Alumni of the week

COO of the most liked brand name in Norway

Elisabeth Haug


COO

Vipps

Master in Marketing Management 2001

“Not many professionals like to be micro-managed. The farther out in the value chain you go, the closer you get to hands-on work, and the more important autonomy and motivation become. ”

For Elizabeth Haug at Vipps, running a business has very little to do with being in charge and very much to do with filling the roles that are needed at a company, which sometimes means serving coffee to journalists or struggling with strategic planning – or protecting a company's reputation.

After 12 years working at Schibsted, she is now responsible for a branded product that is entirely new and has revolutionised how ordinary people share costs like splitting a restaurant bill. Vipps is currently the most liked brand name in Norway.

"No other brand has managed to position itself in the market as we have up to now and which we intend to do in the future. New market positions are the key to our survival. As you know, we started offering cash transactions for friends/family via smartphones, and that has been our pathway to success if you count number of users and branding knowledge in Norway. We cannot live by cash transactions alone. We need to commercialise our digital position and diversify somewhere down the road," Haug told Professor Anders Dysvik during a leadership podcast recently.

Hear the entire episode here (in Norwegian).

Haug explained how leading a company into unknown terrain requires a different form of leadership. What started as a small project at DNB bank has grown into quite a large organization.

"We are a little less into managing and a lot more into doing. We were 40 people when this project started and we had no plan for our management structure. We had no employee benefits, no salary systems or anything else one expects from an established system. We started from scratch, without consumables contracts, no public relations managers or fixers. The group had to do everything itself. We were not used to working outside a system, but it was actually quite fun," she said. 

Let-go leadership

She believes one of the strengths of her approach to leadership helping her subordinates prioritise the important things. She believes in a let-go style of leadership.

"Not many professionals like to be micro-managed. The farther out in the value chain you go, the closer you get to hands-on work, and the more important autonomy and motivation become. Setting limits and having a good system for follow-up are important aspects of this. Workers lose momentum and energy if they feel controlled" she said.

Haug says her style of leadership is all about being curious. She believes people are both capable and willing, which can be a strength and a weakness.

"The human factor is essential to being a good leader. People can energise a leader. I am curious about people and I have fun at work. I think many people appreciate my kind of leadership. I try to make myself accessible, so nobody is afraid to speak up," she said.

Haug's advice to young and upcoming leaders is to focus on being good at the job they have right now. 

"People who are committed and do their best will see more job opportunities coming their way, which puts them in a position to choose. It's fun being able to choose; that is when you really begin to feel motivation," Haug said in conclusion.