The new era of leadership is asking for authentic leaders, which are purpose-driven and compassionate. Agne Nainyte leads with a purpose and has a thoughtful vision. I spoke with Agne about her leadership path and about how she experienced what she calls the ‘Millennial Crisis’1 leaving her corporate job to volunteer in rural Uganda and then coming back to discover her purpose.
While many people still unconsciously relate leadership to a masculine behavioral style2, this trend is slowly changing. The new era of leadership is asking for more leaders who also use feminine behavioral attributes, such as compassion, flexibility and sense of individual responsibility and impact on the community. Authentic leaders are purpose- and mission-driven3 and going beyond a simplistic understanding of what authenticity is4.
Millennials are currently, in 2021, between 25 and 40 years old and filling various levels of leadership roles. Recent global millennial survey5 has shown that 44% of millennial respondents said they’re stressed all or most of time. It is no wonder then many millennials experience a sort of crisis – feeling unfilled in a job or a path that they praised for by the outside world. But how can millennials get out of a crisis and find their purpose? How can millennials become purpose-driven authentic leaders? I spoke about this with one of the female millennial leaders and a blogger6, Agne Nainyte. Agne gave us an insight into her real work life and her personal discovery journey from the ‘Millennial Crisis’ to a purposeful leadership.
Agne, when we met last year, I was fascinated by how fast you were promoted to your first leadership role. Can you please tell me how long you were working at Maersk when you became the head of transformation?
I had almost five years of experience working with Phillips in a similar type of role when I joined Maersk as a transformation specialist. In the beginning of my role at Maersk, I got a quite challenging assignment to embed their operating system in two of the most change resistant offices. After four months, when I successfully performed in that role, my boss suggested me a promotion.
How did you feel in that moment?
It was unexpected and it felt a bit too fast. I need to admit that before I joined Maersk, I did sense that I could make a quite fast career growth overthere, but I didn’t think it would happen after just a few months.
When my boss offered me that promotion, I was hesitant and I said “no, I think I am not ready”.
But at the end it happened, you became the head of transformation?
Yes, at the end I did. My leader played a big role here. He encouraged me not to doubt my ability to perform in this role, and I trusted him. In the beginning, I felt a lot of pressure to perform – to show others and most importantly to myself that I was worth that promotion and that I can do it. Looking at this today, I am satisfied with what I achieved there. It was not easy, but support from my peers and senior leaders helped me.
Then at one point, you decided to leave all that and to do what?
To go to rural Uganda and volunteer with women.
My early promotion to a leadership role had a big impact here. In a way, it probably happened too fast for me because I was picturing to be on this career track in 5-10 years. When I came to this point in 2018 – sort of my ‘dream’ came truth, I started to reflect: am I really happy? Is this meaningful? And I was clearly not satisfied with my answers. This was the period which I call the ‘Millennial Crisis’.
What is a ‘Millennial Crisis’ for you?
For me, ‘Millennial Crisis’ is about that period in your life when you start questioning your purpose. It often happens after you have followed that happiness formula, which, admittedly, brought you to a certain level…and then you start to question its value proposition. Does more of that ‘wealth’ increase the quality of your life? In some cases could it even decrease it?
You see, although the ‘Millennial Crisis’ may sound as an exciting inner journey to self discovery, for many, it can be a rough ride. You start to challenge that life formula which had been ingrained in you for so long. And that is tough. And so the ‘crisis’ sets in.
This is what I experienced at the end of my job at Maersk. I was like a watermelon – outside is looking green whereas the inside is red. After my reflection, I realized that I needed to do something different, and this is when I decided that changing a job role or company won’t solve this inner feeling. I needed to do something else. At that moment, I felt like going to volunteer in Africa because this was my teenage dream.
Can you tell me more about that moment when you packed your stuff, you left your company and you arrived there?
The first week was tough. I experienced a big change. I missed many of the comfortable things we have here which we usually take for granted. It was natural that there was a sort of adjustment period in the first week. Afterwards, I was amazed how quickly I could blend into the new life reality.
Were you scared?
No, I was not scared. I didn’t go there ‘just to travel’ or ‘just to explore’. I went to Uganda with a clear objective – to help disadvantaged women increase revenue from the handcrafts they produce from locally available resources. When I came there, I faced that harsh local reality of a completely different infrastructure and realized how hard it is to help these women.
Were you hoping to help them quick and fast?
Yes, that is true. I’m a result-driven person and I can also be a quite impatient person. I want results and I want results very fast and quickly. Before going to rural Uganda, I had a lot of ideas on we could improve their business, but many of those ideas faded away after I have seen the local reality.
This was a moment when you thought “well this is not going to bring me to what I hoped for”. What happened then?
During my ‘Millennial Crisis’ period, I developed a hypothesis that my purpose is not existing because I work for a corporate organization. So, I thought that this situation will naturally improve once I start volunteering with an NGO.
However, once I started volunteering in Uganda with women, I got different insights. The hypothesis was not confirmed. I learned that my job and organization where I previously worked wasn’t the problem of my purpose, but rather my mindset – how I looked at things.
After a month of volunteering, it became evident that working full time for an NGO is not my path at this moment of life. However, it can be a perfect side activity next to my main job.
This whole journey taught me one big lesson – purpose isn’t just ONE thing. Before my ‘purpose puzzle’ consisted of just one big piece – work. After-
wards I updated this purpose puzzle into four smaller pieces: work, volunteering with the Integrated Villages NGO to support women in Uganda, writing a blog about my personal experiences on finding our purpose and giving back my knowledge and experience to my home country Lithuania.
I think that whole combination makes me a balanced and happy person.
Do you think that because your purpose puzzle was made of four same pieces which was work, you got your leadership role so fast?
I think it had an influence. Indeed, my boss liked my hard-work style. But I would not say this was the only factor. It was rather a combination of my capabilities, flexible leadership style, and can-do mentality. I also brought a new and fresh perspective, previously coming from different type of company.
Were the people before you in that leadership role all men?
Do you think that it helped that you had this feminine way of work and way of leading?
Yes and no. Let’s not forget I was working in a male dominant shipping industry. However, my previous transformation and change management experience taught me a lot. In this case being patient and sometimes flexible was the key.
In the beginning, I spent a lot of time listening to the people working in the front-line of busines and better understanding their day-to-day challenges. Once I got a good picture, I moved into action mode. Most importantly, I always tried to avoid the top-down approach saying something like this “okay this is how it should be done” or “this is how you all are going to do it”.
Let’s not forget that change is mostly about people. I also invested a lot of time in building relationships. This helped too.
If you look back, would you go the same journey again – leave your leadership role and go to help women in rural Uganda?
Definitely! Without doubt it was not an easy journey, but I don’t regret it. At the end, I believe everything happens for a reason and it was supposed to be like that. I found my purpose and grew-up enormously in that year.
About the Author
Dr. Ing. Mira Vasic is a Senior Partner and co-owner of ‘In Touch Female Leadership & Career Academy’ and senior lecturer at MIP Business School of Politecnico di Milano. She is an expert and trainer on topics of female leadership and gender diversity. Mira has a great deal of experience in engineering and technology and holds a PhD in Structural Engineering from Politecnico di Milano (2015).
- 1 https://nainyte.com/are-you-facing-the-millennial-crisis-triggered-by-a-lousy-job/
- 2 https://hbr.org/2019/03/as-long-as-we-associate-leadership-with-masculinity-women-will-be-overlooked
- 3 https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/authentic-leadership
- 4 https://hbr.org/2015/01/the-authenticity-paradox
- 5 The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020
- 6 https://nainyte.com/