Managing director of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE), Dr Marlene Street Forrest, exemplifies impactful leadership. Her accomplishments and accolades, as well as the initiatives she has spearheaded, speak for themselves. The JSE is currently one of the largest and most diverse stock exchanges in the region, thanks to the extraordinary leadership of Dr Street Forrest.
She identifies herself as transformational leader — one who embraces and works towards change. The team, she emphasises, is very important as “there is no change that can be made, no transformation that can exist unless the team comes along”.
In addition to her strong belief in, and commitment to team, Dr Street Forrest is a leader who is driven by her passion for what she does. Treating challenges as opportunities rather than as setbacks, she aims to approach every aspect of her job with passion.
She further identifies her willingness to listen and understand as key to working well with her team. Patience, she notes, along with effective communication, is very important when working with others. She believes that in order to lead and transform, one must exemplify the values and produce the results that are expected — a virtue she has employed in her own style of leadership.
As a change-maker and nation-builder, this remarkable leader constantly seeks to be of service not only to her organisation, but also to her community and the country. More specifically, she is concerned with contributing to the continuous growth and development of the nation’s financial sector, and points to the fact that, “There is clear evidence…we have expanded the market, or we have allowed for that confidence.”
Emphasising trust as an essential factor in leadership, the managing director notes that, in order to transform one “must encourage and ensure that there is no trust deficit when you are making changes”. She also highlights how this key factor helped to bring about changes within her business, saying, “That was what we did in respect to the growth and development of the stock exchange…ensuring that we live our tag line to be the most efficient, transparent stock exchange.”
The results of Dr Street Forrest’s stellar display of leadership and organisation can be seen in the significant progress the Jamaica Stock Exchange has been making in recent years. She shares that, within the last eight years, the JSE was among the leading stock exchanges on the world stage and, in 2015 and 2018, was named the best-performing exchange in the world.
Speaking on what she perceives as the high point of her career, she notes that, often, one may think of success as only that which has been accomplished; however, she has an alternative view, where success also comes in the form of challenges, where “something”, or existing success, is being threatened. “For me, it was where something was threatened. So, where we had, for example, the far-reaching Junior Market for the stock exchange, this was threatened, the very base of what made it successful was being threatened…” This, she says, was a high point for her, as there were expections that she would be able to turn the situation around for the good of market through the various alliances — external, internal, and regulatory — that she made and utilised. And, she did! There was a coming together of all these bodies, with the understanding that there was one common purpose, which was “…to ensure that we fight for the preservation of the Junior Market,” the director explained.
Citing her family as her first source of inspiration, Dr Street Forrest revealed that she was influenced to take on the business world because her parents and older siblings were businesspeople. There was also a degree of encouragement at the university level for her to take on this journey.
She reiterates the need for passion in all things: “You are encouraged on the way by others, you also have to have a passion for what you’re doing in order to reach. And, to carry on…the journey, you have to have an inward passion.”
In addition to the passion, there must also be patience and a sense of purpose; what she identifies as the three Ps (passion, patience, purpose). There must also be an understanding that everything happens in its own time; therefore, it is important that individuals are patient with, and give themselves time to accomplish certain things. Noting that she is also deeply religious, she emphasised the importance of turning to God for strength and guidance.
Dr Street Forrest hopes to continue contributing to the nation’s development and to help the nation tackle some of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals that are specific to the Jamaica.
She aims to continuously be of service to Jamaica’s financial sector and play her part in the social sphere by passing on knowledge to the younger generation. She encourages them to understand the importance of having certain soft skills when leading, as she believes the ability to listen, understand, and empathise is very crucial to any team and any leadership endeavour. “Be prepared to make changes,” she says. “If you want to lead, you must set the tone at the top. And, if you do this, you will move from one position to a higher position in leadership.”
A remarkable leader and woman in the Jamaican society, Dr Street Forrest had this message for her fellow women: “Do not consider yourself, when you are making the changes or you are trying to move up, as a woman, consider yourself as a human, which means that you are as important as anyone else. Any career that you want to get into, it is a career for you as a woman. Do not expect favours.”
She encourages all women and, by extension, all young leaders to embrace these values and this mindset if it is their desire to be an effective leader.
Jacqueline Coke Lloyd is founder and managing director of Make Your Mark Consultants. She is a transformational leader, coach, organisation and people development specialist, and national productivity ambassador. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.