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So you want to be a leader?

  • Communications
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  • Sep 16, 2016
So you want to be a leader?

A good leader never stops learning – and they don’t shy away from teaching, either.

On September 14, Ivey’s annual HBA Leadership Day brought three alumni back to the School to share their advice, stories, and words of wisdom with Ivey’s newest students. It’s one of the first events of the year for the HBA1 class, and based on what was shared in the morning’s panel discussion, it’s also bound to be one of the most memorable.

The discussion, moderated by Professor Gerard Seijts, Executive Director of the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership, included Teri Currie, MBA ’98, Group Head, Canadian Personal Banking, TD Bank Group; John Bayliss, HBA ’99, Senior Vice President – Logistics, Walmart Canada; and Charles Brown, MBA ’83, President, The Source.

Below are some of the highlights from this year’s HBA Leadership Day panel discussion.

What was the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?

Bayliss: “What do you have to lose? Just let ’er rip.” The risk in your head, your perceived risk, is always 100 times greater than the actual risk.

Brown: Be humble. Listen to the people you have on your team. Take your time – don’t just rush in and try and fix everything. As a leader, you’ll get put into all sorts of new situations. The reality is you don’t know everything.

Currie: Short and sweet: you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.

What has helped you learn to lead?

Brown: I have an Augusten Burroughs quote in the front of my notebook: “I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” The sooner you learn that you’re flawed, the better off you’ll be. Everybody makes mistakes. As a leader, if you figure out how to get back up again after your mistakes, you’ll be fine.

What was one of the hardest things you’ve learned?

Currie: You cannot possibly do everything you’re asked to do. You have to have a great team who is better than you at the things you need them to get done. You have to be able to rely on them.

Brown: You have to be self-aware. As a leader, nobody wants to give you negative feedback. It’s hard for you to understand what are you doing wrong. You have to empower your team to give you feedback.

What has been a barrier to your learning?

Bayliss: The biggest barrier is when you’re doing something that you’re not uncomfortable doing. When you’re not outside your comfort zone, you’re not learning. You don’t advance anything if you don’t take a bit of a risk.

What can derail a very promising leadership career?

Currie: Not taking the time to listen. Before you come to the conclusion that what someone is doing makes no sense, invest the time to understand why.

Bayliss: Fear of failure. Acknowledge you’re going to have some real mess-ups throughout your career. Have confidence, know it’s okay, and move on. All of you are going to fail at some point. It’s what you do in that moment of failure that matters.

Final words of wisdom?

Bayliss: Stay humble and stay hungry.

Currie: Perform, be patient, and pay it forward.

Brown: Take care of everybody else first.

After the panel discussion, HBA students returned to the classroom for a special mini-case session designed specifically for Leadership Day. The students read about a leader who was faced with a tough career-defining decision, then discussed what they would do if they were in the protagonist's shoes.