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7 Questions on Leadership with Ozlem Baygin

Name: Ozlem Baygin

Title: Regional Director

Organisation: Oracle

Experienced professional with 30+ years in IT. Educational background in Industrial Engineering (BSc and MSc), complemented with an MBA from University of Exeter, UK. Started her career in MIS department of a state enterprise. After various roles in Oracle, including Technical Support, Sales Consultancy, Business Operations/Planning Director, currently, she is a Regional Director in Oracle, leading a professional consultancy team providing licensing advisory to our Customers.

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

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


Jonno White

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

Sometimes it seems to me that being a leader is like holding the rope for a tightrope walker, and the people you are trying to lead are the tightrope walkers. I find it much more challenging than myself being the tightrope walker. Cause when you are holding the rope, you need to hold it just tight enough and straight enough and any mistakes you do can make the walker fall down. You need to listen carefully, observe carefully to understand how it feels for the walker but also look at the whole environment, where the wind flows from, etc. So, I think leadership is itself challenging yet very rewarding as well.

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

15 years ago, I need to make a career decision so that I should either stay as a specialist or become a manager, and I thought that the time has come for me to become a manager and experience my leadership skills. I could have only a few people reporting to me directly and it was more management by influence and kind of managing a remote team. And then 5 years ago, I have to make another decision whether I should start on a new division going back to specialist role or find something else. I decided to go back to specialist role for a few years to learn the business and then when the opportunity was there I applied for the managerial role again which did not happen the first time, but then there was a second opportunity and then it happened.

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

Generally, I get up at 7 am this year and then have breakfast with my daughter. I start working around 9 am and then continue till 6 pm in general with a short break to have some snacks. But I do not sit in front of my laptop all the time, have quite frequent 3 to 5 minutes breaks. It is like 1 hour work followed with a small break. Then if I do not have any evening calls, I prepare for dinner and we have our dinner as a family. If I have calls then I have to prepare for dinner earlier sometimes and then have the call before or after dinner based on the time. Then, mostly between 8:00 and 9:00 pm, I have a quiet check on what is remaining from daily work, what meetings I have for tomorrow. Then, I do some language learning, watching some film or some reading before sleep and go to sleep around mid-night. If I go to some social or cultural events or do some walking in the evening, then, it becomes different.

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

Just today I have read a small HBR article about the Influencing styles, which was quite nice. It made me realize that I am using the influencing style that it is most effective for me to be influenced, so it is not working that well for the others. I need to use different influencing styles for different people, which might be a bit more difficult still doable and it will be more effective.

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?

"Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg has impacted me quite a lot. After I have read that book, I started to think over a bit more where I have not been courageous enough and that we need to first believe ourselves of our own strength. When we have a strong belief in ourselves that we can do something than it shows in the tone of our voice, it shows in our look and all and people also start believing in us.

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

Listen and have time for those you want to lead.

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

Many stories, let me pick just one. I have been to somewhere in Africa for the first time for initiating many important activities, and as soon as I have been there I found out that something strange was going on and only some days later on I found out that the leader who has invited me there was leaving the company and I had no-one to support me and I knew no-one else. And worse than that it took me couple of days to find out what was going on. There was something weird, can't do the meetings I was planning to do, can't understand why some people were so skeptical why some were so demanding. What I have told myself at the hotel room the first night was simply "You are here, you can't go back now, do not try to understand what is going on, cause you won't, just concentrate on your work, what you know, what you have been planning to do before and find a way to do it and to show it to others. And find another sponsor. And it worked. I believe as the human beings we have an enormous capability to survive in all conditions, we only need to feel the urge for it.

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