Ulrika Kolsrud, President, Health and Medical Solutions, knows what it takes to succeed in a leadership role.
At Essity, a leading global hygiene and health company, each career is unique. In the mid-1990s, civil engineer Ulrika Kolsrud was doing her degree project at Essity, which was then part of SCA. Today, she is President of the Health and Medical Solutions business unit that has about 5,000 employees across the world and a broad product portfolio with such well-known brands as TENA for incontinence products and Leukoplast for plasters and tape.
“How quickly you grow into new roles. I have felt a sense of excited apprehension before some assignments, but my managers believed in my potential and told me that “you can do this”. And they have been right. You grow with each assignment.”
“My driving force has been to do as good a job as possible while developing and learning more. I enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone and taking on new challenges. This is something that Essity has certainly been able to offer. Throughout the years, I have held senior roles in different parts of the company – everything from product development and research & development to manufacturing, sales and marketing. This has provided me with a holistic perspective that greatly benefits me today.”
“At Essity, we place great importance on leadership and developing the leadership skills of everyone, not only the managers. In today’s rapidly changing world, it is important that all employees have the ability to lead themselves, understand how their actions influence others, and take decisions. We practice situational leadership theory that is based on the requirements of the individual and the situation at hand. Delegating is often the most efficient leadership style, but some individuals and situations require extra support and coaching. The goal at Essity is that every employee should be able to reach their full potential. With us, there are no fixed career paths. Instead, each career is unique and dependent on the strengths, driving force and potential of the individual.”
“We aim to strengthen everyone’s leadership skills, not only those of the managers.”
“It is very challenging to assume the role as a manager in an area that you are not an expert in. At the same time, it is the best leadership training since you are forced to rely on your leadership qualities. Previously, I was responsible for the production of personal care products. It is common to have a background as a plant manager for this role, which I do not. In this situation, it is particularly important to be open and receptive, and I was keen to be genuine and not pretend that I knew things that I did not have any experience of. On the other hand, I had the opportunity to contribute with new perspectives. In terms of identifying future opportunities, it can actually be an asset to not be too deeply rooted in the current working method.”
“Of most importance, ask yourself why you want to be a manager. The position requires a genuine interest in others. If this does not apply to you, I recommend pursuing a different path. Other advice is to focus on doing a good job in your current position and avoid being fixated by titles. Not every career step necessarily needs to go upwards. Sometimes, it is better to take a step to the side, or even downwards from a hierarchical perspective. For example, I stepped down from a managerial role in research and development in order to be a deputy product development manager in marketing. It was incredibly stimulating and beneficial for me to learn about sales and marketing from scratch.”