Learning by Listening and Doing
The prospect of a long education did not appeal to a very young Maria Rosenbæk. That is why she became a trainee at an insurance company straight after business school. Rather than sitting on the school bench, she has watched, listened, and learnt, and now she is a sales director.
Today, Maria Rosenbæk is 37 years old and is a sales director with responsibility for a business division with 8 managers and 140 employees in the insurance company Tryg. She got her first leadership job as a 28-year-old for the same company.
“Many people around me have been in education for a long time, but I don’t necessarily think that that is the best thing if you want to be a leader. Leadership is something that you need to get out and experience yourself. Keep your eyes open, gather knowledge, assess what is working, and take this with you.” Maria learnt a lot when being a business partner, or adviser, for directors above her. She learnt from those who were better than she was. She also learnt what she did not think worked, and that has been a part of shaping her own leadership style.
Respect amongst Men
As a sales director in the business sector, Maria Rosenbæk primarily has male insurance agents underneath her, and many of them are in their mid 50s. It is still 3 years until Maria turns 40, and her hair is completely blond. Given her age and appearance, she has been conscious of positioning herself from the beginning.
“When I started in business, I went around to all the offices and listened to the employees. I don’t think that they’d been used to that previously, so it was a really good investment. I feel that they are with me, and that they know that I follow up on what we’ve agreed.
As a leader of other leaders, Maria is very much aware of the need for agreement on the direction amongst the leadership team, because otherwise it has consequences for all the other links. Over the years, she has come to realize that not everyone will necessarily follow the set strategy, and she has had to bear the consequences.
“I will never enjoy having to say goodbye, but I’m not afraid of it either. We don’t need to agree on everything, but on the direction and the overall strategy, we have to. The more responsibility I have gotten, the more dependent I am of the managers under me.”
Always Do Your Best
Maria’s path to leadership was not set in advance. Following her final business exam, her choice of career was decided after a pleasant interview for a traineeship with the insurance company Topdanmark. Later on, when she moved to Tryg in search of new challenges, she worked under a female group managing director.
“Once I heard Stine Bosse say that she had a philosophy about always doing her very best, regardless of what she was doing, because then there should always be room for her. And I’ve also lived by that.”
In the beginning, Maria was most interested in sales, but she made herself heard when there was something she found difficult to accept. As a result of putting her neck out, she was involved in more tasks and acquired more responsibility. Because Maria was good at what she did, she was offered better positions over the years.
Jump in at the Deep End
“I think I have the world’s best job, and therefore I come home with energy. But I also love being a mother and spending time with my husband, so in my private life it’s sometimes a battle to do everything. Mostly, I’m able to manage my time myself, and once in a while I take time off for longer periods.”
Last summer, Maria spent six weeks travelling in Vietnam and Thailand with her husband and their sons. When she came back, she took over two other managers’ jobs in addition to her own.
“I was really thrown in at the deep end, and that can make you doubt yourself. When I was young, I thought that everyone was better than me. Over time, I’ve discovered that I have just as much to offer and that I can easily handle the responsibility I get.”
Be Enthusiastic about Your Job
“We use most of our waking hours at our work, and therefore it’s important that your education and job are chosen based on what interests you. I believe that you get much further in life if you’re passionate about what you do.”
Maria completely understands that the insurance branch is not known for being the most interesting. But it is for her, and today her job is just as much about being a leader as being a specialist.
“I’m passionate about leadership and I don’t think that it’s absolutely decisive whether you choose higher education or work your way up through the system. Make a decision about your education or job based on what makes you happy. I’m living proof that it is a really good philosophy.”