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Great Leadership - What Is It About?

Leadership is one of my favorite topics to study as a student of life, professional, and future MBA student. Today, you can find a myriad of books, articles, and other resources on this topic. In fact, there is so much information out there that you'll easily feel lost in an attempt to narrow it down. As I grow in my career, I find that many of the characteristics I most value in great leadership are quite simple. Some books tend to overcomplicate the notion, leaving one spinning inside a maze of overwhelming complexity. At the core of leadership, I personally see a few critical values without which all other wouldn't survive. I am by no means an expert, however, I have studied and taken the pleasure to know a few CEOs and CFOs in my life, some which I have directly worked for in the past. To be more precise, many years ago meanwhile working at a digital marketing advertising company known as L2T Media, I had the pleasure to work for two powerful and remarkable women in leadership, the CEO and Founder, Liz Prior and then later the CFO, Carrie Freehling. I didn't deeply contemplate on it until about a month ago when I read one of the most recent LinkedIn posts written by the CEO of the company I currently work for, the distinguished Talbott Roche, on the impact women are having across global industries and economies. What a wonderful thing it is to live and witness how far women have come. But returning to the main reason why I write today on leadership, I want to share some things I have learned from others, either directly or indirectly, that have enabled me to look at the future with fresh, new eyes. Leadership is a subject that I will continue to explore with ardent curiosity, due to a lifelong learning attitude and personal interest.

Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, in their book "Leadership 2.0," describe the three core leadership skills as being: Strategy, Action, and Results. Within each of these categories, there are key essential attributes to consider. These skills, "they won't make you a great leader on their own, but you can't do it without them." (Bradberry & Greaves, 2012) It is easy to comprehend why these attributes are so important to success, while reading. But, when you get into the details, these attributes will seem quite frankly convoluted as you read.

Strategy: Vision, Acumen, Planning, Courage to Lead

Action: Decision Making, Communication, Mobilizing Others Results: Risk Taking, Results Focus, Agility

The book is fantastic. It's one of the best books I have ever read. However, meanwhile reading and contemplating last night, I kept coming back to the fact that I felt bothered by the observation that nowhere on the first page of the book was the word "passion" mentioned. As I dove in deeper thought, I realized that this was likely due to me being a very passionate person about life itself and anything and everything I choose to engage in. I cannot imagine a life without passion in it. Thus, I expect passion to be at the very core of everything we do or strive to do. It was nearly midnight when I found myself putting my book down, only to then imagine talking to someone about the kind of leader I want to someday be. The first thing that came to my mind was this, I will be passionate about my leadership. Without passion, I simply believe that outstanding results are not possible. So, let me tell you in my humble, simple words what leadership is to me. This will expand, perhaps even change slightly over time, but I shall share my thoughts nonetheless.

In my humble opinion, leadership is...

Passion. This passion can take many shapes, ultimately it's the passion for the mission, passion to drive a company forward to greatest heights. Meanwhile strategy, action, and results are key attributes necessary, passion is the driving mechanism that makes the biggest difference. Passion is there, they might not speak about it all day long, but it's noticeable in great leaders.

Growth. Great leaders grow their people, revenue, their company's value, and even themselves. Once again, strategy, action, and results are key attributes necessary, for without them there is no growth. However, leaders too grow. They are lifelong learners and enjoy fine tuning and refining their thinking. They are not afraid of change, if change means growth.

Vision. Moving the company forward in a favorable way is part of the vision of every great leader. This simple yet complex part of a company's mission creates a very well defined pathway to reaching ultimate objectives. As before, strategy, action, and results are key attributes necessary, for without them staying on the mission's course is simply not possible despite the best of intentions.

Lastly, I want to tell you a little bit about me and my journey. This summer, I start an MBA program as a result of immense desire to someday be as great as others that I now look up to. I've been fortunate in my career to work within various industries. I've done a lot of interesting things in my life. I started working at the age of 17 and I never took a year off from the workforce since. I've always been one of those people who loves to work because I find pleasure in contributing to a greater cause. In addition, a strong work ethic was engrained in my life since a child growing up in Eastern Europe. Before college years, I worked in the retail, telecommunications, and the travel industries. I even worked as a caregiver on a part-time basis. During my college years, I loved working as an assistant to the administrative force aiding faculty at the School of Nursing, was a tutor, and even worked at the Barnes & Noble university bookstore. Post graduation, when a law firm I worked for in Chicago, IL, was underperforming, the managing partner in charge came up to me and informed me about dozens of people being laid off that very day. Many layoffs followed. I sensed the company was going to close its doors permanently in the not too distant future, so I wasn't going to wait for it. Thus, I moved myself to NJ to take a position in NYC, working on a temporary contract basis for Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. It was a risk but it's where my career in billing and accounting began. Since, I have done all sorts of work and landed in some interesting roles where I learned AR, Collections, Legal Operations, Accounting, and I even worked at a hedge fund. Fast forward to Sept of 2019, I took a leap of faith and relocated to Arizona, where I landed at a company in which my career blossomed into what it is today. In 2020, Covid hit but thankfully I continued to grow every year a little more. I had a mission and that was to grow. Luckily, Blackhawk Network gave me the opportunity to do exactly that. In November of last year, I was granted a new opportunity which enabled me to switch gears from the accounting side to the finance side. I was very happy to make the change, due to an interest in Finance. But, I want to share that the best part of my work is the leader under whose leadership I am, the man I call "Batman" but whose actual name is Brian LeRoy. Remember the three bullet points above: passion, growth, and vision, these are at the core of what makes Brian so great. We are all a constant work in progress and I am sure even Brian would agree with me on that. However, in the five plus months I have been with the FP&A team, Brian has become a role model to me unlike none. His mindset is quite well aligned with the principles called out above Strategy, Action, and Results. In addition, his humble nature and easy to talk to personality is heartwarming. He is real and approachable. This makes Brian a stellar example of what I call a leader with a heart for people. Brian also understands that a great leader is leading his or her people forward, with the company, to greater horizons one step at a time but that learning is a critical part of growth. There are challenges in business, always, but the focus of a great leader remains the same, in my opinion, and that is to move the company forward to a greater tomorrow. Being a leader is not without challenges. What I see as immense strength in great leaders is their desire to overcome via solutions. This is a fantastic thing to watch in a corporation come to life because, believe it or not, it draws focus on people. Soon enough you realize that it's about people, because of people, and ultimately for people as well. Think about all the people involved, the people you work with, and the people your company serves. You will then understand that people are at the very heart of every business transaction. Thus, I want to ask you the professionals out there to please treat one another with care and respect for it is you, the people, who are of most value. It is all of us, people, our talents, efforts, and care for what we do, which together can assemble greatness. To conclude, here is one of my absolutely favorite Latin phrases, "Per aspera, ad astra!" That's correct, "Through hardship, to the stars!"

Leadership without passion, growth, and vision is like taking off on a sailboat without a hull, rigging or keel. It will take you places, that's for sure. But it just won't take you far enough.

Carmen A. Cisnadean

Author. Artist. Poetess.

Thank You For Reading


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