The last week of MiddCORE is an exciting time for students and mentors alike. As students polish and refine their presentations for the Innovation Challenge and reflect on their experiences from the past month, they are also afforded a rare opportunity to meet with influential leaders and change makers from across the country.
On February 1st, students and mentors gathered together in Kenyon lounge for a leadership summit and final celebratory dinner. During the summit, students had the opportunity to pose questions to an incredible assembly of leaders: Ronald Liebowitz, president of Middlebury College; Jim Douglas, former governor of Vermont; Marna Whittington, Chief Executive Officer at Allianz Global Investors Capital LLC; Brian Napack, senior advisor of Providence Equity and Chastity Lord, Chief External Officer of Achievement First.
Below are a few questions and responses from the night’s discussion:
What one thing would have been most helpful to know before you became a leader?
Lord encouraged students to avoid what she calls “anticipatory living.” Instead of living in expectation of the next milestone, — things like graduation from college, the perfect job and marriage— successful leaders focus on living in the present.
“Be present where you are and blow it up,” she said.
Douglas emphasized the importance of establishing relationships with other people: “Establishing emotional connections with people you’ll have to work with in the future is an important element of leadership.”
“Followers look for values that are lived by a leader,” Whittington said. She also mentioned that having “a positive attitude mitigates the ups and downs in the [work] environment.”
Would you speak to any examples when you had a good relationship with your employees, but they still weren’t following you? How did you solve the problem?
Lord commented: “Communication is like playing catch. If I’m paying more attention to how I’m throwing the ball as opposed to how my partner can catch it, he won’t be able to.”
Napack added, “1st principles of communication: do we have a shared vision? Does everyone know what we’re doing here? Most people wake up and want to do a good job. They don’t understand what they need to do when they get to work…..Clearly articulate what the vision is, the mission is and do we all know what we’re supposed to do today.”
What impression or quality do you want to be remembered by?
“Empowering individuals to take risks to the job and not be micromanaged,” Liebowitz said. He wants to “liberate individuals” through his leadership role.
Douglas wants to be known as someone who works as hard or harder than anyone else. He added that leaders should “engage all of [their followers] in the mission of the organization” and that “every executive needs…someone empowered to tell the truth to the leader.”
Lord wanted her quality to be “warm-demanding.” She said, “You can be demanding, set high expectations, [have a] demanding environment” as long as you also “create a space where people can bring their spirit to work.”