Tag: leaders.

Alumni in the news

Congratulations to three Olin alumnae named among the Most Influential Business Women of 2017 by the St. Louis Business Journal. The awardees are accomplished business leaders from a wide range of industries and markets throughout the region. They also have made a difference in their own communities and at various nonprofit organizations.

From left: Sara Hannah, BSBA’01, Managing Partner, Barry Wehmiller Leadership Institute; Shelley Lavender, EMBA’03, President of Boeing Military Aircraft, a business unit within Boeing Defense, Space & Security; Theresa Ruzicka, MBA’86, President of Catholic Charities of St. Louis

The St. Louis Business Journal salutes its annual list of the Most Influential Business Women this month and it’s no surprise to find five outstanding Olin MBA women graduates among the honorees. Congratulations to all 25 women on the list!

We’re especially proud of the five Olin alumnae featured on the 2016 list. Drumroll, please:

  • Mary Jo Gorman, MD, EMBA ’96, Lead Managing Partner at Prosper Women Entrepreneurs Startup Accelerator
  • Linda Haberstroh, EMBA ’10, President, Phoenix Textile, Corp.
  • JoAnn Levy, AB ‘83/JD ‘86/EMBA ‘99, Vice President of Systems Operations at Mercy
  • Mary Mason, MD ‘94/PMBA ‘99, Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer of Specialty Companies, Centene
  • Sara Wade, EMBA ‘07, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Express Scripts

“The 25 women featured on this list have helped grow the St. Louis business community while making a difference with local charities and nonprofit organizations,” according to the Business Journal. Link to article.




“Waste no more time arguing about what a good leader should be. Be one” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

There is a whole industry devoted to the study and practice of leadership. Therefore, there is no dearth of material on leadership today. However, as Einstein once said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” Experience is the best teacher. Based on my personal and professional experiences, I realized that the keys to becoming a leader were available to me even before I began working. I am not disparaging research on leadership. What I am saying is that for me personally, a common sense approach was all I needed to define an ideal in both my personal and professional life.

[RELATED: Can Leadership Be Learned?]

If my experience can help a single individual, I would consider my writings successful.
Without further ado, I believe that the following qualities are critical to becoming a leader:

Becoming a leader requires common sense

“Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes”  — Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In 2006, I was a freshly minted Chartered Accountant. At the time, I was leading the audit engagement of a global multinational financial services conglomerate. As is the case today, the level of sophistication of financial products in 2006 was incredibly high. These instruments were often referred to as ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ Financial engineering ensured oversight always fell short of business innovation. Derivatives were not only structured synthetically but were incredibly hard to account for in financial statements. What was baffling was that there were very few people who could explain these financial instruments to me in simple English. There were a lot of people who used technical words such as ‘hedge’ or ‘contango.’ Some were self-explanatory, others made me question the moniker itself. I learnt that the simplest way was to go to the root of the matter. Over countless cups of coffee and conversations with the product control group, I understood, in simple English, each derivative product and its accounting in the financial statements. The common sense questions I asked included the following: ‘What is the value of the product for the client? What is the value of the product for the firm? How does the firm make money? What affects the value of the product? How does the value change if the factors affecting it change?’

Ultimately, I understood the inner workings of financial instruments and therefore, the journal entries. I believe I was a much better leader because I had a grasp of the basic and gory details of each product. Quite often, in boardrooms and in offices, leaders hesitate to ask simple, common sense questions. A lot of emphasis is placed on speaking in parables to give the appearance of being wise and not as much emphasis is placed on asking the questions that solidify understanding. The art of asking great questions is indeed a very difficult skill to master, but the ingredient of a great question is strikingly simple : a healthy dose of common sense. On a macro scale, once you understand the basics, you can understand how the jigsaw is pieced together and therefore, understand the financial health of the firm.

Becoming a leader requires humility

“Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?” — Carl Sagan

It takes special courage to say, ‘I don’t know.’ However, with that realization begins the greatest journey–learning. Unfortunately, humility is often thought of as a sign of weakness and narcissism a sign of confidence, even though the proverbial pied piper can lead the rats down a cliff. Becoming a leader requires personal growth and humility.

Becoming a leader requires an open mind

Throughout history, the largest empire created by a single individual was the Mongol empire created by Genghis Khan and his marauding hordes. Genghis is not the first name that comes to mind when I speak about humility. However, he had a very rare trait — an open mind. Throughout the lands he conquered, he would swap in the best practices of the cultures he subjugated. He was also open to all religions and allowed his subjects freedom to choose and practice their faith. In real life, if you can take the best from everyone and analyze your own inferior habits, I have no doubt you will be the sum of the best parts. However, most people I have met have a very closed mind. The willingness to change long held beliefs in the light of new evidence is incredibly rare. Most of what we see is perception and not the truth. A seeker of truth, therefore, begins with an unburdened conscience and an undying thirst for improvement. Without an open mind, there is no learning and without learning, there can be no growth and without growth, there can be no existence.

Becoming a leader requires empathy

Empathy is the ability of a CEO to relate to and to have breakfast with the blue collar worker in a factory while also hosting a working lunch in the boardroom with equal sophistication. You may progress faster alone, but you can also progress by building up the people around you. There is nothing more powerful than a group of people with a singular mission. I have come across very few leaders who empathize, give second chances, and continue to strengthen relations while the sands of time slip by. Also, I might ask — has the ability to laugh at one’s own self disappeared? i.e. to quote the Joker in Batman — why so serious?

