Adaptability: Effective leaders are adaptable and able to pivot when necessary. Change is inevitable in any organization, and leaders who can adapt to new situations and find creative solutions are the ones who succeed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to quickly shift to remote work. As a leader, I had to adapt to a new way of working and find creative solutions to keep the team motivated and engaged.

We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too.

Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation.

In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Blima Ehrentreu.

Meet Blima Ehrentreu, Founder and CEO of The Designers Group — a creative force revolutionizing the interior design industry. Her commitment to empowering women, giving back to the community, and championing women in the workforce earned her the Globe St. Women of Influence award in both 2020 and 2022.

Blima’s passion for design is matched only by her dedication to making a positive impact on the world around her. With a diverse project portfolio that includes luxury residential, hospitality, healthcare, and commercial spaces, The Designers Group is recognized as a leading design firm in the industry.

Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?

I am particularly excited about one of our initiatives — the TDG Tech Hub. As part of this hub, we offer immersive virtual tours that allow clients to experience our designs before they are built and visually stage spaces. This innovative design approach has helped our team to deliver the highest quality designs to clients, and it keeps us at the cutting edge of technology in the interior design industry.

Another initiative that I am thrilled about is the TDG Virtual Office. It is a cutting-edge approach to design and technology that enables people from all over the world to join the TDG team and collaborate on designing new projects. It also enables us to tap into a global pool of talent and expertise.

Overall, I believe that the TDG Tech Hub and Virtual Office are critical components of our strategy to stay at the forefront of the interior design industry. By leveraging the latest technology and embracing a global approach to design, we can provide exceptional service to our clients and deliver the highest quality designs. I am excited to see how these initiatives will continue to evolve and transform the way we approach interior design.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

I truly believe that having mentors is crucial for personal and professional growth. I’ve been fortunate to have several leaders who have influenced me in different ways. In academia, I’ve had the privilege of learning from seasoned professors who have expanded my knowledge and critical thinking skills.

In the business world, I’ve sought guidance from successful entrepreneurs who have generously shared their experiences and perspectives, helping me make informed decisions and navigate the challenges that come with building a business. Each mentor has provided a unique perspective and contributed to my growth and development in their own way.

Having access to diverse mentors with varied backgrounds and experiences has been an incredible advantage for me. It has broadened my horizons and allowed me to view situations from different angles. I am incredibly grateful for the tremendous support and guidance each of my mentors has provided me, and I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?

Early on in my career, I had a habit of trying to handle everything on my own. I thought it was the best way to get things done quickly and efficiently. However, as my workload increased, I found myself getting burnt out pretty fast. I was working long hours and still couldn’t manage to finish everything, which was not good for my productivity or well-being. Plus, I realized that I wasn’t giving my team the chance to grow. By not delegating tasks and responsibilities to them, I was preventing them from developing their skills and taking ownership of their work.

That’s when I realized the importance of delegation and trust. I recognized that I needed to trust my team members to carry out their tasks effectively and give them the freedom to make their own decisions. By doing so, I could focus on higher-level responsibilities and use my time more strategically.

Now, I’m a big believer in delegating tasks to my team members and providing them with the guidance and support they need to succeed. I think delegation is an essential skill for any leader, and it’s important to trust your team members and empower them to work independently. By doing so, not only can you lighten your workload, but you can also create a culture of growth and development within your team.

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

Over the course of my leadership journey, my definition of leadership has certainly evolved. Initially, I thought that a leader was someone who had all the answers and was expected to provide solutions to all problems. However, as I gained more experience, I came to realize that leadership was not just about being the one with all the answers but about being able to bring together diverse perspectives and opinions to solve complex challenges.

To me, being a leader now means being able to inspire and motivate team members toward a common goal while also empowering them to contribute their unique skills and experiences. A leader should be able to communicate effectively, delegate tasks, and provide guidance when necessary. Additionally, a good leader should be adaptable and willing to learn from both successes and failures. Overall, leadership is about creating a positive culture that encourages collaboration, growth, and innovation.

Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?

One legacy leadership behavior I stopped was relying solely on my own instincts and intuition to make decisions. While I believe that intuition is an important aspect of leadership, I came to realize that it’s equally important to rely on input from others. By incorporating data and feedback from my team members, I’ve been able to make more informed decisions that are not only better for the firm but also more inclusive and reflective of diverse perspectives. This has helped me to build a stronger, more collaborative team and drive better results overall.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

As a leader, one of my main goals is to foster a collaborative environment within my team. I firmly believe that by leveraging the unique skills and perspectives of each team member, we can achieve greater success than we could on our own. To encourage collaboration, I prioritize open communication and active listening among team members. I also provide opportunities for cross-functional collaboration, allowing individuals from different departments to work together and share their expertise.

But it’s not just about the work itself; it’s also about the team culture. That’s why we implemented the TDG Star of the Week program. This initiative aims to recognize exceptional performance and promote a positive and supportive team culture. Each week, team members anonymously nominate a colleague who they believe went above and beyond in their work, embodying the values of our company. Seeing the impact this program has had on our team morale and the reinforcement of our core values of collaboration and mutual respect has been incredible.

