- Kathryn Tang
- Aug 9, 2016
About the Author: Kathryn Tang is a current MBA student at Ivey Business School with an undergrad education in Mechanical Engineering and Political Science. Coming from the Wind Engineering Consulting industry at RWDI, Kathryn has experience managing people for greater performance and recognizes the impact potential of effective leadership and the importance of having an ethical foundation.
On August 2, the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership hosted MBA Leadership Day; an event to develop current students into more impactful leaders. The day commenced with a panel discussion led by Ivey Professor Gerard Seijts, Executive Director of the Leadership Institute. The panel featured seasoned industry leaders who shed light on their journey into the C-suite, as well as how they navigated tumultuous times:
Thomas d’Aquino, B.A., J.D., LL.M., LL.D.
Chairman and Chief Executive, Intercounsel Ltd.
Jon Hantho, MBA ‘89
Principal, Janus Advisory Services
Barbara Stymiest, HBA ‘78
Students then participated in mini-case discussions where they were given opportunities to advance their judgement in the role of the decision maker. The event came to a close with a keynote session. Elyse Allan, the President and Chief Executive Officer of GE Canada spoke to the student body about the necessity of proactive and distributed leadership in a rapidly evolving marketplace.
Throughout the day, we developed a deeper understanding of how having the ability persuade, an acute awareness of the external environment, and a concrete foundation of character are essential for a leader to achieve scalable and lasting success.
On Influence and Relationships
As Allan described, the traditional role of a leader to make decisions and “make it happen” no longer works. Leaders are now expected to engage and influence their staff to share their perspectives and acquire buy-in. Stymiest emphasized "the importance of partnership, mentorship, and collaboration," because "if we were stronger as a team, then we could always do the best job for our clients."
In a mini case with Jon Hantho and Ivey Professor David Loree, we explored the significance of aligning the interests of individuals. We recognized that by asking the right coaching questions, we could go beyond getting buy-in to cultivate a network of critical thinkers and change agents who will rally behind your cause to ensure its adoption. d’Aquino and Hantho emphasized the importance of listening carefully and getting to know all levels of the organization by learning from the ground up. With this, not only do you learn about the pain points of your company from the front lines, but you gain a respect for these roles and develop the empathy to relate to your team.
Part of what makes leaders influential, as Stymiest describes, is their authenticity. Authenticity fosters an emotional connection from leaders to teammates and a foundation of trust. d’Aquino advocates for the principle of being a "Triathlete", where aspirations for success are complemented with giving back to the community and developing interests outside of your area of focus. This is intended to not only provide more personal satisfaction, but also offer a critical perspective in times of crises, along with the resilience to push forward. Stymiest prescribes to emerging leaders to "separate yourself from your role" so that you can stay grounded and lead with humility.
On Awareness and Risk Appetite
In her keynote speech, Allan emphasized the fact that that we are currently experiencing the "most volatile market that [we've] seen in this time period," where "the need for speed now is absolutely incredible." In order to succeed as leaders during these times of change, we need to continuously reinvent our leadership tool-kit to guide our teams under pressure with a sense of calm and direction. Within GE, an internal venture capital group works to proactively align with market demand, in a way that is more in line with startup communities. Leaders at GE are tasked with "setting the table" to provide the environment where "out of the box thinkers [with] the courage to drive […] disruptive ideas" can take risks that are crucial to GE’s success. Hantho corroborates this by recommending that we take bold risks, especially with organizations in growth mode and to “think laterally about career opportunities."
Overall, Ivey MBA Leadership Day gave the student body a lens to view leadership impact beyond our immediate successes. We examined the character, persuasiveness, and awareness that are necessary for long term success, personal fulfilment, and accountability to all our stakeholders. Through stories from these established industry leaders, and practice in the role of the decision maker, we have developed a more holistic perspective to be more effective change agents.