Leadership tips from five executives and one professor

  • February 3, 2020
  • By Jill Young Miller
  • 3 minute read

Six leaders from health care, education, pharmaceuticals, finance and technology shared a rapid round of tips during the event “6 Executives. 60 Ideas. 60 Minutes” Thursday at Olin.

The panelists drew their advice from their own experiences, mentors, colleagues, books they’d read and academic research. They were:

  • Shannon Bagley (EMBA ’15), senior vice president of Human Resources at Centene Corporation
  • Hillary Anger Elfenbein, John K. Wallace Jr. and Ellen A. Wallace Distinguished Professor and professor of organizational behavior, Olin Business School
  • Eric Green (EMBA ’09), CEO of West Pharmaceutical Services Inc.
  • Vanessa Okwuraiwe (EMBA ’19), principal,  Edward Jones
  • Samantha Rudolph, co-founder and CEO of Babyation
  • Miranda Stokes (MBA ’02), managing director, corporate banking, Fifth Third Bank

Here are just some of the tips panelists shared with an enthusiastic audience of students, business professionals and others in Olin’s Emerson Auditorium:

Shannon Bagley

Less is more. Keep it simple. It’s much more difficult to write a one-page report than a 30-page report. Think about this: What do you want them to remember?

Don’t be afraid of the gray. Lean into opportunities, even if the outcomes aren’t clear.

Listen to and empathize with those around you. Nothing is worse than delivering a solution that your customer never wanted. No matter how good the new product or solution, if no one adopts the change it's all for nothing.  

Shannon Bagley

You don’t manage people into battle. You lead them. Paint a picture of where you want your teams to go and focus on the “why.”

Hillary Anger Elfenbein

People always remember how you made them feel. It costs nothing extra to treat people with respect.

People actually prefer going to the dentist over going to the negotiation table. And many beliefs about negotiation are self-fulfilling. You can’t be scared of “no” if you want to get to “yes.” Treat negotiation as a muscle that needs to be exercised.

Every personality type can succeed in negotiations. Personality matters less when you are prepared.

Negotiate as if it is for someone else’s needs. This especially works for people who think of themselves as “pleasers.” Please the people who are on your side of the table.

Eric Green

Clearly articulate your company’s purpose and impact to each of your colleagues, whether it’s one individual, or 8,000 or 100,000 employees.

Have a strong team behind you that knows how to cope with change, embraces change and external pressures, and finds ways to move forward.

Embrace an agile mindset. Get comfortable with working and living in an environment with constant change.

Listen and actually hear.

Be risk-taking but reluctant. Work hard to see around the corner to minimize surprises.

Vanessa Okwuraiwe

Know and manage perceptions. You have to treat yourself as a brand. What do people say about you when you’re not in the room?

Be present. Put down your phone and give people attention. People are hugely significant. Having genuine connections will also help you drive business forward.

Be confident.  

Create an environment where people thrive. Give people feedback. Respectfully. Always leave their dignity intact.

Samantha Rudolph

When you get knocked down, get back up again. Figure out your strategy for how.

“No” is a gift. It’s kind of like the book “He’s Just Not That Into You.” “No” clarifies if there isn’t a fit or if someone isn’t interested in what you’re trying to do. Your time is valuable. Don’t chase something that isn’t there.

Celebrate the small wins.

It’s OK to correct course. Pivot and move on to the next thing. It’s OK to try something that doesn’t end up working.

Pay it forward to honor the people who helped you succeed.

Miranda Stokes

In person is better than by phone. By phone is better than in an email.

Never respond in haste, whether in person or by email. Write the “kiss-off” email, and then delete it.

Be impeccable and timely with follow-up.

Look professional, not comfortable. Those athleisure pants that look like suit pants? They don’t.

Avoid “stolen valor.” It doesn’t do any good if people take credit for the team’s work just because they led the team. You’ll have a stronger team if you let them shine.

Pictured, from left, Shannon Bagley, Hillary Anger Elfenbein, Eric Green, Vanessa Okwuraiwe, Samantha Rudolph, Miranda Stokes

About the Author

Jill Young Miller

Jill Young Miller

As research translator for WashU Olin Business School, my job is to highlight professors’ research by “translating” their work into stories. Before coming to Olin, I was a communications specialist at WashU’s Brown School. My background is mostly in newspapers including as a journalist for Missouri Lawyers Media, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida.

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