I love visiting our Nation’s Capital, particularly the National Mall.  As an epicenter of diversity and activity, I always find this reflective walk motivates change within myself.  Washington D.C. and the National Mall is a place where people from all over the world gather to both reflect on our nation’s past in the context of greater global topics, but also influence its future.  This setting provided the perfect backdrop for Emergence 2019.

Emergence 2019 was the 2nd annual conference created by the ELFA’s Emerging Talent Advisory Council (ETAC). This year the theme was:  Think, Act, and Empower like a leader. I was certainly inspired in each of these categories with actionable insights, all while meeting a wide range of talented professionals who gathered together to help shape the future of the equipment finance industry.

What are the most important lessons from Emergence 2019 that can inspire us all in our personal leadership, regardless of level?

(1) THINK

Be Data Driven:  Asset Finance drives the global economy as a $1.6 trillion dollar industry.   It is critical to understand the how economic and business cycle factors provide both a snapshot of business conditions today, and serve as indicators of how our industry may evolve in the near future. Thankfully, the ELFA and ELFA Foundation supports us with a wealth of information formulated to educate equipment finance professionals on the current state and future risks and opportunities ahead of us, making continuous learning, actionable.

Be Self Aware:  The passionate practice of empathy and the desire to listen (to understand) are critical to leadership success, no matter your level.  We come to improve our understanding by engaging in vast experiences, with diverse and new people.  While sometimes those are fun and easy conversations, and other times they are more challenging.  During Pierre Quinn’s session on Communication Strategies for Emerging Leaders, he shared that a key aspect to better communication is self-awareness.  He also referred to tools to aid in this journey, including one we tried called the Psycho-Geometrics® System created by Dr. Susan Dellinger.  Are you communicating as a square, a circle, a triangle, a squiggle, or a rectangle? How does that impact the people around you?

(2) ACT

Be Proactive:  Through various group conversations, including a leadership panel, we discussed the importance of exhibiting creative leadership. Merely reacting to a problem or challenge is not leading. Those on the leadership panel reminded us, to be effective you do not need to know all the answers, but rather you have to become skilled at asking the right questions and know who can educate you in any given situation.  Then, you must be present, and truly listen (not to respond, not to interject) to their perspective on the path to solving problems.  One simple suggestion was when someone comes to you with a problem, before you respond, ask them to ‘tell me more.’

Be Your Best Self:  Personal brand was another topic of Emergence 2019, and one we should seek to live out in our interactions every day.  We took the opportunity to reflect on what values we want to define us, and then reached out to trusted colleagues and mentors to understand if our desired brand, matched their current perceptions of us.  While I am still polishing up my refined brand statement, some key brand principles I am most passionate about, include:  being agile, a trust builder, intentional, a translator (strategy to execution,) and determined, with a little bit of humor as well!

(3) EMPOWER

Be Authentic:    With success is sure to come a few moments of failure:  mis-steps, moments of learning, and experience we must use to become better.   The leadership panel reminded us this is part of leadership growth, and that humility (along with a proactive plan to course correct) in those moments has the power to change the outcome.  We also discussed how the brain is wired for threat identification, so we must be very intentional in understanding our own implicit bias, and seek continual feedback if we are to engage and inspire people.  Ask for help! Identify mentors and trusted advisors on your journey. Then listen, evolve, and do the same for someone else.

Be Courageous:  The conference and leader panel shared one of my favorite quotes from Sheryl Sandburg, COO of Facebook and founder of Leanin.org :  “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.”  To emerge we must embrace those unexpected moments in our careers – of serious challenge, of risk taking, of being asked to solve a difficult problem, as they are often pure gold.  They give us the opportunity to gain the trust of others – by delivering value.    Gained trust is a privilege as it often presents us with opportunities to educate other leaders and teams with our point of view on important topics to our business.  Trust is one of the currencies on which our careers are built.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have attended Emergence 2019 and am committed to taking the next steps on my leadership journey.  The future of the Equipment Finance industry is bright with change and opportunity – and I know there are a talented group of emerging leaders ready to meet it!

Lisa Nowak, Senior Product Manager, IDS