By implementing programs like TDG Star of the Week, my aim is to create a work environment that empowers my team to work together towards a shared vision while feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions.

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?

As someone who values innovation and adaptability in a constantly changing world, my advice to other leaders is to embrace change and be open to new ideas. We all know that the world is constantly changing, and what worked in the past may not work anymore. To stay ahead of the curve, we need to be open to new ideas and perspectives. Encouraging team members to bring new approaches to the table helps us drive success and stay relevant.

It’s also important to stay up-to-date with new technologies, processes, and methods that can help the team work smarter and more efficiently. While taking risks can be daunting, calculated risks are necessary for growth and innovation.

At the end of the day, change is a necessary part of growth and success. By embracing new ideas, we can continue to evolve and improve, driving long-term success. So let’s remain open-minded, take calculated risks, and keep pushing ourselves to be better!

Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?

Leading people for the first time can be intimidating, but it’s a challenge that can be overcome with the right mindset and approach. As someone who has experienced this firsthand, I know the importance of setting the right tone and values for your team.

One of the most effective ways to lead is by example. By modeling the values and behaviors that you expect, you establish a culture of accountability and mutual respect. For example, if you want your team to be punctual and prepared for meetings, be sure to lead by example and show up on time and well-prepared.

Leading by example also builds trust and credibility with your team. When they see that you’re willing to work hard and hold yourself accountable, they will be more likely to follow your lead and respect you as a leader.

So my advice to new leaders is to be the kind of leader that you would want to follow. Stay true to your values, lead by example, and be open to learning and growth. With dedication and hard work, you can become an effective and respected leader who inspires their team to achieve great things.

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now? Please share a story or an example for each.

I believe that effective leadership requires having a clear vision. In my experience, there are five key traits that exemplify effective leaders, starting with vision:

  1. Vision: Effective leaders have a clear vision of what they want to achieve and can communicate it effectively to their team. This helps everyone stay focused on achieving the same goals. At TDG, our vision was to become a leading design firm by providing innovative solutions to our clients. By sticking to that vision, we were able to achieve our goals and become a respected name in the industry.
  2. Communication: Effective leaders are excellent communicators, both in expressing their ideas and actively listening to others. Good communication is essential for building strong relationships with team members, clients, and partners. At TDG, I learned the importance of this trait early on in my career when I worked for a client who was a poor communicator. As a leader, I make sure to communicate clearly and regularly with my team to avoid misunderstandings.
  3. Empathy: Effective leaders are empathetic and understand the needs and concerns of their team members. Empathy helps leaders build trust and rapport with their team, leading to better collaboration and positive outcomes. At TDG, I once had a team member who was struggling with a personal issue outside of work. By showing empathy and being understanding, we were able to work together to find a solution that worked for both the employee and the team.
  4. Adaptability: Effective leaders are adaptable and able to pivot when necessary. Change is inevitable in any organization, and leaders who can adapt to new situations and find creative solutions are the ones who succeed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to quickly shift to remote work. As a leader, I had to adapt to a new way of working and find creative solutions to keep the team motivated and engaged.
  5. Accountability: Effective leaders hold themselves and their team members accountable for their actions and results. This creates a culture of ownership and responsibility, where everyone is motivated to do their best and take ownership of their work. At TDG, we always take responsibility for mistakes made by our team. By holding myself accountable, I was able to learn from the mistake and encourage my team to do the same.

Overall, these five traits — vision, communication, empathy, adaptability, and accountability — are crucial for effective leadership. By exemplifying these traits, leaders can inspire their team, drive success, and create a positive and supportive work environment.

American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

As someone who lives by John Wooden’s inspiring words, I make it a priority to approach each day with a positive and growth-focused mindset. Through setting achievable goals, staying present in the moment, and constantly seeking opportunities to learn and improve, I strive to make each day a masterpiece.

My personal journey is a testament to this philosophy, as I’ve gone from being a creative child to founding an international design firm. I believe that each day presents a chance to create something meaningful, whether it’s a beautiful design project or a positive impact on the people around me. In addition to my passion for design and making a positive impact through my work,

I am also incredibly proud of TDG’s charitable initiatives. Giving back to the community is an integral part of our company’s values, and we are committed to supporting organizations and causes that align with our mission.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

Design is my passion, and I strongly believe that it has the power to create positive change in the world. By designing with purpose, I am committed to making a meaningful impact on people’s lives and the environment.

What drives me is the ability to lead by example and inspire my team to embrace the power of design to create a better world. When I am remembered, I don’t just want to be known as a skilled designer and business leader but also as someone who deeply cares about the impact of our work and is committed to making a difference in the world.

To achieve this, I focus not only on our work in the design industry but also on our charitable initiatives. I believe that giving back is a crucial part of being a responsible and impactful leader, and I am dedicated to using our resources and expertise to make a positive difference in the world.

My personal legacy as a leader is all about fostering a culture of collaboration, creativity, and innovation. By prioritizing excellence and inclusivity, I want to inspire the next generation of designers and entrepreneurs to create meaningful change and make a positive impact on the world around them. Ultimately, my goal as a leader is to leave the world a better place than I found it, one design project and charitable endeavor at a time.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

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Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!