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7 Questions on Leadership with Caroline Macefield

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

Name: Caroline Macefield

Title: Chief Audit Executive

Organisation: Aegon

Pragmatic and innovative Internal Audit professional in the insurance industry.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Caroline's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

The decisions where there is no clear way forward and where the impact on others was greater than on me.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I always worked hard. Come a certain point in my late 20s I realized relationships and emotional intelligence mattered as much if not more for people at the top. I began to develop myself and my ability to lead.

After 2 wrong turns, I got lucky and took a job in an organization that gave me the empowerment and promoted me twice. I am still there.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I start my day with a coffee and something to eat. I check the news. I then exercise - somehow - and after I am showered and presentable I head to the office. No two days are the same but there is a rhythm to the quarter.

I spend a lot of time with my team and keeping on top of what is going on in the business and what audits we are doing. I like to have dinner at home but often do an activity in the evening (dinner out, go to the gym). On weeknights I like to wind down with some light TV or reading.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Never assume what the other party is thinking. Even if it’s hard, have the conversation. Knowing is better than assuming.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

Legacy by James Kerr. I am no rugby fan, but a former boss made us read this when the team was at war with each other. It was a real level setter.

The part about sweeping the sheds really speaks to me - nobody is beyond doing the job of the people they employ but unfortunately many of them behave like they are - and the magic of leaders who make the person they are talking to have 100% of their attention in a busy room.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Take some risks. The earlier the better. Quite possibly the worst advice I ever received was on leaving school - “the future is spread before you like a sheet of driven snow, be careful how you tread it as every mark will show.”

That’s nonsense when it comes to careers. Doing something that doesn’t work out makes you grow more than 100 successes and often leads you to the place you are meant to be.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

Believe in your people and the rest will follow. I have a tendency to be involved but as I took on my current role I realized that intervening too much didn’t always add value. I took a step back and allowed my people to do their thing - checking in every now and offering support and guidance.

Around 2 years ago, this worked a treat. Part of my team did some brave and impactful work and I saw the opportunity to have an honest and tough conversation with a significant project team for our business.

Our combined efforts meant that decisions were made sooner than had not been the case. It taught me to play my role and leaves others to theirs. This was a moment that mattered to my team and to our organization as a whole.

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