As part of MoFo’s Leaders of Influence campaign, Serena Tan, Deputy Chair of Morrison Foerster’s Global Private Funds Group and Chair of Greater China Private Funds practice based in Hong Kong, shares her reflections on being a woman attorney of color in a leadership role. She discusses topics such as the challenges she’s faced and the benefits of having women in leadership today.
Serena represents global and regional fund managers and institutional investors in the formation of private equity, private credit, and real estate funds. Her practice focuses on both offshore funds (including in the Cayman Islands, BVI, Delaware, Luxembourg, Singapore, and Hong Kong) and RMB funds (including QFLP and QDLP funds).
Describe your leadership style how you lead others. Is it different from your male counterparts?
Action! I like to lead by taking proactive actions – whenever I see value in any initiative, I actively put forward an action plan and sketch out initial drafts as soon as possible for other partners to review. I believe this approach not only speeds up the process, but also encourages more participation from others as abstract ideas have been converted into concrete action plans and concrete drafts for others to chime in on. Some of my male counterparts have also adopted a similar leadership style, as we all see its benefits.
What motivated you to step up and become a leader at the firm?
My fellow women leaders at the firm are great role models for me, which inspired me to step up as a leader so that I could make greater contributions and bring positive changes to the firm. As I progressed in my career, I realized that assuming a leadership role would provide me with the chance to define my own working model based on my values and priorities. Additionally, it allows me to develop and maintain relationships with clients who share my values and visions.
What are the benefits of having women in leadership?
As women generally have a more practicable working style and egos are less likely to stand in the way, having women in leadership positions can foster greater equality in discussions, thus bringing more well-balanced, creative standpoints to our clients and the firm. Women leaders who are passionate and nurturing can also serve as great mentors to junior professionals guiding them through their careers.
What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
One challenge is adapting to the post-pandemic world. Internally, leaders will need to navigate through new and emerging norms in the workplace – ensuring workplace flexibility while maintaining productivity, collaboration, and training to juniors. Externally, leaders will have to explore ways to best capture new business opportunities presented by the post-pandemic economic recovery.
Were there any surprises you faced after becoming a leader at the firm?
The extent of my responsibilities after taking up a leadership role at the firm has expanded more extensively than I anticipated. As a leader, I work with other leaders to make strategic decisions that impact our practice group and the firm, managing people at different levels, overseeing implementation of various policies and initiatives, and setting budgets. There is also a stronger need for a global perspective as a leader, as I need to ensure that we can capture opportunities in different markets and regions by leveraging our global expertise and resources.