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Key takeaways from the MBA Leadership Day panel

  • Sarah Dorfman
  • |
  • Jul 23, 2020
Key takeaways from the MBA Leadership Day panel

Sarah Dorfman is an MBA candidate with a financial services background in business development and wealth management. She chose to pursue an MBA to grow her global network, gain opportunities to solve complex problems, and continue to build her teamwork and leadership skills. Through the program, she strives to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. Here, Dorfman shares her perspective on the Ivey MBA Leadership Day Leadership Panel, organized by the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership.

During this year’s MBA Leadership panel, our class was joined by three exceptional leaders: Lisa Lisson, President of FedEx Express Canada, Rola Dagher, President and CEO of Cisco Canada, and Andy Chisholm, Director of Royal Bank of Canada and Chair of the Ivey Advisory Board. They each offered valuable insights and leadership lessons to Ivey’s current MBA class. Here are my key takeaways from the panelists on the qualities that leaders should embody:

Resilience - Life is not about what happens to you but how you react

Lisson’s professional and personal resilience after losing her beloved husband allowed her to still progress to where she is today. When dealt a “life force”, she took it as an opportunity to learn about her capabilities while raising four young children and striving to achieve her career goals. She mentioned, “when you’re set back, you must reflect and adopt a learning mindset in order to make yourself grow stronger.” She shared her top four personal tips to building resilience and ways that she continues to learn as a leader:

  • Write down short-term and long-term professional and personal goals whenever you think of them;
  • Hold yourself accountable to these goals by talking about them with others and visualizing yourself there;
  • Carve out white space on your calendar to reflect on progress and take baby steps to help achieve those goals; and
  • Be mindful about your inner voice. Frequently check-in to see if you are quitting before you are trying. Remember to be kind and encouraging to yourself.

DeterminationComfort and growth do not coexist

From Lebanese bomb shelters to managing a billion-dollar company in a male-dominated industry, Dagher has truly demonstrated determination and perseverance. She shared how her upbringing did not define her, but shaped her into the leader she is today. She highlighted the importance of continually pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in order to learn and grow towards your goals. If you’re not willing, no one can help you – but if you’re determined, no one can stop you. Most importantly, she noted that we should appreciate our failures along the way as they will mold you into a stronger leader.

Confidence – When leading through crisis, remain calm, communicate clearly

Chisholm’s impressive career in the financial sector exposed him to a long list of learning opportunities, and in turn, has provided him with some valuable life lessons. One key takeaway was from his experience working at Goldman Sachs throughout the financial crisis. He led his company through uncertain times by confidently and calmly conveying honest outcomes. He noted that when delivering key information as a leader, you must be mindful of your body language, whether it be the way you convey confidence, demonstrate honesty, or present calmness and vulnerability. He suggests, your peers will look at those things to assess whether you are a trustworthy leader in a time of crisis. It is imperative to share your thought process and reasoning transparently to build up trust as an organization and give employees confidence in your decisions as a leader.

Other noteworthy leadership advice:

Focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t


When things hit you, can you control or influence them? If the answer is no, let it go and refocus your precious energy on the things you can control. Recognize how you’re spending your energy – try to focus on influencing others and making a lasting impact. 

Learn it, earn it, and return it


Everything in life is learned from mistakes. “Earned it,” because everything in my life was earned, not given. Now as an influential leader, it is my responsibility to go out and return it to the younger generation.

Never stop trying to become qualified for the job


Never have the sense of overconfidence, because you can always become better. Make sure to channel that energy in a correct manner and let that drive you.