Business students listened and asked questions of four prominent business leaders, all with strong ties to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business at the spring Executive Insights held at Howard L. Hawks Hall on April 12. The event, hosted by the School of Accountancy and Department of Finance, provided leadership perspectives from Shawntell Kroese ’96, vice president of Loup, a Union Pacific logistics company; Allan Noddle ’62, former CEO of Ahold USA Support Services; Nancy Paasch ’06, chief administration officer at Sandhills Publishing; and Bryan Slone, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and former assistant professor of practice of accounting at Nebraska Business.
Kroese sees the subject of leadership in a simple light. She believes treating employees the same as she would like to be treated provides the clearest roadmap.
“Leadership is not expecting anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself,” said Kroese. “With a company the size of Union Pacific, leadership requires an attitude of teamwork and collaboration. I set the expectations for my team and give feedback whether they’re doing great or bad work. With that kind of mindset, there’s a pureness that says, ‘I want you to be great and I’m going to give you what you need to be successful.’ As a leader, my job is to make sure employees have the right training, the proper direction, tools and coaching to succeed.”
Slone made a distinction between management and leadership. From a management point-of-view, he knows every year the income statement has to be delivered or the business fails. From a leadership point-of-view, he looks further than the income statement.
“Developing the culture, the people and the goodwill with customers are all what I call the balance sheet, and that’s the leadership side,” said Slone. “I think about those intangible assets of the organization that will continue to make us successful over the next five years. I learned the hard way over a series of mistakes that it can’t be about me. I always had a rule if I wasn’t paying someone more than me I wasn’t an effective leader, because I wasn’t developing people who were the assets for the company.”
Noddle looked at leadership from a global perspective and encouraged students to get involved. Having worked in 33 countries, he attests to the strength of the United States as a boon to the rest of the world.
“Leadership to me is creating the environment with everyone you work with in an enterprise at any level so they can perform at their maximum capability while being treated with dignity and respect,” said Noddle. “What worries me right now is the state of global leadership. You don’t have innovative leadership in the world today. As young people, you have a tremendous opportunity as a political force in this country. You have to exercise that and get involved at the grassroots level. You’ve got to work for the values you believe in.”
As a leader at Sandhills Publishing, Paasch believes it is important to know your own strengths. She recognized the need to extend herself even after attaining a level of success.
“I’m a detailed oriented person who can breakdown a spreadsheet quickly and take it to management to get them insights they need. That helped me get one step ahead. However, in sales I didn’t have much of a background, so I worked closely with sales reps and going on the road to make me more competent with a sales presentation. Leadership is getting into the trenches with the team you’re working with, and listening to feedback from those people so they can build themselves up and the company as well,” said Paasch.
The Executive Insights panel was moderated by Dr. Richard DeFusco, professor of finance and chair of the Department of Finance, who also participated in a networking reception with students following the panel. He believes Executive Insights provides practical advice students can use when finding their first employer.
“The panelists emphasized being willing to work hard and juggle lots of balls in the air at the same time. They also told students it’s important to find a firm that has a compatible culture where you fit in. It pays to come to a panel discussion like this so you can learn the various cultural norms and expectations from some distinctive companies,” said DeFusco.