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December 27, 2017 | by Bob Weidner

Leaders, Managers, Vision and Gratitude

Times of great change bring significant personal as well as business insight

“Just make sure you don't manage anybody. Make sure you lead people. Managing, we manage machines. We lead people.” — Northwestern University football coach Pat Fitzgerald

This holiday season brings far more gratitude, love and joy than usual. At the same time it brings more grief, appreciation of the bedrock character that makes life rich, and reflection on a tough year in unexpected ways.

It is a bittersweet mix of emotion and gut quality lessons that carry into our personal and business lives. As we close this year we mourn and celebrate the lives of all loved ones within our MSCI team, and the MSCI family of companies who are no longer with us. Many of you know that my mother died peacefully early in December following a long illness. As well, you are likely aware that my wife Kathy has successfully battled through a bout with cancer. I am doubly fortunate to have had a great woman, and to have an amazingly courageous and resourceful woman in my life.

Interestingly enough both have sustained me in far more mundane, but important developments as MSCI changes with our challenging times. From them I have not only been honored with unwavering support, but also with a fresh realization of how courage and natural leadership can carry over into the world of business.

They say leaders are made, not born. Made by life’s experience and necessity. Responsibility can be thrust upon us. But we show in how we live, and relate to people and work through challenges, whether we are true leaders, or simply managers. My mom led by example and attitude, having been widowed relatively early. She made a life of love and purpose, all the while treating people with honor, dignity, respect and kindness. It was that attitude that distinguished her as a genuine leader up to the end, even in that community of wheelchairs.

I realize that it is in no small part because of the love and vision and behavior of the two most significant women in my life, that I have come to appreciate the importance, in life and business, of effective leaders. Here at MSCI, as we transform the association into the most useful resource possible for our members, you will see increasing and unique approaches to high-impact leadership training.

They say leaders are made, not born. Made by life’s experience and necessity. Responsibility can be thrust upon us. But we show in how we live, and relate to people and work through challenges, whether we are true leaders, or simply managers.

Lots of people can be effective managers, focusing on the bottom line, keeping to schedules, optimizing operational efficiency, and doing things the right way. Far fewer can be genuine leaders, accurately detecting and responding to those business forces that may wait just over the immediate horizon, that may involve strategic adaptation to new technologies, global and domestic economic disruption, and shifting workforce demographics.

That is why, for instance, we are continually upgrading our Strategic Metals Management program for developing metals supply chain leaders. It is also why we are now offering our new advanced course in Battle Tested Leadership Principles for Metals Executives, taught by senior retired military officers at the historic Thayer Hotel at West Point. Already extremely popular, this provocative, three-day experience takes you significantly beyond where you may be in your leadership journey, pushing you to rethink, re-examine and re-calibrate how you lead.

We want to provoke all of you to continue to evaluate your leadership and management capabilities, to question whether and how you are continuing to grow in those capacities, so we can provide the best tools available for your personal improvement. 

This has been a year of difficult and challenging times for many of us. It has only reinforced my gratitude for a loving family and for the leadership lessons I continue to learn from them and from all of you. It has been a powerful reminder of what it takes to move beyond management, in life and in business, to the leadership that enables us to deal with change effectively and gracefully. Stephen Covey put the distinction well in his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”: “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”

I wish you all heartfelt blessings for the holiday season.

Learn more about MSCI's leadership training opportunities.

Hear what other executives are saying about MSCI's Strategic Metals Management program.

Get more information about MSCI's Battle Tested Leadership Principles for Metals Executives.