From the Panel to the People: Conversations About Leadership

This week, I have asked my colleague Sandy Ewing to contribute a post. Sandy is a senior leader within SEI’s Private Banking group, responsible for running our company’s TRUST 3000 business.
sandyewingSandy leads a team of 80+ individuals who manage and service many of SEI’s largest and longest-running client relationships. Throughout her 35-year career, Sandy has held various leadership positions both inside and outside of SEI. I have been fortunate enough to work with her for the last 13 years.

Earlier this year, I was honored to be a panelist at Philadelphia’s Women in Leadership Symposium. My assigned topic was “The Courage to Lead: The Inner Dimensions of Leadership,” which included these 5 dimensions:

  • Pioneering
  • Energizing
  • Affirming
  • Resolving
  • Commanding

When I sat down to prepare my remarks, I did what most people do when they have a sense of curiosity about a given topic… I googled “the inner dimensions of leadership.” As you might expect, there were several references, but no exact match for these specific leadership traits.

So I took another approach and looked up each individual dimension in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary. The core definitions provided the basis for me to contemplate each word from the context of leadership, and what each word meant to me personally. I reflected on lessons I’ve learned during my career (good and bad) and factored in valuable observations from leaders who have inspired me over the years (also good and bad; sometimes you can learn the most valuable lessons by observing what not to do). Very quickly, I formed my perspective on each dimension.

Strengths and limitations

I am reminded that no one, including the world’s best leaders, is great at every dimension of leadership. As human beings, we all have strengths and limitations. To be an effective leader, we need to know our strengths and our areas of weakness. This does not make us weak; quite the opposite – understanding our limitations makes us stronger.

I would also note that, often times, “fixing our deficiency” is not the answer. Sometimes, the best way for us to compensate for a personal weakness (or even a complete deficiency) is to broaden our team to include individuals who possess strengths in complementary dimensions. We need to have the courage to surround ourselves with top-notch talent.

Expanding the discussion

Preparing to speak, and ultimately speaking, at the symposium was an invaluable exercise for me. However, the real unexpected value has been the genuine interest from a growing number of people to continue the conversation, long after the event. That discussion has endured organically through many conversations with my colleagues.

As a result, with support from the SEI Women’s Network and SEI’s Workforce Development group, we are soon launching a series of casual, 20-person discussion groups on the topic “The Courage to Lead.” We’re inviting everyone across our company, women and men, managers and non-managers, to join the conversation and share their perspectives about the 5 inner dimensions of leadership and related concepts. I’m extremely eager to hear from the participants on what these traits mean to them, both professionally and personally.

Where you come in

In talking with Al and the Front and Centered team, we decided there was no need to limit this discussion solely to SEI. As such, I’m excited to share insights, both mine and those of the session participants, in upcoming posts. I would like to encourage you to share your perspectives and keep the dialogue going. I believe, by discussing and debating what leadership means to us, we will all learn far more from each other, than from anything Webster and Google can teach us.

I will close today’s post with a concept near and dear to my heart: You don’t have to be a manager to lead. Do you agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.