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HBA Candour Conference: Mark Messier and the attributes of leadership

  • Communications
  • |
  • Jan 23, 2015
HBA Candour Conference: Mark Messier and the attributes of leadership

Mark Messier of NHL fame and Yvonne Camus of Canada's Eco-Challenge team spoke to HBA students as part of Ivey’s Leadership Character and Candour Conference.

Mark Messier may have been nicknamed “The Moose” for his aggression and physical strength as a professional hockey player, but he credits other attributes, such as passion and authenticity, for his success on and off the ice.  

The six-time Stanley Cup winner, who is widely considered one of the greatest NHL players of all time, spoke about the importance of those attributes in leadership as one of the keynote speakers for Ivey’s annual HBA1 Leadership Character and Candour Conference on January 21.

The day-long event also included a presentation from Yvonne Camus, a participant on the first rookie team to complete a gruelling adventure race called the Eco-Challenge, and two hands-on workshops where students gained practical experience. 

Ivey faculty led one workshop where students were able to observe the 11 dimensions of character in action using clips from the movie Invictus featuring the leadership story of Nelson Mandela. A second workshop with professional actors enabled students to practice candour in the workplace through role-playing.

Messier gave the students advice on building a winning team, noting that developing a strong culture and helping individuals to fit into that culture is critical.

“Once you’ve built a strong culture, it’s easy to identify people who are fitting into it, but you also have to give others who aren’t fitting in time to grow,” he said. “The art of leadership is finding out what is holding people back and then helping them to be the best that they can be and the triggers that will help them to get there.”

Authenticity. Transparency. Honesty.

He highlighted the importance of getting to know each team member on a personal level, which he did by throwing an annual Halloween party that pushed people out of their comfort zones. He also said leaders need to be authentic, transparent, and honest to gain the trust of others.

“You need to be yourself. You are what you are. You feel what you feel. If you try to manifest that in an artificial way, your cover will eventually be blown,” he said. “One of the most important traits a leader has is vulnerability that is transparent. Don’t mistake kindness and compassion for weakness. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Those are the traits that give you the strength in tough times. When people are looking for someone to attach to, they can look at you with all those attributes.”

Comparing leadership to a team sport where no one player wins alone, Messier said leaders are only as good as the people around them and they should encourage open dialogue where all ideas are considered.

“The players are inspired because you give them a voice. They can voice their ideas. They can change the course and they can possibly make the team better,” he said. “Any championship team and any championship culture inspires a leadership culture where everyone is a leader in his own way.”

Passion prevails

He also stressed that passion separates the good from the great in leadership and any walk of life.

“When I look at all the great players and all the people I’ve come across that have had success, the thing they had in common was passion. They loved what they were setting out to do. They had an insatiable appetite to learn and to put in the time and to make the sacrifices that you need to make because their passion drove them,” he said. “There is no elevator. You’re going to have to pay your dues, but it’s passion that’s going to sustain you.”