After five days of phenomenal business site visits, alumni panels, and city excursions, I arrived at LinkedIn Headquarters in San Francisco for the final day of the Wharton Industry Exploration Program. Along with 80 of my classmates, we took our seats for a fireside chat and leadership lecture with LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner, W’92.
Defining Compassionate Leadership
As a sophomore at Penn in the early learning stages of developing my own leadership style — in class, my extracurriculars, and also at work — I can relate to the gift of self-discernment.
Throughout his lecture, Weiner focused on his view of leadership, which he defines as “compassionate leadership.” This was a new term for me but I understood and appreciated his concept of leadership as a greater understanding and awareness of both yourself and your colleagues. Weiner talked about the importance of enforcing this type of leadership at all levels within organizations. He spoke about awareness as a theme and I agree that the best leaders truly understand themselves and others who may have completely different personalities, motivators, and views of work and the world.
The idea of “compassionate leadership” caused me to reflect on my role as newly-elected co-chair of the Wharton Dean’s Undergraduate Advisory Board (WAB) — a group of 20 tight-knit and committed students working to enhance the undergraduate experience by collaborating with the administration to implement academic initiatives that have a positive impact. I better understand the importance of building and maintaining strong interpersonal relations that are dependent on mutual respect, self- and other-awareness, active listening, and understanding. It is my responsibility to inspire the WAB group to work through this lens of communal leadership.
Communication is Key
Weiner also discussed the importance of effective communication. A lot of what he had to say reflected my experience learning about communication through the new Leadership Journey program at Wharton, which provides experiential learning and evidence-based content on leadership, communication, teamwork, and diversity. In the program’s second course, we learned about the importance of always communicating with the audience in mind, knowing the material so we can talk naturally and persuasively, and repeating main points more often than we may think is necessary. Weiner discussed these effective communication tools: the necessity of repetition, having a deep understanding of what you are saying, and knowing the specific audience you are addressing.
Embrace the Unexpected
In addition to the insightful advice, I enjoyed and appreciated the LinkedIn fireside chat because Weiner told his personal story. He shared the twists and turns, the ups and downs, and the keys to his personal success. I think one of the most important takeaways of the entire trip is that there is no defined path to traditional success: there are failures, obstacles, and unplanned opportunities along the way. Even though we heard from a number of professionals during this trip, no two stories were alike. There are different paths to the same destination and different interests to guide your direction. In Weiner’s case, he said he never set out to become a CEO. He explained how he looks at his career with a flexible mind and built it on the foundations of specific goals, strong relationships, and new opportunities. One of his main pieces of advice to us was to always be clear about what we want. With so many directions to take, it can be daunting to make a choice. But after reflecting on his comments, I realized that the sense of certainty comes after time spent exploring, experiencing, and discerning. As a sophomore, I am happily in my exploration phase.
This summer I am exploring finance through my internship. Next summer it may be consulting or tech and my first job out of school may be something else. I see the value in dipping my toes into different areas and thinking about what best fits with my talents and passions.
With each new experience, I will remember Jeff Weiner’s recommendations for compassionate leadership, effective communication, and excellence. He encouraged all of us to dream big and dream specific. This lesson of narrowing down what makes me tick, versus following the wave of what others think is best, will stay with me throughout my time at Wharton and beyond.
— Maggie Browdy
Posted: February 1, 2019