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By Ally Montillo–Our life experiences and responses to them are of critical importance in how our leadership skills are formed and the type of leaders we will become. Think of turning points in your career or academic path, ones that shaped you as a leader, a significant moment of clarity, adversity or diversity that changed how you understood yourself, your work and academic environment, and ultimately shaped your leadership approach.

Janet Clark knows a thing or two about the subject of leadership. Listed on Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women (2009), the Louisiana native began her career as an investment banker. She moved into the oil and gas sector in 1997 as Chief Financial Officer for several companies until joining Marathon Oil in January 2004 as Executive Vice President and CFO. Clark retired in 2013 and now serves on the boards of several nonprofit organizations.
The University of St. Thomas, Cameron School of Business had the privilege of hosting her at the Celts Breakfast Club event on April 21st. Her insight and her career advice for women on their path to personal development and leadership focused on confidence that comes from knowing first who you are, what you stand for, and most importantly, that challenges should be confronted directly with conviction and integrity.

Her experiences and advice made an impact on how we as women view personal growth, leadership, and community involvement. These five points reminded me of what I have learned over the years and the values and set of standards that have determined my attitude, choices and actions:

Ethics and Integrity
The best leaders are the ones who are interested in doing the right thing. This means doing the right thing for employees, stakeholders, and for your community. Taking short cuts, cutting corners, or being dishonest may seem advantageous in the short-run but in the long term, it will destroy value. When you focus on ethics and integrity you will feel good about who you are and who you are working for.

Intellectual Curiosity
Do not be afraid to ask questions. You are not expected to know everything but take it upon yourself to do your research, develop your knowledge, and seek perception from trusted colleagues and mentors. Understand why processes are in place and look for areas where you can contribute to enhance and improve overall operations.

Teamwork
The success of a project depends on not one person but the entire team. Abandon the “me, myself and I syndrome” and understand your unique role and those of your team members. Do not remain in your silo. Venture out of your department and study the functions of all departments within the company. Focus on becoming acquainted with each employee regardless of whether they are the front-line or senior executives. We all have a part to play in the success of a business and no department is less important than another. Learning about other departments and recognizing their value will help you better understand how you and your efforts fit into the overall success of the company.

Effective Communication
Communicating effectively is essential. Without it, there is no productivity. In this fast paced world, you only have a few minutes to get your point across so use it wisely. Be concise and most of all, do your research–be able to answer any questions that are proposed from a position of knowledge. Focus on developing your writing and presentation abilities and take advantage of any opportunities to practice your public speaking skills.

Think Like an Owner
Your productivity depends on your ability to take ownership of your work. Taking ownership means taking responsibility for both your successes and your mistakes. It means taking full responsibility of your work, your department and your company. Whether you succeed or fail at a task, taking ownership is the catalyst for improvement. Ultimately, it boils down to taking pride in your work and producing results that you can be proud of as a true reflection of your abilities.

Conclusion
Being an authentic leader is not something we are born with. It is part of a journey of personal growth we take throughout our lives–in the challenges we face, the individuals we encounter, and our ability to adapt and affect change. Personal growth develops you as a leader and motivates you to strive for excellence and not mediocrity. In so doing, you make a positive impact not only in your life and career, but in the lives of those around you. The great U.S. military leader, General Douglas MacArthur sums it up best in his speech to the Corps of Cadets at West Point Military Academy:

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”

Ally Montillo
UST Alumna and CSB Graduate Student, Masters in International Business

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