Leadership Advice Takes Center Stage With Carla Harris at mPowering You

(Harris, Picture by Anneliese Mahoney)

PHILADELPHIA–Lessons, reflections and advice on leadership were in welcome demand when Carla Harris took the stage at the mPowering You Summit for Women in Real Estate Finance here Oct. 14.

In a General Session on Intentional Leadership, Harris, a Senior Client Advisor and former Vice Chairman at Morgan Stanley, New York, shared her outlook with a particular focus on the current environment.

A lot has changed during and since the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris said, noting she was motivated to write her latest book, “Lead to Win” from conversations she had in the early days of lockdown.

“I heard from leaders, people in the C-suite across all industries. And the questions that I received on the other end of the phone: How do I lead in this moment?” Harris recalled them asking. “How do I motivate and inspire my people when we’re not in the same place? How do I help people negotiate the personal and the professional when it’s all happening in the personal context?”

Leadership styles need to change given the current environment, Harris said, pinpointing two noteworthy shifts.

The first, she said, was the amplification of voice and choice–employees are more able to tell employers which benefits matter to them, and community and engagement remain important across the business ecosystem.

The other was a shift in the “contract” between employers and employees, as remote work and flexibility became more prevalent.

Harris encouraged listeners to think: “How do you show up today, if you want to be a powerful, impactful, influential leader in any context?”

This can include everything from recognizing how others see you–Harris noted “perception is the co-pilot to reality”–to not being afraid to take risks.

And Harris provided some pieces of advice–or as she calls them “pearls of intentional leadership”–to help promote success in this era.

Authenticity, is first, Harris said, noting that it can be a distinct competitive advantage. Then, there’s building trust–something you do by delivering over and over again.

The next “pearl” is to create clarity. “If you’re choosing to wear that leader title, it is your job to create clarity even when you can’t see, which means it is your job to define what success looks like for the team,” Harris said.

Harris also spoke of the importance of creating other leaders, and passing down knowledge. “You ought to think of yourself as a kingmaker. A queenmaker,” Harris said. “If I’ve learned nothing else after 36 years on the Street, I’ve learned that the way you grow your power is in fact to give it away.”

Be intentional about creating diversity, Harris said, and confront the unconscious biases we all have. And teach your team to innovate–celebrate creativity even when it leads to failure.

Pursue all-around inclusivity–solicit other people’s voices and opinions.

And as a final pearl, Harris said, “call a thing, a thing” and encourage further trust by promoting transparency.

“And while I have given you the pearls of intentional leadership, I will tell you that the strand that holds these pearls together is courage,” Harris said. “If you want to be a powerful, impactful, influential leader, you must expect to strategize so you can lead to win.”