better at nurturing and fostering relationships, more patient, good listeners, and morale builders, change-makers who inspire and create … the list is endless. So why apologize for an impressive CV of [feminine] traits? Instead, own your strengths, lead with passion, walk with confidence and be you.”
Despite her convictions – she will never force her aspirations for healthy living on others – believing in a more subtle approach that’s all about suggestion rather than coercion and the promise of delicious alternatives. Her leadership style is described in much the same way and Hardy-Petzer leads from within her team – not from the top. “We are a very flat organization and we all get down and dirty to make things happen. No one is above packing boxes if that’s what’s called for.”
She believes this builds genuine commitment from a team and a sense of ownership. “It’s what I believe creates longevity in business.”
Not threatened by other women – she is instead committed to uplifting those around her and has employed a predominantly female team. “We are committed to each other and our mutual success. I love the sentiment that a victory for one woman means a step in the right direction for all women. With this as the bedrock of how we operate in our business, we go to weekly counseling as a team. This has and continues to solidify our bond and we have built a strong team that works well together because of our honesty and transparency and ability to be vulnerable with each other.”
The demands of work and family can be overwhelming particularly as the world of work gets increasingly competitive and demanding. Despite this, Hardy-Petzer says she has not had to make any trade-offs. “That’s not part of my story. I have purposefully structured my life so that I can be a mom and business leader – one is not at the exclusion of the other. But you need to surround yourself with like-minded people who have your back and are flexible. I have an incredible support system at home and there’s always someone stepping in when I can’t. I am definitely living my dream.”
Adding to this she says that women are fantastic business leaders but they need to believe and have confidence in the fact that they can run homes and successful businesses. “We can do it all. We are naturally creative beings – so create the life you want and don’t let fear hold you back from realizing your true potential.”
When asked her recipe for success Hardy-Petzer says that your reason for doing what you do is what ultimately will determine your climb to success. “It doesn’t have to be hard and when you are following your passion and you focus on that rather than trying to succeed – you naturally make it. Do it for the wrong reasons and it will fail,” she says. “My deep desire and drive is to help influence how people eat – so that they can be the best version of themselves and by chasing that dream – success – while not without hard work – has become a reality.”
Her foolproof advice during this climb includes: Dress the part. Walk tall and carry yourself with confidence and learn how to read a room – because EQ can be more valuable than IQ.
Although a highly driven entrepreneur, Hardy-Petzer recognizes the value of downtime and switching off. Although her job is about food – she loves to cook and experiment in the kitchen as a means to destress. Her creativity is further expressed through dance – she loves Latin American dancing and this fills her happiness tank. Boxing three times a week is another release that gives her an endorphin rush and switches her mind off so that she returns energized, refreshed and ready for the challenges of another day at the office.
“It’s true I am fearless and a risk-taker with a can-do attitude and I always had faith and trusted that we would succeed. But it’s not always like this for other women and I would encourage business South Africa to create a work environment where a woman can thrive and succeed. Gender parity is not just the right thing to do – it’s a smart move because women add depth and diversity. To the woman already in the ranks of senior executives, don’t be the only woman in the room – find your voice and uplift the women in your team,” concludes Hardy-Petzer.
About Nadine Hardy-Petzer
I am a serial innovator and entrepreneur. I run Nutriseed – a health and wellness food company producing high-quality snacks, baking products, and cereals, rich in nutrients, protein, and low in carbs. Gluten-free goodness that’s the very definition of deliciousness and convenience. We provide an alternative way of eating for those who are inspired by clean living. This naturally led to the establishment of The Health Food Emporium – an outlet where we sell all our Nutriseed products direct to the public – plus a wide range of functional foods. From nuts and seeds to Kefir, Kombucha, grains, pulses, honey on tap and more – all at wholesale prices. The third and rapidly growing pillar of our business is private label development and manufacture for a wide range of leading supermarkets.