Sustainable Leader: Johan Wallin

Being a Sustainable Leader at Billerud is about looking after our people and unlocking their potential, putting safety first, leading change and performance, and communicating effectively. Sustainable leadership is an essential piece of the puzzle in terms of delivering our strategy and mission.

In this interview the theme is: "I engage and unlock potential – I promise to create a positive and inspiring working climate, by developing a high-feedback culture where we encourage each other to develop both professionally and as individuals".

Johan Wallin is one of our role models in sustainable leadership. He serves as Director of Business Support in Solna and has many years of experience as a leader in various constellations. When Johan first got the opportunity and the offer to become a manager, he thought it sounded exciting. "It was a natural progression that has given me an extra dimension to my work," says Johan.

What does "I engage and unlock potential" mean to you in your everyday life?
"To me, inspiring commitment is a prerequisite for success. My own organisation is very much a project organisation, where the outcome is mostly dependent on the input of several people both within the team and cross-functionally. It’s about inspiring commitment both in individuals and within project teams. It’s very important to be clear about expectations, both for the individual and the organisation as a whole. I believe in freedom with responsibility, and that you develop by testing your own wings in a context with clear expectations and goals. That leadership philosophy of mine is an important tool in creating commitment and unlocking potential."

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a sustainable leader?
"Being a sustainable leader means a lot of different things to me. One fundamental aspect is to create strong trust, both within my team and in my environment. I’m convinced that strong trust is the basis for creating a sustainable working climate, involving everything from change management and communication, to commitment and a safe work environment. One way to build trust is to set a good example, to show the way and to be clear in your leadership about expectations and areas of work for teams."

Being a manager is a big responsibility. What do you find challenging in the role?
"There are many challenges. Being a manager and leader is not just a title; it’s a role that you have to constantly focus on developing. For example, my organisation is a geographically dispersed organisation and managing remotely adds a dimension to my leadership. Natural meetings aren’t taking place in exactly the same way. Digital meetings work just fine, but they are no real substitute for the physical meeting and how I make sure of my leadership presence, sufficient feedback and working safely remotely are things I focus on a lot."

What do you do to recover/re-energise?
"Re-energising is vital to me and my role, and in terms of enabling me to perform as a leader. I have young children and my family gives me natural energy every day. Also, it's important for me to have interests outside of work to take my mind off things and recharge my batteries, in my case it's a lot about music and sports."

What is the best/most enjoyable thing about being a manager and leader?
"What I enjoy most is seeing others develop both as people and in their roles and realising that I’m part of that development as a leader; it's a bit like creating a winning team. I find that incredibly rewarding."

What is the most important thing for you in your leadership?
"Safety is always the most important factor. As a leader, I also think it's important to see results in what we do as an organisation in a safe and sustainable way. I’m convinced that we’re all driven to play our part in moving the company forward towards our goals, and when we deliver in a concrete way – regardless of our role in the company – it creates a personal commitment in itself. Another key element is to clarify what we want to achieve, identify gaps, and coach how to get there as a motivated team in a sustainable way."

What makes you proud of working at Billerud? 
"I’m proud to work in a company with a sustainable vision and I also take pride in working at a company with a good working climate, where I feel that we are all working together for a good overall outcome."

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