Whether you are a student or mid-career, we have all known and experienced great leaders. These are individuals that you admire, respect, and want to emulate moving forward. Our NIU MBA team wanted to learn more about becoming successful leaders so we reached out to two well-respected individuals and WE LEARNED A LOT.
One of the leaders we spoke with was Kathy Collins, Chief Marketing Officer at Massage Envy. Collins has 25 years of leadership experience within marketing at various companies including H&R Block and Lee Jeans. The second individual we reached out to was Rich Megliola, President of Vertex Distribution, a global manufacturing company. Megliola has held leadership positions for most of his career.
Below are four key leadership traits shared by both Collins and Megliola:
1) STAY CURRENT: “Continuous learning is at the top of my list,” shares Collins. “I’ve headed up marketing teams for nearly 20 years and I never want to think I know all there is to know.” The best learning can come from unexpected places like business competitions, networking events, reading, or blogs. Staying current also applies to the relationships you build. “Nothing has been more valuable than surrounding myself with, and learning from, seasoned individuals as well as young professionals.”
“When entering new work environments, spend a lot of time asking questions,” added Megliola. Talk with colleagues and understand how everything works. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions to understand how a job relates to the big picture and how it affects others, inside and outside the company. He added, “In my career and life, I’ve always operated on the 5 Ps: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”
2) FOCUS ON THE BIG PICTURE: Megliola feels that understanding the full picture is a key aspect to successfully leading a global company. “As President of a distribution company that imports materials from all over the world it is essential to view the organization as a whole entity to maintain a solid reputation and sustain success.”
“You should never be afraid to ask questions-even if they seem silly,” stated Collins. “Chances are, someone else has the same question so listen and learn.”
3) ENCOURAGE A TEAM ENVIRONMENT: Collins said that she always encourages her teams to do what they do best. “I want them to feel an environment of trust and openness,” she added. When leaders feel that they have a better solution – or a better way to get the work done – they will quickly lose the passion of the team. Collins also recommends putting down your phone so you can have full conversations without interruptions.
“As a leader, get comfortable with the idea that being a leader is not always leading the team,” Megliola explains. “Sometimes, you need to just be part of the team and let others take the lead.” Let others shine, using their personal strengths. This can help individuals grow and help when working on larger projects. “Also, it’s critical that all departments learn to work together as a team, in the same direction, or it will never be a great company.”
4) BE A MENTOR and HAVE A MENTOR: “Being a mentor and having a mentor are both important,” suggests Collins. However, for those who do not have a formal mentor, there are other solutions. Stay close to leaders you admire…this is the key. “Pay attention to how they lead, what they produce, and the processes they deploy. Learn what you can from afar. Follow them on social media and stay engaged.”
Megliola encourages employees to work together and educates them on the value of fostering a professional mentorship. “Always think about how you can help improve the people around you. I am very fortunate to have a fantastic mentor for 17 years now so when I hire, I look for individuals with the desire to not only contribute to the company but to make a positive difference in other people’s lives.”
In conclusion, both leaders left our conversations with good advice:
Kathy Collins: “My mantra for every team I have ever led is BE A GOOD PERSON, treat others well, give back to your communities, and take time for yourself. Be the person that would make your grandmother proud.”
Rich Megliola: “Honesty, integrity, persistence, and the ability to think out-of-the-box are at the forefront. Plus, the ability to create, explain, and communicate your vision effectively so the people around you clearly understand is necessary to eliminate ambiguity and to ensure everyone is working together towards a common goal.”
Written by MBA students Edgar Diaz, Donna Gawlik, Megan Grable, Edgar Mosquera, Robert Timmerman, Vivian Villarreal