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UMGC Leadership Series: What Is Leadership?

Philip D. Adams
By Philip D. Adams

What does it mean to be an effective leader? When holding leadership positions at your organization, there are many key elements that can be factored in. Some might tell you that the most important attributes that you must possess are - to be objective, have vision, and possess excellent problem-solving skills. Others will point toward having the ability to connect with other group members and possess emotional intelligence, Each of these leadership qualities add great value but they are not the only effective leadership traits.

We asked three graduates of UMGC’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program to weigh in on what leadership means to them and the skills they’ve acquired to become leaders at their organizations.

Miranda Jones is manager of military & college recruiting at PenFed Credit Union, one of the largest federal credit unions in the United States. She earned her MBA from UMGC in 2017. 

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., a 2008 UMGC graduate, is chief financial officer at Leisure World of Maryland Corporation, a retirement community in Montgomery County, Maryland. He is a former teaching assistant in UMGC’s MBA program and past president of the UMGC Alumni Association.

Miranda Jones

 How would you define leadership?

MIRANDA: A strong leader is one who leads and guides by example, teaching, and the sharing of experience, rather than solely providing directives. Strong leaders are compassionate and know that they need a team of support in order to achieve success. A strong leader owns up to their mistakes and uses them as a means of learning. Leadership is being humble and comfortable in your imperfection. 

ERIC: This is never an easy question, as it does not call out a specific set of character traits of a person, a role, a title in business, etc. In my experience, leadership is the ability to inspire and empower others to ‘step up’ in support of a defined goal—often under stressful and difficult situations.

Robert Alonso, Jr.

ROBERT: The core of my personal leadership philosophy centers on the word, 'TEAM,' which stands for trust, empowerment, accountability, and mentorship. Trust is the expectation that you will keep me informed, that you will act with the best intentions of the organization, and that what we say in private is kept private—and that you can expect the same from me. Empowerment is affording you the ability to shape how we accomplish the goals of the organization and how you carry out your role. Accountability means holding myself responsible for my actions and those of my team, recognizing your successes, and learning from our failures. Mentorship is providing you with opportunities to grow and learn whenever possible to help you succeed, not only with this organization, but throughout your professional career.

What personal qualities make for good organizational leaders?

MIRANDA: “A leader I admire once said something like, 'You know you’re a good leader when others will follow you into a fire.' Whatever that proverbial fire may be, arm your team and yourself with the tools to achieve greatness. Answer questions. Lead by example. It is important that you see team members for who they truly are, not simply what they do for you.”

ERIC: “Empathy, passion, confidence, and good communication skills are essential for good organizational leaders.”

ROBERT: “Good organizational leaders lead with integrity, empathy, and humility.”

What kinds of leadership skills can one learn in the MBA program at UMGC?

MIRANDA: “Having a Master of Business Administration means you have mastered the skills to find the answers relating to a successful project, to pass an exam, to write an incredible case study, etc. Leadership cannot be solely taught in a classroom. It must be practiced and honed in reality through our daily words and actions.”

Eric Sullivan

ERIC: “I think the MBA program helps you learn foundational human skills, like communication, empathy, and the importance of mentoring those who report to you, so that they can become leaders. By building these foundational skills, one can learn, over time, how to be an effective leader. It really comes down to knowing oneself and understanding basic principles of what motivates people (and it's often not money).”

ROBERT: “What you learn in the MBA program are teamwork, effective communication, critical thinking, analytical thinking, and time management—especially for working professionals in the program, having to balance work, life, and school commitments.”

Learn how you can build the skills to become a more effective leader in UMGC’s MBA program  

To learn more about the MBA, read “What Can You Do With an MBA?” and “How to Choose an MBA Program” in UMGC’s blog.

A dedicated UMGC admissions advisor can help you get started. To speak with an advisor, call 855-655-8682 or contact

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