Master Class – Lessons in Leadership

By Marianne LaPorte, FWSF MarComm Co-Chair

Lessons in Leadership

On Tuesday, May 7th, at the Grant Thornton office in San Francisco, over 50 women gathered to hear words of wisdom from esteemed female role models in the Bay Area. This exciting event attracted many non-members who were interested in learning more about leadership and development from FWSF. The FWSF Programs Chair, Sue Mazzetti, provided a wonderful overview of our organization to these visitors — many of whom had never before attended an FWSF event!

FWSF Past President Kathleen Nielsen moderated the panel of three; panelists included Elena Gomez (CFO at Zendesk), Lisa Violet (Chief Risk Officer at FHLB of San Francisco) and Melissa Kullander (VP of Finance Operations for Global Business Finance at Oracle). Major themes discussed were what leadership is and isn’t, how these leaders arrived at their current roles, their views on mentorship, and leadership of the future.

One big myth about leadership is that one must have a team to manage. This is nonsense! Qualities of leaders include anticipating needs, solving problems, inspiring others to execute a vision, working with others who are not on your team, getting results and understanding that leaders don’t always have all of the answers.

In terms of broad leadership, Emotional Quotient (EQ) is paramount. Leaders must look beyond the words people say and dig deeper. They too must match skill sets of employees with what’s needed in the organization. There is a difference between being a leader and a manager. Managers manage day-to-day activities — leaders look long term at the broader horizon and inspire teams with their vision. Leadership is earned over time.

All three panelists described their path to their current roles as not being linear. Good words of wisdom: take risks, raise your hand for work, commit to the job through to the end, and one experience builds on another — “there is no path until you walk it”. The biggest way you can mentor someone is to believe in them! The panelists emphasized how important it is to have good chemistry with your mentor (whether formal or informal mentor). If one can’t find a mentor, get an advocate for you within your organization.

The future of leadership is changing as organizations are changing. Companies and people have high expectations these days. Employees expect diversity and inclusiveness and social purpose; leaders need to embrace these aspects of business for the success of the future. Being fluent in data and technology, having a high cultural quotient, and being open to new ways of communicating can keep leaders on point for adding a high amount of value to their organization. 


FWSF has other exciting events coming up, check out our Events Calendar.

Also, we are always looking for attendees who want to provide a summary of the event. If you volunteer, you can attend free of charge. Contact Marianne LaPorte, co-chair of MarComm, if interested:

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