Lessons in Leadership

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 Atlanta business execs share insights with students, alumni Atlanta business leaders from…

Georgia (Feb 26, 2010)

 Atlanta business execs share insights with students, alumni

Atlanta business leaders from companies such as UPS, Southern Company, AT&T, Turner Broadcasting and BB&T shared their insights on leadership with some 600 Coles College of Business Executive M.B.A. students and alumni on Thursday, Feb. 25 at the Cobb Galleria Centre.

As panelists in the college’s Executive M.B.A.’s 10th Annual Lessons in Leadership forum, the executives offered some practical lessons for successful leadership: listening to employees, self critical analysis, engagement, finding balance between planning and being flexible, recognizing employees who do a great job, being transparent, not being scared to admit what you do not know, and finding good even in a difficult economic environment.
“It’s very tough to get bad news [from the trenches when you are sitting] at the top of the organization,” said panelist Kelly Regal, executive vice president for Turner Broadcasting System Inc. “I challenge myself to listen, to listen carefully. I’m going to listen harder.”
Regal said that leaders need to be proactive and must admit to themselves when they need expertise. “I’ve never been scared to work in an area I wasn’t an expert in,” Regal said. “Don’t be afraid to reach out. Be confident in your skills.”
The other panelists at the 10th Annual Lessons in Leadership forum were Lars Anderson, group president of BB&T’s Georgia and Texas operations; Becky Blalock, senior vice president and chief information officer at Southern Company; Glenn Lurie, president, emerging devices, resale and partnerships for AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets; and Teri Plummer McClure, senior vice president for UPS in charge of legal, compliance and public affairs. The panel also included a scholar, Jagdish Sheth, the Charles H. Kellstadt professor of marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.
The event was presented in partnership with the Atlanta Business Chronicle and its broadcast editor, Crystal Edmonson, served as mistress of ceremony.
The panel brought together executives from a diverse group of companies that are either based or have big operations in Atlanta. They shared their perspectives on leadership in a question-and-answer format.
Lurie of AT&T said that leadership is about three things: people, purpose and passion. He stressed that leadership is about individuals and developing their talents.
“Leadership’s not about levels, it’s about you, about how you treat people,” Lurie said. “You can earn trust, respect by treating people the way you want to be treated.”
UPS’s McClure talked about how important it is for leaders to be self-critical and learn from “constructive dissatisfaction.” “I’m very big on looking back to see what I could improve upon,” she said. “I’m always looking for ways to improve, to grow and to be a better leader.”
And even in a recession, leaders need to recognize opportunities and be innovative. “The recession gave us an opportunity to jump-start changes that otherwise were on hold,” McClure said. “You can be innovative as you cut costs.”
Southern Company’s Blalock spoke about her “very open” communication style and said that in today’s work environment, where “everybody is competent,” an M.B.A. can give job candidates an edge.
Even in tough times, she added, companies need to recognize employees who do a great job and offer them opportunities. Blalock encouraged companies to get creative when rewarding employees; at Southern Company she has recognized outstanding workers by handing out special token “coins.”
Anderson of BB&T said that as the economy becomes more globally integrated, leaders need to develop “peripheral vision.” Leaders need to anticipate questions they do not even know now, he explained.
And even in rough times like the banking industry has gone through, leaders need to find the “things that are good” and focus on what they can control. “Find something to be cheerful about,” Anderson said.
Goizueta Business School’s Sheth said that the no. 1 reason why companies fail is because leaders are in denial about realities. Good leaders, he said, are like good doctors: their job is to diagnose problems, not prescribe a remedy. “Great doctors are always great observers,” Sheth said.
He spoke about how leaders need to “work in the field” and listen to employees. “Leadership is now more at the grassroots level,” Sheth said.
Lessons in Leadership is presented annually by the Coles College’s Executive M.B.A. program, which has been recently recognized by CEO Magazine and BusinessWeek as a top executive M.B.A. program. The Coles College of Business is the second largest business school in the state.


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