Four-Minute Leadership is a series of informative and inspiring interviews with Atlantic changemakers exploring business and leadership in the new economy, in four-minute reads. Our third conversation features Courtney Pringle-Carver, Head of Brand and Communications at Atlantic Lottery, which manages the gaming business on behalf of the governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.
What has 2020 taught you about leadership?
Courtney Pringle-Carver: The world can change overnight. That includes how your team feels about their work, their ability to be productive in the midst of a moment our generation has never seen, and what they envision for themselves personally and professionally. Some of this you can control, and some you can’t. Know the difference. The basics of leadership remain the same—however, show respect, offer support, and say thank you. In 2020 and beyond, do all of these things more often.
What’s a lesson you learned the hard way?
C.P.-C.: Mount an offensive narrative before you think it’s required. Critics are like mice; by the time you see one, there’s at least 10 you haven’t yet seen. A friend of mine once said, “S/he who tells the story first, tells it best.” He’s right.
What advice did you receive early in your career that has stayed with you?
C.P.-C.: A number of years ago, I faced a textbook double-bind problem. I could see no path where it would be possible to achieve objectives and preserve relationships, simultaneously. I sat across from my boss at the time seeking advice and said, “There’s no win here.” In her trademark supportive and incisive way, she shot back, “You can always win.” Faithless that any approach could achieve both ends—but with the resolve to put that theory to the test—I set about developing a plan of action. It involved a high-risk career decision which eventually yielded dividends. I learned through that experience to not prematurely accept defeat, even when defeat seems the likeliest outcome. The experience also taught me to never undervalue the importance of tenacity, and faith in yourself. When you your actions are rooted in principle, you win—regardless of the outcome.
Who shaped you the most as a leader?
C.P.-C.: Before my father died, the last words he said to me were, “Stay strong.” On matters of integrity, dignity, and defending the rights of others, I am my father’s daughter. These are lessons that have shaped who I am personally and professionally, and they translate in my style of leadership. I have had the tremendous fortune of working for exceptional leaders throughout my career, and they shared common traits: they modelled how to be brave and resolute, they gave growth opportunities to women, and they prioritized laughter every day.
What advice would you give to emerging leaders?
C.P.-C.: Earn the respect of your team by demonstrating your acumen before you begin offering constructive feedback. When you don’t know something, say so. The trust of others is key; if your team doesn’t believe you are an advocate for them, you’re finished before you’ve begun. Being proficient at your craft is foundational—but as you grow more senior, the most important skill in your arsenal will be developing solid relationships with your colleagues. Remember that, but never forget that the most important relationship you have is with yourself. In other words, filter your decisions through a value-based lens, and never let it be clouded by your ambition.
What’s the most unexpected thing about you?
C.P.-C.: In no particular order: I lived in Harlem in my early twenties, I have a deep and abiding love of rap music, and I dream of one day writing a book about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and how it altered the course of our country.