2014 Multiplier of the Year Winners: Leadership Insights

This February, The Wiseman Group concluded the prestigious 2014 Multiplier of the Year Award.

Now, for the first time in the history of the award, we are proud to present Multiplier of the Year Leadership Insights, two leadership essays written by the winners of this year’s contest.

These two captivating and passionate expositions, written by Susan Brown and Judy Levinsohn, are guaranteed to resonate not only with successful leaders, but help to provide insight for anyone on their own leadership journey.

Susan Brown - 2014 Multiplier of the Year Business DSC_1553 - Version 2

(Left) Business Winner: Susan Goss Brown, VP of Stores, U.S., Banana Republic
(Right) Education Winner: Judy Levinsohn, Manager of the Institute for Leadership Development, OC Department of Education

Susan Goss Brown, VP of Stores, U.S., Banana Republic

“Fundamentally I believe leaders are chosen… not appointed. Yes, there are many people in leadership roles that have earned their way to the top because of great results, experience, a successful project or simply being in the right place at the right time. And yet, they fail at leadership. The great leaders of our time were chosen by the people who followed them. Chosen for their compassion, their selflessness, their willingness to stand alone and their willingness to challenge others to be better. Great leaders appeal to both the intellect and the heart. They believe in the best in others and value all the characteristics that make individuals unique. They understand how to incorporate those differences into a team to create balance and high performance.

This has always been the leader I strive to be. Not because it makes me “good”, or because I want to be recognized for leadership, but because it is a joy to help others find their greatness and reach their potential. I love nothing more than to see a leader gain confidence in their capability. To watch them begin to contribute at a level never before. To see them flourish as a result of conversations and challenges that helped them tap into their own brilliance. This is the real benefit of being a leader and what continues to inspire me.

As the composition of the workforce evolves, and we are confronted with the complexity of leading multiple generations, understanding how to create optimal working conditions will be important. I’d like to foster an environment that supports and encourages the team to operate interdependently with shared authority. A team that is willing to work collaboratively to identify and solve business opportunities. A team that is accountable for collective results and performance. And having high performance standards is a must. Everyone enjoys winning. Winning at something that was difficult to achieve feels better than winning by default or because the task was easy. Stretching the team or individuals by assigning work that matters is critical. Affording them the opportunity to impact business by assigning tasks that come with business risks sends a strong message of how much I believe in their capability. I am happy to say, I have rarely been disappointed in these situations.

These are the reasons I lead. It’s a privilege – and one that I hope my team continues to afford me the opportunity to enjoy.”

Judy Levinsohn, Manager of the Institute for Leadership Development, OC Department of Education

“I have always had a love for education. As a little girl, I would come home from school and spend hours in our basement teaching my imaginary students. The wall-mounted chalkboard would capture my teaching, and my make-shift plan book would document student attendance and performance. With the bat of an eye, I moved from my basement classroom to a real teaching setting, having the opportunity to teach in New York, Virginia, and Maryland before moving to Southern California where my first school had a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. I had certainly come a long way!

My passion for learning (and ever-present desire to embrace new challenges) eventually took me from the classroom into administration. As I reflect on that amazing time in my career, I must acknowledge the talented educators who formed our team. They were considered the “stars” of our district – true trailblazers. Together we engaged in shared decision-making before the term was coined. We implemented school-wide strategies before the power of common assessment was truly explored. We embraced technology-imbedded instruction long before 21st century skills had been defined. Yet, even with all that talent, with all that passion, something was missing. While our successes were many, while our students consistently outscored those students at other sites, I do not believe we were not able to realize our full potential. Our shining stars were unable to form one constellation of leadership. I have often asked myself, “Why?”

My career has since taken me from the school site to non-profit work and ultimately, to my current position as Manager of the Institute for Leadership Development at our county office of education. While my professional experiences continue to shape my beliefs and actions, the most significant professional “aha” I have experienced took place when I attended a conference where Liz Wiseman was one of the keynote speakers. Her message immediately struck a chord: Most leaders have the best of intentions. They have the passion; they have the knowledge; they have a vision. Yet in their effort to accommodate the perceived needs of their colleagues, they are, in fact, accidental diminishers. I decided to take the multiplier assessment, just for fun.

I’m reminded of a saying a colleague once said – “the numbers don’t lie.” My score left no room for doubt: I was an accidental diminisher. After recovering from the shock, I realized how often, in my effort to make things easier for my teammates, I was unintentionally diminishing the opportunities to ponder the possibilities. I have come to realize that things have to be messy before they can be great. Like 21st century classrooms, we must establish an environment where ideas are encouraged, possibilities are explored, and mistakes are viewed as opportunities to learn. It is through collaborative risk taking that our greatest accomplishments will occur. Thank you, Liz, for re-defining my leadership and inspiring the multiplier within me!”

To view the past winners of the Multiplier of the Year Award, click here.

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