Our female CEOs: Lessons in life and leadership – Jerry’s story

Jerry Zhang, our CEO, China, on how she maintains a work-life balance, and finding potential in mistakes

Name: Jerry Zhang
Role: CEO, China

Vision and execution

What’s critical to leadership is creating a vision – one which encompasses both mid- and long-term objectives. That way, the whole team – their time, efforts and resources – can be mobilised towards achieving the common goal. The vision shouldn’t be a personal view. It should reflect consensus and shared goals, because if people don’t truly buy in, then it will be difficult to succeed.

I pay attention to details and execution. No matter how great a vision may be, it’ll remain only a vision if not executed. I can’t overemphasise the importance of teamwork and coordination. While all must do their individual part, a team that has common direction and good coordination will be more likely to realise its vision.

In my teams, I value colleagues with different personalities, genders, backgrounds and cultures, who can play to their own strengths. We celebrate their diversity but also rally them together through a common vision and collective objectives

Turning things around

My greatest challenge in recent years has been leading Standard Chartered China to achieve a big turnaround. During my time as CEO, we have collectively come a long way in improving our financial performance. Today, I am proud to see the confidence level among staff, good business momentum and that every colleague is working hard for a better future both for the Bank and for themselves.

I had to overcome many mental obstacles during this turnaround journey. When challenges seem like insurmountable mountains, the reason may simply be that we can’t see the future. To combat this feeling, I led the team to break down big tasks into smaller, specific deliverables and rallied everyone to focus on execution to the best of their abilities. The combination of strategic vision and down-to-earth execution is my formula to turn things around.

our female CEOsA question of balance

Many women are mothers, and as a mother, you have the responsibility to raise and educate your children. Balancing your career and family life is not always easy. And there’s no perfect answer to this. Sacrifices have to be made, but balance is still achievable.

For important family matters, treat them the way you treat important work. Don’t dismiss them as something that can be deprioritised. Treat your family members as important stakeholders. Only then can you strike a good balance between family and career.

Unleashing potential and learning from mistakes

Jerry ZhangI believe in myself and have always tried my best to learn, contribute and grow with the company. In my opinion, both being a leader and being a professional are plausible ways to realise one’s value. But everyone has a different definition of success. Life is short and success does not necessarily mean becoming a CEO. Rather it’s about knowing your strengths and finding a way to realise your value. Some people enjoy frontline jobs dealing with customers; others like to develop products or work in support functions,keeping all the systems and data in order. If you unleash your potential every day, you’ll be rewarded with a strong sense of meaningfulness.

Having said this, it would be unrealistic to expect a perfect match between your work and personal interests. You should always think about where you still need to improve. People often wonder whether they should put more effort into playing to their strengths or making up for their weaknesses. I don’t think there is any conflict between the two. To be successful, you have to play to your strengths and also make up for your weaknesses.

We should also always reflect on the paths we’ve travelled, to reinforce what we’ve done well, improve what we haven’t done so well and avoid mistakes other people have made before. People often repeat similar mistakes, as if they were inevitable, but it’s because they’ve not figured out the root cause behind these mistakes. If we can reflect regularly and really learn our lessons, the chances of success will greatly improve.

We are committed to having 30 per cent of senior roles held by women by 31 Dec 2020