Skip main navigation

Ms Karen Darbasie, Group CEO, First Citizens, discusses her leadership style

Read this article to learn about Karen Darbasie's perspective on leadership from her conversation with Professor Sterling K Frost.
Karen Darbasie and Professor Sterling K Frost sitting across from one another in conversation
© The University of the West Indies

In this article we learn about the leadership style of Karen Darbasie. She is currently the Group CEO, First Citizens, and serves as a Director on several Subsidiary Boards within the First Citizens Group. Ms Darbasie is an accomplished senior executive with over three decades of experience in the financial services and telecommunications industries with a progressive leadership style underscored by excellence and vision. Her wealth of experience brings keen insight into some of the core elements of feminist transformational leadership. In this article we share some of those insights.


Ms Darbasie believes that leadership in an organization is about balance, and that a leader must think about the individuals within that organization and their development as individuals. Taking into account the goals of the organization, and those of the individuals, she tries to ensure that everyone benefits. Everyone should be able to contribute to the attainment of the goals of the organization while being provided with an opportunity to grow and develop themselves.


Communication and a commitment to being authentic in all that you do is key as a leader. She has found that the members of her team feel included when communication is prioritized and can be trusted. This is one way that she promotes inclusivity.

Ethic of Care

Ms Darbasie credits the Caribbean culture as well as her identification with motherhood as the foundation for her ethic of care. This ethic of care is critical in a feminist transformational leader, ensuring that the needs of those you serve are acknowledged and tended to appropriately. She encourages leaders to listen, even when the feedback is not what you want to hear. While maintaining a balance with her other traits such as discipline, her care for team members will always come through as part of her leadership style.


“Your mentor must match with who you are as a person,” she recalls learning from when she was looking for a mentor for herself. She sees the mentoring relationship as requiring a match between both the mentor and the mentee, and advises that when you are the mentor, you must ensure that you are a good match for your mentee. Key to being effective as a mentor, she says, is understanding where your mentee is in the process of development and what their goals are; as well as giving them frank and open feedback to support their growth. She emphasizes the importance of one’s attitude, noting that a mentor will provide guidance in not only professional, but also personal development.

Supplemental resources:

View this video for more details, where Karen Darbasie speaks with Professor Frost, a Senior International Management Executive with a global mind-set who has successfully blended academia with the corporate sector over the last four decades. Professor Frost has a proven track record of achievement in leading organizations across multiple geographies: North America, Latin America and the Caribbean region.

Learn more about Professor Sterling K Frost and Ms Karen Darbasie at First Citizens.

© The University of the West Indies
This article is from the free online

Powerful Women and the Principles of Feminist Transformational Leadership

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now