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MBA Leadership Day inspires students to lead with character

Jul 24, 2019

MBA Leadership Day 2019

(L-R) Gerard Seijts, Barbara Stymiest, Pat Horgan, Andrew Chisholm

Businesses are growing and adapting at an increasingly rapid pace. At this year's Kathleen & William Troost MBA Leadership Day, students had the opportunity to hear from distinguished leaders on how to navigate through change and lead with character.

The event on July 23 was held in conjunction with the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership's launch of the Women's Leadership and Mentoring Program (LAMP) and its inaugural event called Women Leading Change.

During the morning panel, MBA students heard leadership and character-building advice from three inspiring Ivey alumni:

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Students also participated in a mini-case class and attended a keynote speech by Goldy Hyder, President and CEO of the Business Council of Canada.

Moderated by Professor Gerard Seijts, Executive Director of the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership, the panellists shared their professional experiences and gave MBA students advice on how to develop into good leaders. 

Here are the key learnings.

Find the right mentor for you.

Stymiest: A mentorship has to be authentic. It has to be about a real working relationship, in which you see someone working above you and they see how you're working, and then you have something to build on.

It also has to be two ways – the mentor has to be invested, and you have to be invested in drawing out from the mentor what you need.

Lastly, mentors needs respect. Mentors get involved because they recognize that bringing the next generation along is important, but they also do it as a favour. Never take your mentor for granted.

Take chances and move forward.

Chisholm: Time is precious. Especially these days, it feels like timeframes are even more compressed. You don't always have to wait for permission to do something, and you don't have to be perfectly right. You need to be directionally right and start on a journey – and you can always course correct. But it's far better to be directionally right and on your way, than perfectly right and still debating what you're going to do.

Work with your team to create change.

Horgan: You need to be ready for the radical pace of change in today's world. As a leader, you have to take your organization's culture and the ability to run a company or division, and know that everything is going to change.

It's better to get together with your team and create the change, rather than be a victim of the change. To do that without leaving everybody behind and finding a way to make it go forward is tricky, but lifelong learning and understanding how you can bring a culture with you and bring the people along with you is really important.

Learn organizational behaviour skills.

Stymiest: You [students] are gathering a lot of skills that are important – your finance skills and your marketing skills. But when you’re actually in the hot seat making the tough decisions, I think being able to manage through the organizational complexity and people side of the business is absolutely critical. The way we behave with one another ultimately determines the outcomes that we’re going to achieve if we work collectively. 

Collaborate with others and be present. 

Chisholm: You don't have to have all the answers, but you do need to be able to figure out where to get the answers and how to collaborate with others to get the answers. Instead of having all the answers, develop a process and a learning style to be able to go get them and to collaborate together.

It's not enough to simply work hard and put your head down – you need to be present. The notion of being present is really important because you can be doing all the right things and find all the right answers on your own, but you're leaving a whole bunch of other people out of that process, or you're not getting the benefit of what they can bring to the entire process. 

Final advice: have fun.

Horgan: There has to be a way, if you want to be in it for the long term, that you enjoy it. Find a way to have fun at what you're doing and enjoy it, even if it's something you wouldn't have picked. Mix it up and do something with the team that makes it more engaging and they'll become more engaged being part of it.