My First Year as a Manager at Saab

Maria Sandberg has been involved in aviation, in
one way or another, for most of her life. She is a pilot and is certified in both civil and military aviation. "I want to take part in decisions, help to find the way forward and get the team there. That was probably what attracted me to becoming a manager," says Maria.

"After my first year as a manager here, I feel like I've become more assured and secure in my role, and I've realised that I am who I am, regardless of which role I have. I understand that I cannot don some sort of 'manager costume' and attempt to assume a role I'm not suited to." 

What do you have that has meant the most to you in your leadership?
"Nowadays, I'm fairly secure in the person I am – I know who I am and what I'm good at and not so good at. I have the ability to not see problems or hindrances, I see possibilities and opportunities. And this can be perceived both as troublesome and positive among my co-workers. I usually think: How bad can it be? How hard can it be? We can always try, right? I'm rather fearless as a person and I like change."

What are you not so good at?
"I avoid conflict. On one or two occasions, I've waited too long to engage in a conflict. I thought it would blow over quickly. If I had confronted it head-on, it might have been put to rest. I've learned that if something is disagreeable, I must face it and deal with it directly."

Not everyone is suited to being a manager. Which of your characteristics allow you to take on the role?
"I'm solution-oriented and I look past problems and hindrances. I have a lot of energy and try to lead with a positive spirit so that we become a close-knit team. We're in this together. I'm not the best at everything. I support my team and I trust them to support me. My goal is to have a team unconcerned with prestige in which everybody can participate. But, above all, we must have fun at work."

What makes a good leader?
"I must know where we are headed and how we will get there. Equally important is for me to clarify my responsibilities, establish clear goals, and to be able to offer and receive feedback. One must be able to make hard calls. For me, I think it's imperative to first set up the frame and then be given the responsibility to create the content."

What do you need to ensure you feel good at work?
"My elixir of life is exercise and my family. Without these, I am nothing. Then, there's the encouragement and support I get from my immediate managers, both in small matters and large. Something here that I've never experienced before with other employers, is that when I'm off work I'm off work. And that's how it ought to be. Here, I've been entrusted to do my job, I control my own agenda, I can decide for myself. I want to be involved and make a difference. That's when I feel like I'm a part of something to which I can fully commit."

What advice would you give to a colleague who may be considering a managerial position?
"It's fantastic! Go for it! If it doesn't suit you as a person, it won't work out. But at least then you can say to yourself: 'At least I now know that I shouldn't be a manager.' Then you can find another focus, and identify other ways of increasing your responsibilities and influence. And Saab is the ideal place to test the managerial waters. Here you are offered support and training. The key is to choose your manager before choosing the job. Think about that! If you can and want to work with that person, you will take the job."

What does Saab need to do to get more women to become managers?
"I think we should work more towards increasing the number of women in our employee base. And we need to start when they're still in high school. Once you've made it into Saab, there are plenty of opportunities. Saab actually has a lot of female managers, and it is important to make them visible. This whole idea of thinking a great deal about male and female managers is a generational thing. I've been 'patted on the back' a number of times, mostly by men. It's hard to tell whether it's because I'm a woman or because of something else. I used to introduce myself as 'Maria Sandberg, pilot', which piqued a lot of interest and made people more aware of me. But I don't think it's like that anymore. We (read: women) are everywhere and I no longer feel as if I'm treated differently because I'm a woman and a manager."

Maria Sandberg, Aviation Services business unit within Support and Services business area
Employed at Saab: since November 2013
Past duties at Saab: Training Coordinator for military training until June 2015
Present duties at Saab: Section Manager for military and civil training