Who am I as a leader? I’ve thought a lot about this question over the past few years as I’ve geared myself up to join my family business. In fact, I would say I’ve thought a lot about this question for the past 20+ years.
My parents started Stonebridge Companies, a hotel ownership, development, and management company right around the time my mom was pregnant with me. I saw my parents work really hard, struggle through the building of their company all while balancing their extended family obligations and raising two young children. As the years passed, their challenges evolved and my parents continued to roll with the punches in building a successful business and family. Being surrounded by hard working individuals instills a sense of pride in me, but also anxiety in the fact that I’m one day going to have to live up to the standards and demands that were set forth by the generations before me. This pride and anxiety have influenced who I am today, but also the person and leader that I want to be.
As I transitioned into business school, I knew I would have a multitude of opportunities to craft my leadership style, it was up to me to determine how I would leverage all of these opportunities. I chose to focus on three core areas:
- Becoming an Admissions Fellow
- Serving as a co-chair of the Family Business Group
- Taking as many leadership courses as I could during my two years at Booth
These three avenues have given me the hard and soft skills to think about what I want in life and in my career, how I can interact with others in order to achieve those goals, and ultimately how to bring others up with me. I’ve been able to apply and test these leadership skills I’ve learned in class and outside of class almost immediately.. Not to mention that interacting with current and prospective students has shown me what communication tactics work best in different scenarios and how best to connect with people in order to develop a shared goal.
Using this time to reflect on my last five quarters of experience, I think about what my first year will look like at Stonebridge. The biggest takeaway I’ve gleaned from my leadership exposure at Booth is to constantly be learning and listening. As I step into Stonebridge, I want to be a fervent learner. I want to shine with my humility and vulnerability, as I get to know the ins and outs of the company. This base layer of knowledge will help me make mental connections about personnel interactions, project pipelines, and roadblocks within the company. In my first year, I want to make a concerted effort to show my ability to listen and absorb information.
In learning from the many frameworks in Interpersonal Dynamics and Leadership Studio, I know this listening time at Stonebridge will pay off in dividends as I one day become a more traditional leader of the company. I want to be a leader who listens to her team, but I also want to be the leader that understands the 30,000 foot view and is able to string all the pieces of the organization together to determine how the application of changes impacts another group.
In a family business there is no personal life and professional life – they are both one in the same. So, as I think about the leader I want to be it directly correlates to the person I want to be. In thinking about the time I spend away from the office, I want to give my partner and my friends the attention they deserve. Applying the same principles of listening to them, sharing with them, and being vulnerable around them so we can feel closer and take our respective relationships further. This is the leader and person that I hope to be. I’m thankful for Booth for helping me develop the foundation and I’m excited to craft that journey along the way.