by James C. Sherlock
My wife and I had the pleasure of dining recently with a woman pursuing a career in the financial services industry. I asked her about the leadership of her company. What was the climate in her workplace?
She answered that the first thing she learned was to “color inside the lines”.
She elaborated that the “lines” of which she spoke were the federal regulations which governed her work, which is wealth management. Rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission and those of the rest of the agencies that regulate financial services.
In her workplace, she is employed doing investment analysis, including dealing with the businesses she analyses. Later she may move to deal with customers. Or technology. Or go to law school to move through the ranks to general counsel. Or get a finance degree with a goal of being comptroller. And then maybe CEO. In a related industry.
In any role she will assume increasing management and administrative responsibilities. At every step, she will be mentored to be both skilled and creative. But always to learn new sets of lines and stay within them. She has not only learned but internalized her first set of lines.
She is 23 years old.
Similarly, skilled academics, even those with experiences as dean of a school within a university whose job is distanced from the day-to-day concerns of the executive suite, cannot reasonably be expected to jump straight to the role of chief executive of a major university and be successful.
There are too many management lines, including state laws and regulations, within which he or she must color that need to be internalized first.
And perhaps there is a way to manage Virginia’s portfolio of state colleges and universities that is better than we do it now and reduces the chances of mismanagement. Continue reading