Name: Larissa Verbitskaya
Title: CEO, co-founder
Organisation: Liberia Institute for Environmental Stability (LIfES).
Project manager with over 10 years of experience in commercial and NGO projects.
My philosophy centers around gender equality and social inclusion within teams, projects, and society. I am Ukrainian, born in Kharkiv. That`s why I never give up.
I received my education at the Karazin National University (Kharkiv), earned my PM certification at the University of Iowa (USA), and I am currently studying social inclusion at the University of Bern, CAS program.
I enjoy active outdoor activities, hiking, yoga, and reading.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Larissa's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
It is both challenging and interesting for me to bring together a team of stellar professionals and motivate them to achieve the best results. I like to work in a team where everyone is the best in their field and everyone wants to do something that has never been done before. To take up the challenge and do more than you have done before. Achieve results together, supporting, and developing teammates.
Stay motivated, optimistic, and focused on the goal every day. Even if it's a bad day, even when there are setbacks.
It is a challenge for a leader to never give up. And to never let the team give up.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I have no chance to be different. I was just lucky to be born into a family where people left a mark on the history of my country. Their authority was there for me. It`s my story and my issues.
And I stubbornly wanted to make my way. That is why I chose an activity where my surname said nothing to anyone.
I was lucky to be born in Ukraine. This country is constantly changing and is the easiest place to introduce innovative solutions.
I was lucky to serve people in difficult times and to apply my experience in the humanitarian sphere now.
Behind each of my "lucky," there is much routine daily work. It's boring.
What's important is that I was able to do it. So anyone who wants to go their way and do what they didn't can.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I have two-hour sprints.
The first two hours after waking up are yoga, meditation, breakfast, and time to myself.
Then two hours of mandatory work within projects. It's boring. However, papers, invoices, and reports are a must.
Then lunch and time for informal meetings with colleagues or clients or just interesting people.
This is followed by time for reading news, learning, and sorting out interesting things. At the moment I am spending a lot of time on German.
Then again mandatory work with teams and planning.
Evening is a one-to-one time for me.
Around 18.00 I finish the working day.
This leaves time for sports, walking, studying, and self-reflection.
In my planning, work-life balance is important, current - future, work for now - developing my competencies.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
March 2022. There are more than 300 people in front of the migration secretariat in Bern.
The registration system is not able to deal with so many inquiries. The staff are simply confused.
My compatriots, these same 300 people, are stressed after a long journey, with children, the elderly, and animals.
The challenge of my leadership and management skills was to be a bridge between these two groups. I had no authority over them.
But I had the competence to quickly set up a system. It's a little bit cooler than an elevator pitch. Because you don't have to convince someone. It's about making effective decisions with a team that you're nobody. And to reassure the other group and convince them to trust the system. That you`re also nobody.
Now I'm proud of that experience. Because I did it. Just did.
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?
This is a book by VALERIE YOUNG "The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women"
These stories helped me to see the other side of women's leadership.
In many of the stories, I recognized myself or my colleagues.
I promised myself to support women and girls in leadership and to become an example myself.
It was this book that defined my philosophy of equal opportunities for all in projects. I realize how important it is for a leader to be both a strong pillar and fertile ground for team growth.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
The only advice is: if you can choose not to be a leader, skip someone who can't otherwise. Or become someone for whom leadership is a philosophy of life. It is a bright and interesting life. There will be many victories and falls, many sorrows and joys, many challenges, and moments of happiness. If this is your life, go for it! The world needs you and people need you.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
A couple of weeks ago, a girl whom I hired for an internship when she was still at university came to me. She worked with me for two years and then left for another city.
And now, five years later, we met.
She is a successful CMO (marketing director), I think the fifth, who grew up next to me.
I was interested to learn about her company and development. I was pleased to hear: “I have adopted your strategies and behavior. I always hear your voice: “Look for a solution, you can do it!”
My mentee told me this week about a 5-fold increase in orders. “You inspire us and give us the courage to grow!” This is a socially responsible business that employs older and young people from IDP (internally displaced) groups.
Growing a new generation of leaders - what could be cooler?
Yes, I was lucky to be born into a family where people think about the next generations.
I learned to grow those who know how to unite, take responsibility, and achieve results.