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Lessons in leadership from MBA Leadership Day

Jul 25, 2018

Leadership Day

The leadership panel from left to right: Pat Horgan, Barbara Stymiest, and Jon Hantho

On July 24, Ivey MBA students heard and learned from some of Canada’s most successful leaders.

This year’s MBA Leadership Day began with a panel titled “Learning to Become Better Leaders,” and included three Ivey alumni: Pat Horgan, HBA ’82, Vice President, Manufacturing, Development & Operations at IBM Canada Ltd. (retired); Barbara Stymiest, HBA ’78, Corporate Director; and Jon Hantho, MBA ’89, Principal, Janus Advisory Services.

Students also participated in a mini-case class, and wrapped up the day with a keynote speech by Deepak Chopra, former President and CEO of Canada Post.

Moderated by Professor Gerard Seijts, Executive Director of the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership, the morning panel offered insights and advice for the MBA students. Here are the key takeaways.

Invest in a good team.

Stymiest: There’s nothing more important than the strength of your team. You can’t do it yourself. No one person is omnipotent and knows everything. You collectively work through the really tough things.

Hantho: You’re only as good as the team you selected to be around you.                                                                        

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Take breaks.

Horgan: When you’re grinding all the time, you can’t make a solid strategy. I used to put in an extra 2-3 hours every night. I asked myself, “Is this really going to make a difference? Or would I be better served taking a break from it all, going home, and coming back the next day refreshed?” You have to break that culture sometimes.

Be humble.

Hantho: Young people who have failed are often the ones who have a level of arrogance. They’re missing a sense of humility or humanity. It’s not because they lack intelligence, technical skills, or hard work. They lack empathy for others.

Have a good strategy.

Stymiest: You have to nail your strategy. Then get your organization behind you to execute that strategy. You don’t necessarily need the charismatic, great speeches. You have to build collaboration and logic as to why it makes sense to follow you.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Horgan: When fires are going, your team needs someone to come in and rally the team. Minimize the situation. Sometimes it feels like it’s bigger than life itself, but you just have to work through it. A little common sense is very important. It’s just another thing in the big salami of life.

Be human.

Horgan: When I start one-on-one meetings, my first question is, “How are you doing?” Everyone has a story. If you can build on that, you’ll get a lot more out of people. You are connecting with a person, not just a role.

Stymiest: You need to relate to everybody around you. Be in the moment with everyone you interact with. It doesn’t matter if they’re men, women, heads of state, billionaires, or kids.

Hantho: Have a sense of humour.

Use your network – including the Ivey Alumni Network.

Hantho: Build authentic relationships. You can’t force it. Rely on people who can give you candid advice when you need it most. Put yourself out there and meet people. With the Ivey Network, I haven’t found anyone who has said no to meeting someone, even for 15 minutes. You never know what’s going to come out of that relationship.

Embrace change.

Horgan: Change is a constant thing. Five years from now, technology is going to be different, and in significant ways. The plant I used to run at IBM, in my time, was the best typewriter plant in the world. Typewriters were the rage. That plant is now the best nanotechnology microelectronics plant in the country. Be able to make the transition to that new paradigm. Learn skills you can pivot and learn to do things that will be the new reality.

Stymiest: No one likes change except a baby with a wet nappy. We live in a world of change, and accelerating change. Humans are resistant to change, but it is happening.

Final advice:

Hantho: Know what your personal values are. Let them guide you.

Stymiest: You can always get better – whether you’re working on your golf game, being a spouse, or advancing your career. Seek out opportunities to work with and be surrounded by great people. Keep learning from the best.

Horgan: I remember a senior executive once said, “May as well be me.” Frankly, there are times when you want something done. It may as well be you. You can take the reins. Do it in an appropriate way, and the world is your oyster.