Leigh Kretzschmar is determined to leave her mark as she becomes the first woman MD at Fireblade Aviation.
After working for Fireblade Aviation for a year as a finance executive, Leigh Kretzschmar was promoted to MD earlier this year. “I believe I received this role because of the strong leadership qualities that I bring to the table,” she says.
Leigh will be the company’s first woman MD, and aims to use her passion for development to spearhead the vision and strategy of the company.
“I never feel satisfied with complacency and accepting things just as they are. I am constantly looking towards improving, and that is what drives me.”
This drive is fuelling her ambition to enhance the company’s growth. “My vision for Fireblade is to build on the existing fundamentals of a successful business and expand the company’s footprint into the rest of Africa, making Fireblade the preferred choice for private aviation,” she says.
Leigh attributes the success of her career to her analytical approach and her love for numbers, which she leans on when having to make decisions. In fact, it was her analytical nature that led her to venture into the field of accounting.
After graduating from the University of Witwatersrand, she served her articles at PwC and qualified as a CA. Since then, she has gained experience with both local and international businesses, including multinational corporations listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange. She has also held leadership roles in the education, professional services and FMCG sectors.
“I have spent most of my professional career in industries that are traditionally male-dominated and where my performance was expected at the highest level not because I was female but because I was exposed to strong leadership, and even poor leadership in some instances,” she says.
She adds that this has assisted her in developing into the type of leader that she is and aims to be. She also sees the new role as an opportunity to demonstrate that one’s skills and experience should outweigh gender stereotypes.
Today's workforce has seen a shift towards diversification in terms of gender, and more women are entering male-dominated fields like aviation.
Leigh also sees this as an opportunity to inspire other women in finance to set their sights on leadership positions.
She explains that, at first, it wasn’t easy.
“I had a lot of guilt around wanting to be a good mother but still being so passionate about what I did in terms of my career – and striking a balance was difficult in the beginning.”
But, Leigh adds that balance is found as you grow personally and professionally, and with the support of family and the organisations you work for.
Now, her work-life integration approach has contributed to her success. She explains that, first and foremost, she is still a family person, and spending time with her growing family remains her main priority.
“I value one-on-one time with my two daughters and husband. This is the greatest enjoyment in my life. I also enjoy socialising, and connecting with my friends and family,” she says.
Leigh says her only regret is not believing in herself sooner. “I think if I could advise my younger self, I would definitely tell her to believe in herself sooner, because she had resilience, potential and intelligence.”