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Jenkins MBA

The Making of a Value-Based Leader


The McLauchlan Leadership Series catalyzes graduate-level leadership development through team projects, industry speakers, lectures and coaching opportunities. Learn how two participants emerged from the program with a clearer conception of the brand of leadership they wanted to exercise.

2017 McLauchlan Fellows

“I’ve taken part in a number of leadership-oriented programs over the years,” reflected Ryan Roth (MBA’18), a Product Manager for a Durham-based innovator in LED lighting. “The McLauchlan Leadership Series at NC State was different from the rest. It was less of a course and more of an introduction to the lifelong journey of figuring out who you are, what values you hold and how you will live out those values in the workplace.”

Established in 2015 with a generous gift from Russ and Cara McLauchlan, the McLauchlan Leadership Series catalyzes graduate-level leadership development through team projects, industry speakers, lectures and coaching opportunities. “As I neared the end of my MBA program at NC State, I was searching for a way to gain greater insight into my own leadership potential,” said Roth.  

I also wanted to differentiate myself in my organization as I envisioned moving from a operations role to a strategic, customer-based role.

Like Roth, Rita Rodriguez-Davies (MBA’18) was drawn to the opportunity to master the fundamentals of personal and team leadership through the McLauchlan Leadership Series. Having worked from Raleigh as a pharmaceutical sales representative for more than 15 years, she was contemplating a career move to a managerial position within her industry. 

Both participants emerged from the program with a clearer conception of the brand of leadership they wanted to exercise. “For me, the biggest takeaway was that I didn’t have to have the title of manager to be an effective leader,” shared Rodriguez-Davies.

The assumption for most MBA students is that we have to rise to senior leadership to fulfill our potential, but that’s not always the best way to make an impact on a daily basis.”   

Throughout the series, Rodriguez-Davies worked with a personal coach to identify her core values and brainstorm ways to act as a leader in her current role as a sales representative. While she has the experience and skillset to do the job of her own manager, the process of exploring her value system led her to conclude that a managerial role was currently incompatible with her role as a parent, which she identifies as her primary priority. 

“The leadership program encouraged me to stick to my guns and design my life around my key priorities,” reflects Rodriguez-Davies. “At the same time, it showed me that my actions and attitude have a greater impact than any title could give me.” Rodriguez-Davies left the program feeling more empowered than ever to take on the role of a mentor and teacher to less experienced colleagues. “Often, it’s easier for them to accept help from a peer,” she explained. “I take action as a leader by supporting my coworkers who need more help.” With the onset of COVID-19, Rodriguez-Davies has taken the initiative to help her fellow sales representatives learn to interact effectively with customers on a virtual platform. 

The McLauchlan Leadership Series also gave Rodriguez-Davies the tools she needed to take on a new sales challenge. “After I graduated, I moved into a smaller company with products that require a much more technical sell,” she shared. “It’s different than anything I had done before, but I was confident enough to take the next step.” While Rodriguez-Davies doesn’t rule out the possibility of moving into a more managerial role in the future, she is satisfied with her current role. “I know who I am and what I’m about,” she said. 

For Roth, the first major challenge of the program was to define his personal values. “These are the things that fill your emotional cup and make you feel like something is missing when you try to deny them,” he realized. During an initial session, he identified environmental sustainability as a core value.   

I’m always looking for opportunities to impact the world in a green way.

Between his work to reduce carbon emissions through high-efficiency lighting and personal initiatives like installing solar panels in his home and driving an electric vehicle, Roth has already begun to translate his values into action. What the McLauchlan Leadership Series imparted, he reflects, was a core philosophy that made his efforts even more effective. “I was completely blown away by the concept of energy leadership as taught by Nicoa Dunne,” he shared. “The power of putting positive energy into the world, even if it is as simple as greeting your coworkers warmly on Monday morning, is hard to underestimate.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely tested the limits of Roth’s positivity over the past six months. His industry is undergoing significant challenges as the pandemic disrupts global supply chains, and, like many parents, he often struggles to work from home with two young children. “In these times, I frequently return to the philosophy of energy leadership to remind myself that I choose how to respond to every situation.” From his perspective, “anyone can be in charge of people and make decisions by the numbers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are an effective leader. People want to follow someone with an attitude that affirms and inspires.” 

While Roth successfully advanced to a more strategy-based role within his company, he does not have any direct reports. “I’m working in a cross-functional leadership role where no one has to do what I say to keep their job,” he explained. “To convince people to work with me, I have to be open and transparent. I have to build bridges and bring people together. Thanks to the tools I gained in the McLauchlan Leadership Series, I’m up for the challenge.”  

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