There is a big debate on whether the leaders are born or formed, but I never saw the point in wasting time and energy even talking about this. It’s clear that education and the environment we grew up in are responsible for our leadership skills and not our DNA and this will be prooved in Oana Vaideanu’s story.
Oana was born in Brasov, a beautiful city in Transylvania, under the Fagaras Mountains. Her parents decided her career from a very young age and Oana’s education followed this path: the child must learn how to ski and talk German. Why this strange combination? Near her city was a ski resort, Poiana Brasov, where in the winter time it was full of German tourists and the ski monitors were living an easy and abundant life. Plus, the Brasov area is Germanophile and the best schools in the area were schools where children were studying in German. Sport and German language marked Oana’s career, even if she never became a ski monitor.
At 3 she started taking ski lessons and she was practiced this sport for 7 years until her coach upset her so much that she decided to quit. She had strong values and principles from a young age and there were some barriers already formed that she never crossed in her lifetime. Even if her coach disappointed her in a way, he gave her the best life lesson ever. He taught her that everything she will do, would be for her growth, for her development, for her success and not for others.
After quitting ski, Oana decided to try athleticism and after 2 years she started to play volleyball, the sport that she is still playing today, when she is celebrating her 36th anniversary. Volleyball is a team sport and Oana learned how to be a good team player. She said that she was never a captain, but she was always the informal leader of her team and the motivator.
In career, Oana used her diploma in economics, her German language skills and her leadership abilities learned in sport and she became a leader in the corporate world. At the top of her career in corporate she was the GM of a German retail company with a 10 millions euros turnover in Romania. She started to work in the company from zero, when the company just arrived in Romania. One of Oana’s principles in business is that the relationship sells, not the merchandise. There is a lot of competition, but what makes the difference is the relationship between the people, no matter if we talk about employees or business partners. She became GM after 5 years of working in the company and in the most vulnerable period of her career, when she came back to work after she gave birth to her son. The biggest client that the company was having in that period called in Germany to the owner of the company and told him “In Romania, we work only with Oana Vaideanu”. The owner called her and proposed her to be the GM in Romania.
Life was good, she made an MBA and she was growing as a person and as a professional, but somehow it was not enough. So, she decided to step on the other side, entrepreneurship. Her first business was a lesson which cost her 25.000 euro. Why? Because she did the same mistake that all the former employees from corporate do in entrepreneurship: they behave like managers, not like business owners. They invest in image and logistics before testing the products and they enter in business only for money. They never think about passion and their abilities to manage the business from A to Z. Her first business was a big lesson and she learned, on her own money, the differences between being a manager in a corporation and being a manager and a leader of your own business.
I have a quote that was like a motto for me when I was a manager in corporate and it suites Oana perfectly: “People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care”. She cares and people follow people who care.
Now, Oana is an independent Business Optimization Consultant and works both with corporations, especially on retail non-food and with entrepreneurs. Oana believes that the optimization of a company is done both on the paper and with the people. You can obtain better results if you start the optimization process from inside the organization, with the team and not from the outside, cutting costs or investing in new directions.
Oana is an example of leadership for me. She is authentic, she loves people and she knows how to establish great relationships with them no matter the social status (speak with the man, not with the role that the man has now), she is leading by example and she is a team player.