Don’t misinterpret my article. There are other qualities that are also important. Hard work and intellect cannot be ignored. The reason I expounded on the ones above is because they are easy to understand, vital for success but rare to find in leaders today. For example, there have been many leaders who did not have a shred of humility and yet were tremendously successful. However, I would say that their success was, due in large part, to the humility of the other people in their lives supported them through good times and bad. Show me one leader without a follower and I will tell you that the term is redundant to begin with.

The simplest way of becoming a leader then, I would argue, is to become a good human being first.

This post was originally featured on Medium and was republished with permission from the author.

Students, alumni, and the St. Louis community are invited to a panel discussion featuring Olin’s first Emerging Leader honorees at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, April 16, 2015 in Knight Hall. A reception will follow to celebrate these five recent Olin alumni who exemplify our mission to create knowledge, inspire individuals, and transform business.

0_Tamiko Photo 4 (1) (Headshot)When Tamiko Armstead, MBA ’06, studied at Olin Business School, she aimed at new leadership roles at the Edward Jones investment firm. She never imagined that every course would one day help her run Cardinal Ritter College Prep, her high school alma mater.

“As president I’m responsible for strategy, fundraising, organizational management, and finance.

All those classes that I took I’m tapping into now,” says Armstead, who came to Cardinal Ritter in 2014. “I kept notes and books that I now use as references.”

She also connects and collaborates with fellow Olin students
 and with Washington University, partnering on STEM programs and more—working, she says, “to make Cardinal Ritter one of the premier high schools in the country.” Located in midtown St. Louis, it’s one of only ten co-ed Catholic African American college prep schools in the United States.

1115 Olivette Executive ParkwaySaint Louis, MO 63132314.994.9990For Datotel, LLC, founder and president David Brown, MIM ’03, MBA ’04, his Olin education never stops even though the classroom is a decade distant.

“There were a number of influencers and mentors at Olin, and I’ve kept in touch as I’ve grown the company,” says Brown. “And I’ve stayed in regular contact with a number of other students, to bounce ideas off them and learn from them as well.”

Brown created Datotel in 2004 after serving five years as a US and UK consultant for Oracle. With more than 45 employees in the St. Louis area and strong revenue growth, his company boasts “some cool technology,” he says, “everything from data centers to virtualization and cloud computing technology. Our clients are outsourcing their technology to us to lower the risk of data loss or downtime and to lower the total cost of IT ownership.”

0_LaurenHerring-CEO_IMPACT GroupRETOUCHIMPACT Group CEO Lauren Herring—named Global HR Innovator of the Year by Global HR Magazine—has succeeded in business through hard work and passion.

“It’s a combination of doing something that I love and that I’m passionate about, hard work, and having a great team to support me,” says Herring, MBA ’07.

Her Olin experience has also played an important role. “I decided to get the MBA so that I could grow and develop and hone my leadership skills,” says Herring, whose company ranks as a global leader in employee career development, including outplacement, global mobility, and talent-development services. “The Washington University network has been great,” she says. “My Olin education gave me the confidence to continue growing throughout my career.”

kauffmanBringing a social-impact focus into a business school traditionally focused on profit once bought Jonathan Kaufman a tongue-in-cheek professorial reprimand during a class discussion: “You’re in the business school, not the social work school.”

Nonetheless, Kaufman, MBA ’11, has parlayed his Olin training into Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies, where he serves as cofounder and chief nonprofit officer. The philanthropic and nonprofit strategy firm partners with organizations and changemakers from around the world to drive substantial and sustainable social change. “We’re here to support people and organizations looking to make a profoundly positive impact in the world, to help them do it bigger, better, and faster,” says Kaufman.

At Olin, Kaufman particularly enjoyed entrepreneurship courses. “They’re every other class—marketing, OB, strategy, finance, etc.— wrapped into one,” he says. He also profited from organizational behavior classes. “If you can’t navigate people, it doesn’t matter how good your ideas are,” says Kaufman.

0_ToothmanBeer drinkers who enjoy Budweiser Black Crown, Bud Light Platinum, or Bud Light Lime Lime-a-Rita owe thanks to Valerie Toothman, innovation director at Anheuser- Busch InBev, who developed them.

Toothman, BSAS ’01, BSBME ’01, MBA ’08, and Anheuser-Busch InBev’s internal 2013 Marketer of the Year, has been instituting creative product-development processes at the brewery that she learned from her Olin Business School teachers Samuel Chun, PhD, and Sergio Chayet, PhD.

“Making the process of innovation repeatable is something that my boss and I have focused a lot on, specifically within the last few years. It has allowed us to develop about 60 to 80 percent of the innovation for the company globally,” says Toothman.

That interest in innovation also marked her previous career as a biomedical engineer. “The biggest passion point for me is a natural curiosity for solving ambiguous problems,” she says, “whether in the realm of a medical device or of beer, whether that’s talking to surgeons and patients or brewmasters and beer consumers.”

We are proud to recognize these inaugural honorees for their service to Olin, thought leadership, business acumen, and impact to their organizations and beyond.