Leaders Need Followers: TIAA-CREF President on Leadership at U.Va. Darden School

Released: 2/19/2014 4:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: University of Virginia Darden School Foundation
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Newswise — CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — The University of Virginia Darden School of Business began the month of February with a Leadership Speaker Series presentation from Roger Ferguson, president and CEO of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF).

TIAA-CREF is a national financial services organization and the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields. It was founded in 1918 by Andrew Carnegie, who was concerned that professors were retiring with no savings.

During his presentation, Ferguson told the audience that all leaders need followers, and he continued by outlining four character traits essential to garnering trust from others:

Expertise: To be an effective leader, you must have the right degree of expertise about your organization and its culture, and you must deeply understand the issues your organization faces. Otherwise, you will lack credibility among those you lead.

Appeal: You must display the characteristics that people want to see in their leaders, including the ability to articulate vision and direction.

Empathy: People want leaders who understand that employees have private lives and responsibilities outside of their professional lives. If you don't treat people like human beings and show interest in them, they will never want to line up behind you.

Fortitude: Effective leaders face problems with persistence and a demeanor that says: "This too shall pass."

As vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Ferguson had to rely on these character traits to make an important decision on 11 September 2001, when he suggested that the Federal Reserve Banks remain open after the president ordered the evacuation of all federal buildings.

"I had enough expertise to know how the electronic payment system works, how the check clearing system works and how the banking system works, and why these systems needed to keep open a flow of payments in this very treacherous time," Ferguson said.
How do leaders acquire expertise, appeal, empathy and fortitude?
"Practice, practice, practice," Ferguson said.

Ferguson is an attorney and economist. In addition to serving as vice chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, he was head of financial services for Swiss Re, the world's second-largest reinsurance company, and chair of Swiss Re America Holding Corporation. Earlier in his career, he worked as an associate and partner at McKinsey & Company and as an attorney at Davis Polk & Wardwell.

TIAA-CREF manages a total of $564 billion in assets under management (as of 31 December 2013) and has 120 offices across the United States. The company works with more than 15,000 institutions - primarily serving institutions of higher education.

Ferguson's full presentation is available on Darden's YouTube channel.

About the Darden School of Business
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business is one of the world's leading business schools, offering MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. The unique Darden experience combines the case study method, top-ranked faculty whose research advances global managerial practice and business education, and a tight-knit learning environment to develop responsible and complete leaders who are ready to make an impact.

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