Military Officer Turned Tech Chief Angela Mondou Reflects on Leading by Example

The essence of leadership, she says, is accountability.

Angela Mondou, President and CEO, TECHNATION, as told to Alesandra Dubin

I didn’t always know if I would be a good leader, but I was always attracted to leadership as a career path. And I knew I wanted to live a life of adventure.

After I graduated and was offered roles with car companies or banks, I was much more attracted instead to the life of military officers who had extraordinary accountability to their teams and their lives were full of adventure. And that led me to pursue the best leadership training opportunity that exists: officer basic training boot camp.

Now after my decades of experience as both a military officer and later a tech executive, I know that leadership skills come both from innate drive and also from training.

Leadership Means Accountability

I really do believe that people can develop skills and become excellent leaders. I also believe that a critical part of leadership must come from within: taking on and having no fear of accountability.

This means having principles and a game plan around action, taking action, and being accountable. It’s about being willing to own a mission, to take on failure, and to share success. Good leaders are willing to fail and own it, and not put the weight of failure on their team alone. But if they succeed, great leaders attribute success to the team.

Taking Lessons Along After a Career Pivot

Being in the military set me up to succeed as a woman leader in tech, another overwhelmingly male-dominated environment. When I started out as a military officer, I was among one percent of leaders who were women. I had no female role models around me or above me.

Similarly, back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, many people just weren’t ready for women in command. Once when I was a captain during the former Yugoslavia Wars, I was in charge of setting up the logistics supply chain into the war-zone. But when I walked into any meeting with my male translator, people assumed I was his secretary. I had to put endless effort into explaining.

So by the time I got to the tech sector, I’d learned a lot about respect. I’d long been used to respecting myself even when others did not.

In fact, past humiliations have been a major catalyst for me. I now know that I don’t want to work for a senior leader who clearly doesn’t respect the value that I bring to the table. It’s about understanding and respecting yourself, knowing your value, and being the leader you’d wish to work for.

One of my key strengths now from learning from some of the tough lessons earlier in my career is about taking back your power. That includes standing up to bullies and setting boundaries.

Follow Your Strengths and Passions

Often when we’re younger, we don’t always know our purpose on the planet. The military wasn’t necessarily my passion, but it certainly helped expose me to my strengths, and to things that I was extremely passionate about as I moved forward in my career. Others who are starting out may not necessarily know what drives them. But they can pay attention to what really gets them excited, and to what they’re passionate about.

I believe one of the worst things that can happen to us in our career is that we succeed in something we don’t love. You might get promoted and make more money, but it’s not really where you want to be, so it doesn’t fuel your fire.

When you can truly connect with your passion, you can succeed tenfold. And that comes down to getting to know yourself first. I ended up joining the forces because I really wanted that adventure and leadership opportunity. As a result of this authentic pursuit, I found what became a phenomenal career path for me, because it led me to my passion around leadership, and around being able to create new plans and strategies, which I truly love.

I’d advise others to just really try to understand what makes themselves tick. Be selfish about your career path and your destiny. Nobody else owns our career destiny. We alone own it. And we bring the best value when we really feel fulfilled.

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(Destination Canada)