Business school serves a range of purposes, from career shifts to personal and skill development. For me, school was about transitioning from an individual contributor to a leader, and developing the skillset to lead effectively. I prioritized leadership development because I saw it as the way to have the greatest impact in my career and on others, and I recognized it as a gap in my development. Understanding there is no perfect formula to becoming a great leader I needed a school that valued this skill and emphasized hands-on experience—I needed practice and reps, and Fuqua stood out.
The Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics (COLE) is what really drew me to Fuqua. It is a program devoted solely to leadership development through education and practice. My involvement was as a member of COLE’s executive team, where my responsibilities were aligned with leadership programming across Fuqua as well as helping to lead COLE. I took the role because I wanted to learn how to lead at scale, i.e. to lead when you cannot, and should not, jump in and help.
Truthfully, I was nervous when I came into the role. I never had a formal leadership role and I did not know a lot—how to set strategy and vision for an organization, how to inspire and empower through action and communication, how to deliver tough feedback and have hard conversations, or how to be vulnerable. The list extends, but these were major ones. Fortunately, COLE is structured to help prepare student leaders for all of this, whether it is mentoring a Consequential Leadership team or being in my role on the executive team.
The two biggest lessons I learned were:
- The importance of communication, persuasion, and getting others ‘on the bus.’
- Leadership is sacrifice and selfless—it is about putting others’ development ahead of your own
With lesson one I spent a lot of time working across student groups such as the MBA Association, clubs, and internal COLE teams, which required clear and consistent messaging and finding common goals to move initiatives forward. Building support and buy-in were critical, and I saw firsthand when I did not have people on board that momentum stalled quickly and could result in those individuals being detractors.
Lesson two all comes back to impact. There were plenty of instances that I could have taken control of a situation, but in doing so it would deprive someone else from an opportunity to grow and ultimately lessen the impact COLE could have collectively.
In the post-Fuqua workplace, the hands-on experience I had in COLE has paid off in my first true leadership role. Learning the power of vulnerability and practicing it at Fuqua has made me more comfortable with opening up to my team, which has helped foster trust. Lesson one could not be any more important as I currently live in Australia, far from peers in the U.K. and the U.S. I have to communicate effectively to lead effectively from a distance. In some of our global initiatives lesson two has played as I have helped put individuals in situations that will stretch them, and allow us to collectively make a greater impact as a team. COLE made me a better leader, and I am seeing the effects today.