Leadership Outside Of The Comfort Zone – Insights in the daily life and experience of a female leader in an Arab country

Anne Gronbjerg talks about beeing outside of the comfort zone, about learning and beeing a role model to other talented women – she describes these as unforgetable experiences. We are happy to share these valuable reflections.

Dear Anne Gronbjerg, you are in the position of Managing Director in Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq and Iran at Maersk Line. What exactly is your task?

I drive the top line performance of our two brands, Maersk Line and Safmarine, in the first 3 countries. As for Iran, my tasks are mainly market analysis related. So, I meet with customers and lead our 60+ colleagues on the ground, making sure that the daily execution is in line with our global strategy and that we serve our customers best possible.

What are the main characteristics of a typical workday in Jordan?

First and foremost, the value of human relations takes centre stage – things always work better when we talk things over face to face, rather than via email. This applies both with colleagues, customers and other stakeholders, and it’s something I have had to change my own style of working to accomodate. Other than that, I invest a good amount of time in talent development and of course in ensuring continuous progress on all our various performance measurements – both related to revenues and costs.   

As a female manager of a mostly male team, which were your major challenges?

That’s perhaps easier for them to answer, than for me (laughs)! In any case, after an initial period of almost a year where both the team and I needed to adjust and get to know each other – and that wasn’t always easy due to different styles of working and communicating – I really do feel that we are in a great place now. We trust each other completely in the leadership team and we learn from each other’s differences rather than see them as problems. 

What helped you to manage these challenges, who supported you?

Sometimes I felt that no one helped me! But looking back, there is no doubt that my biggest supporters were actually my team. They have been very patient and tolerant with me. It is very difficult for a senior leader like my boss, sitting in a different time zone, to really help someone in my role with a lot of impact – the distance is simply too big. At specific times, our local HR team were a great support, too.

Read more about,what advice Anne would give other women who do business with or in Arab countries …