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How To Define Your Unique Leadership Style

How To Define Your Unique Leadership Style

How To Define Your Unique Leadership Style

How To Define Your Unique Leadership Style

What does it take for a Chief Operating Officer to discover their leadership approach? What would a Portfolio Manager at an investment firm do to ensure their voice is heard? How does a Partner at a consulting firm deal with the stresses of having a high-power career while being a mom?

We define leadership as a practical skill, but it remains one of the most coveted research areas in the corporate world today. Everyone can learn to be a leader, but what differentiates a good leader from a great one? Hosted in conjunction with fashion powerhouse Diane Von Furstenburg, this edition of OLEADA Lounge explored how five high-ranked professional women define the word “leadership” in their respective fields.

Monisha Nariani, COO of Global Business Development & Strategy at Citi Bank

Working for the company for 24 years as a director in different sectors, Nariani has held the coveted Chief Operating Officer position for the past 3.5 years. As COO, she directs the organization that leads the consumer banking and wealth management growth strategy, creates competitive advantages through external partnerships, and drives innovation for the $24B revenue franchise. Her successes lie in aligning strategy, operations, and organizational structure for maximum financial performance.

Chi Chen, Director & Portfolio Manager for Blackrock

Chen joined Blackrock as an analyst in the Global Fixed Income Investment Group, working her way up the corporate ladder to her current director position. She focuses on macro investment strategies and specializes in interest rate investment. She is actively involved in the platform’s top-down process including regime identification, asset allocation, macro positioning, and portfolio construction.

Bhakti Nagalla, Partner at EY-Parthenon


Starting as a Senior Consultant in 2017, Nagalla grew to her partnership position in a little over three years' time. Specializing in growth strategy and commercial due diligence consulting for corporate and private equity clients, Nagalla has shined bright in the realm of international expansion, portfolio and brand strategy, organization design, retail unit economics, new product development planning, M&A target identification, and value creation strategies.

Michelle Wang, Co-Founder & Partner of Lair East Labs

Nominated as one of the Top 100 Accelerators Worldwide by Crunchbase, Wang embodied the spirit of an entrepreneur and found herself hugely successful in the start-up industry. Her company, Lair East Labs, was founded 4 years ago, and seeks to help other start-up founders with expansion: whether regionally, nationally, or internationally.

Sana Bao, Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley

For 85 years, Morgan Stanley has been a global leader in financial services. Working with the company for a little over a year now, Bao finds her mission statement to be “Experience, intellectual capital, and dedicated personal service” are what helps one meet their life goals. Her practice focuses on bringing a global perspective to the management of wealth across borders and across generations.

Can you define your leadership style in one or two sentences?

Michelle: I like to recognize each person’s special skills, and then I make the most of what they want to achieve.

Chi: I define being a leader as being a mentor and coach. It’s a two-way table, not me versus my team.

Monisha: Leadership is a choice, and I choose my people first. I always think to myself, am I treating people the way I’d like my children to be treated?

What were pivotal moments in your career that helped you discover your unique leadership approach?

Monisha: I would have to say 2008-2010, when the economy collapsed. People did not want to trust their banks if they did not value and honor transparency. I did not have the stature, nor the experience, but I did have the ability to understand the people’s perspective. And that came from who I surrounded myself with.

Bhakti: Having three maternity leaves over a two-year period left me with good transitions, and not-so-good transitions. A team of thirty depended on me, and it made me very intentional with finding people I wanted to invest in and give my effort to. I love my job for that very reason: because I get to build advisors. I find that very energizing.

Chi: When I think of pivotal moments I think of the times I felt frustration versus calmness. I think it helps to go over what triggers these emotions. What gets you angry? What makes you calm? Once you know these things for yourself, you can recognize them in your peers.

Do you think the concept of networking has evolved over the years?

Chi: Strategic and intentional networking is important in your career and personal life. If you’re just starting out: foster meaningful, sustainable work relationships by working together for someone or something. You’ll expand your network better by sharing a common passion with that person. When they think about the connection they have to you, you want them to have an anecdote to substantiate it.

Monisha: Let’s not define ourselves by our roles in the workplace. I’m on the board of directors for five non-profit organizations, and I have gained so much more than I have ever contributed to these organizations. Those relationships have resulted in professional opportunities. Think broadly about who you want to define your network.

Sana: Network by dressing yourself up. Dressing up makes you feel important, and the people you meet will feel they’re important to you because of the effort you put into your appearance. Women especially feel that they won’t be taken seriously if they put too much effort into their hair, makeup, and/or outfit. You can be beautiful and still focus on your work. We can be beautiful and be seen.

How do you ensure your voice is heard and your initiatives gain traction?

Monisha: We’re not experts in all things, but the key to standing out is to simply know what others don’t. With opinions, there’s something that can connect all of us.

Chi: Every time you’re frustrated about not making yourself heard, think: do people know I’m a person with views and opinions? Step one is by sharing. By doing that, it increases your chances of inclusion in decision-making at your company, in your industry.

Can you share one actionable strategy or insight that has been instrumental in your career growth for our attendees looking to further their own professional journeys?

Michelle: I always stop and ask myself: do I create value to society? To myself? Your passions will eventually lead you to what you’re best at…but don’t be afraid if you don’t know it all, you’re learning as you go!

Bhakti: Do a self-assessment. There’s a lot of inertia in your career, especially when you’re young. Every 6 months, stop and ask yourself: Do I love what I do? Be very thoughtful about who & what you want to be.

Sana: Walk out of your comfort zone. When you overcome something, you know it's uncomfortable but you need to let it be. That’s how you let yourself grow.

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