“You can learn from everyone,” says Katherine Croom, managing director of commercial property group Sorbon Estates. “But don’t copy them. The most successful style of leadership is your own.”
This leadership lesson seems particularly apt for Croom who has risen to the top of commercial property, an industry which, when she started out 18 years ago, was, she says, “basically a boy’s club, a public schoolboy’s club”. That has changed significantly although she admits that the sector remains male-dominated.
“I don’t know if my gender was a barrier – as a woman I probably stood out more in meetings – but as I have gone up the ladder I’ve found a lack of women at the very top. Often, when they are present, they’re in supporting roles. There’s still progress to be made.”
After giving up her childhood dream of becoming prime minister, Croom graduated in geography at the University of Nottingham. Her studies cemented what she describes as “a natural interest in buildings and a curiosity about how you turn a space into a place.” An uncle had presided over the redevelopment of Birmingham’s Bull Ring shopping centre and perhaps inevitably, commercial property felt like a better fit than the law, which she had also seriously considered.