What are the keys to becoming an effective leader? In this second installment of our series on leadership, three graduates from UMGC’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program continue the discussion on what makes a strong leader and how to apply these important qualities to become better organizational leaders.
Miranda Jones is manager of military & college recruiting at Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed), one of the largest federal credit unions in the United States. Miranda earned her MBA from UMGC in 2020.
Eric Sullivan is the founder and CEO of Uneo, Inc., providers of a secure, personalized health platform for teens and young adults. He is also a board member for the UMGC Alumni Association. Eric earned an MBA and an MS in Healthcare Administration from UMGC in 2002.
Robert Alonso, Jr, also a 2002 UMGC graduate, is chief financial officer at Leisure World of Maryland Corporation, a retirement community in Montgomery County, Maryland. He is also a former teaching assistant in UMGC’s MBA program.
What, in your opinion, are the ingredients of effective leadership?
MIRANDA: Humility, ownership, and dedication are important qualities of effective leaders. Certainly, take pride in your accomplishments, but do so while sharing that spotlight with others. Almost no one becomes a successful leader without challenges, mistakes, and failure. Use that struggle to fuel and motivate yourself, while always contributing to the success of others.
ERIC: In the thirty-plus years that I've worked with great leaders (and some not-so-great ones), some common traits I've observed are being passionate about the goal or mission, being a good listener, having empathy for others, and communicating effectively. An effective leader is able to get people on board, to be true believers that the mission can be achieved.
ROBERT: I believe one of the most important components of effective leadership is having a guiding vision and a passion for that vision. Equally important are leading with integrity, empathy, and humility; demonstrating effective communication skills; and being realistic about what you know, what you don’t know, and how other team members can help inform your blind spots.
Give an example of how effective leadership has had a positive impact on your career or at your organization.
MIRANDA: I’ve made many mistakes, and for those mistakes, there were consequences. Perfection is a myth. The sooner we acknowledge our imperfection, mistakes, errors, and faulty judgement, the sooner we can learn and grow. The best lessons I learned about repairing errors and mitigating risks were from strong leaders who shared their own mistakes and took the time to teach and lead me. They’ve had an immeasurable effect on me.
ERIC: There was one product that my team was trying to release that had many issues. Customers were angry, management was frustrated, and the team—including myself (more junior at the time)—all had a hard time focusing. Frankly, we were close to giving up. There was a more senior manager that met with us, inspired us to push forward, and encouraged us to stay focused. He listened to our fears and concerns and was somehow able, in the darkest of moments, to keep us on board.
ROBERT: I have been fortunate to have had several highly effective leaders throughout my career who have challenged me, mentored me, allowed me to fail, and celebrated my accomplishments. This has increased my engagement within the organization and made me more effective, which led to increased responsibilities and promotions.
How did the MBA program at UMGC help you develop the skills needed to lead people and organizations effectively?
MIRANDA: Completing the MBA courses at UMGC a few years into my professional career helped me build upon my skills and education. Because of my professional experience, I was able to apply that directly to the course of study, adding a touch of personal experience to all of my assigned tasks. I was able to reflect on real-world experiences and apply that logic to reasoning and research. My cohort was, in majority, early-to-mid level professionals who were also continuing their education to promote their professional careers and learn additional leadership methodologies and practices. As such, our conversations throughout the program were very realistic and directly applied to our daily occupations.
ERIC: Through UMGC's MBA program, I learned those core principles of leadership: knowing how important it is to be empathetic; to be a good communicator, to drive with passion and excitement; and to take the time to mentor those in lower corporate positions, so that the new crop of leaders can be developed.
ROBERT: One of the most impactful classes in the MBA program was the one focused on management and organizational theory. In that class, we did several case studies that looked at effective (and not-so-effective) organizations and were tasked with formulating a strategic understanding of our organization by analyzing its mission, vision, goals, and values. This assignment challenged me to apply the theories of the class in my job and demonstrate to senior leadership how some changes to processes and culture could allow us to be more effective in carrying out our mission. In particular, “systems thinking” has been one of the leading tools I have taken from the program and have applied at each organization I have worked with. By adopting this concept, I was able to identify and explain how interconnected the tasks of multiple departments were and how something in one department can impact others. It has allowed me to build effective, collaborative relationships with the various departments in the organizations I have worked for.
Want to Learn More About Earning an MBA at UMGC?
An MBA will help you develop your leadership and communication skills to motivate team members. It’s your career. Become the leader you were meant to be today. Contact a dedicated UMGC admissions advisor who can help you get started at 855-655-8682 or firstname.lastname@example.org.