My introduction to the world of ethical leadership came through a fascinating read—”The Ethical Capitalist: How to Make Business Work Better for Society.” It sparked a fire in me to become a leader who not only is empathetic but practices ethical capitalism, believing in the positive force that businesses can be.

When I applied to Fuqua, I made it clear in my application that I aimed to find the sweet spot between business profitability and social good. Now, nearly halfway through my MBA, I’m eager to spill the beans on the leadership lessons I’ve gathered.

My mentor once shared with me a golden rule for leading teams: Compliment in public, criticize in private.

In essence, this means expressing positive feedback openly in a public setting, while addressing constructive criticism or negative feedback in private to avoid public scrutiny. It’s become my secret sauce for boosting team morale and productivity. Choosing a school that could nurture my growth in leadership was intentional. Now, let me give you a sneak peek into two standout experiences that have shaped my Fuqua journey—being a Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics (COLE) impact scholar and coordinating the Investing in Women Conference.

COLE Impact Scholar Journey

Becoming an impact scholar was like getting a backstage pass to COLE. Chatting with Tom Allin, the faculty advisor for COLE Fellows, was an opportunity to lay out my leadership goals. But the real game-changer was a spontaneous 1.5-hour chat with Sanyin Siang, the executive director of COLE. What started as a casual conversation about my background, leadership interests, and MBA goals turned into a profound connection. Little did I know, Sanyin would become my go-to person for connecting with the right folks for the Investing in Women Conference.

This taught me a second invaluable leadership lesson: Don’t hesitate to ask for what you want when building your network. Instead of waiting to be approached, be fearless in using your voice.

As part of the COLE impact scholars and fellows, I had a front-row seat to the virtual COLE advisory board and Distinguished Fellows meeting. Picture this: diving into topics like resilience and the art of listening on Zoom calls with leaders from e.l.f Beauty, Goldman Sachs, and retired Army leadership. I was blown away by the humility of these leaders, taking a precious hour from their busy schedules to share candid experiences with us. Talk about an intimate experience!

COLE Resilience Wall posted to wall surrounded by post-it notes
COLE’s Resilience Wall shows students that they are not alone as they face adversity

The Investing in Women Conference

Organizing the Investing in Women Conference was one of the best extracurricular adventures I’ve had at Fuqua so far. I started gearing up for this back in October 2023, and it was a rollercoaster until February 21st, 2024. With a goal of bringing back Duke/Fuqua alumni and showcasing the Fuqua network, our planning committee received an unreal level of support from faculty, administration, and fellow students.

Four women speak on a panel during the Investing in Women Conference at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business
One of the several panel discussions at the Investing in Women Conference

We had a stellar lineup—25 speakers, including 10 female CEOs, as well as several heavy hitters in leadership, authors, and an angel investor. Panels covered everything from venture capital to sports leadership. The event included a virtual fireside chat with the CEO and CFO of e.l.f. Beauty! For the first time ever, we hosted a sports leadership panel with CEOs from North Carolina Courage and Wasserman. Oh, and to add a little morning boost for the attendees, we supported a female-owned local business.

Danielle Squires, Duke alumna and head of diverse segments at Wells Fargo, also taught us a new acronym: H-A-S-U (Hook A Sister Up). In a professional sense, this means that if you find yourself in a fortunate position where you’re turning down opportunities, pay it forward by bringing forth those opportunities to deserving women or individuals in your network.

This brings me to a third leadership lesson: Say yes to opportunities because you never know where they might lead!

When I started at Fuqua, planning a mega-conference was not on my radar. But guess what? Your Fuqua experience is all about what you put into it. And let me tell you, it’s not just about classes—it’s about the friendships and relationships that bloom along the way. The Investing in Women Conference was more than an event; it was a catalyst for meaningful connections and personal growth. I will also be practicing a lot of HASU. The journey at Fuqua has only just begun!