SFNet Partners with NYU Stern to Offer new Course - Impactful Leadership for High Potentials, Bringing a Multi-faceted Learning Experience

May 11, 2023

By Eileen Wubbe

Nathan Pettit-NYU-150

The Secured Finance Foundation has joined forces with NYU Stern Executive Education to bring a multi-faceted learning experience taught by NYU Professor, Nathan Pettit (pictured) coupled with real-world secured finance applications.

This two-day course, held in person at NYU Stern June 20-21, will introduce attendees to a variety of analytical frameworks while simultaneously modelling tactical approaches – all with the focus on developing leadership skills. The course aims to help everyone understand how impactful leaders operate by combining a series of approaches, lectures, discussions, case analysis, short videos and group exercises, plus conversations, networking time and guest lectures hosted by some of our industry's most successful leaders.

The in-person class will have the benefit of interacting with emerging leaders outside of the SFNet community, in addition to our own cohort and spending more time in and between sessions getting to know your SFNet peers. The class will offer 16 hours of live in-person instruction, recorded Leadership Perspectives talks from secured finance industry leaders (to be viewed On-Demand throughout the week); 2+ CPE credits, subject to certain eligibility requirements; a certificate of completion from NYU Stern Executive Education and additional benefits.

According to the course description, “Leadership is a mindset, a set of behaviors, and a set of actions that can be carried out by individuals at all levels of an organization each and every day. In this course, participants will examine the meaning of leadership from multiple perspectives, learn about power and influence, collaboration, teamwork and networks, and develop a framework for translating leadership into effective actions.”

The course is designed for professionals with five-plus years of work experience and is ideal for those who have significant leadership responsibilities, or who have high potential for leadership. It is intended for individuals who want to improve their leadership abilities.

Nathan Pettit, Associate Professor of Management and Organizations and Founding Director, Leadership Accelerator at NYU Stern, will be teaching Impactful Leadership for High Potentials.  Professor Pettit currently teaches core and elective leadership courses in NYU Stern’s full-time MBA Program, Executive MBA Programs in New York and Washington, D.C., and Stern’s Andre Koo Technology & Entrepreneurship and Fashion & Luxury MBA Programs. He serves on the MBA core curriculum committee and is the faculty representative for the MBA student podcast, Stern Chats. Pettit’s research broadly focuses on hierarchical dynamics and competition. His work has been published in management, psychology, and general science journals, including Academy of Management JournalOrganization ScienceOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision ProcessesProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Psychological Science.

Here, Pettit discusses more about leadership and what students can expect from the class.

TSL ExpressThis course is described as being ideal for someone who already has some leadership experience and wants to strengthen those skills. Before we dive into that, for those who work at smaller organizations, or are just starting out, where they may not be much opportunity to move up or gain leadership skills, how would you recommend they seek this out?

Pettit:  If we conceive leadership not as a position, but as a set of behaviors, then the notion that you need to be in a position of leadership or at a large organization to practice it, falls away. 

If you think about some of the behaviors that are associated with leadership, such as the ability to take another person’s perspective, the ability to speak out when other people are not speaking out, the ability to conceive of a plausible alternative to the status quo, even though those are all very applicable to things that would happen in an organization, there’s no organizational boundary around the ability to enact those behaviors.  So, for instance, outside of an organization, the perspective could have to do with how you interact with a friend that’s trying to tell you about a difficult day that they had. Instead of immediately turning to give them advice on what they should do, it’s about spending a couple of moments listening and trying to put yourself in their shoes. 

It could mean that even within a family dynamic, where, it turns out, that we tend to recapitulate the status quo in the way that we act over and over again, because this is what we’re used to doing in the way that we have dinner or the way that we handle tough conversations.  Part of leading is trying to think of a plausible alternative to that and speaking up about it.  We could go on with a bunch of other examples that have nothing to do with our name and job titles. We operate as if those job titles are necessary to enact those behaviors, but they are absolutely not.

Everyday life provides us with tons of these examples.  It’s whether we choose to see them.

Can you explain more on how leadership is a mindset, a set of behaviors and actions?  Would you say leadership is a skill that needs to be practiced and continuously evolves, especially in a world where change and uncertainty are constant?

The idea is this chain of thought precedes, in a lot of cases, action.  Of course, you need to change your mindset to act, but changing your mindset isn’t always going to translate to action because we must get over fears of acting differently.  So, it’s not like a mindset is simply going to translate into how one behaves differently.  The shift in mindset could lead you to see things that frustrate you more and you may become even more frustrated with yourself for not enacting those things.  So, it is a mindset, but leading is not a mindset.  It’s not thinking; it’s doing. 

One component of the class is distinguishing leadership vs. management. Can you explain more?

If we go back to the idea that leading is behavioral and not positional, and leadership is one of these terms that we seem to slap on everything, such as calling someone or something a future leader or leadership fellows. The term has ceased to mean anything, which makes it difficult to dig into what it is.

The distinction I use between leading and managing is managing is very much about planning.  It’s about organizing and making a set of decisions and then going about and trying to enact those.  Leading is having the courage to see something different from what today’s status quo is and enact change.

So, I use this example in class where I ask the students to imagine a ball that I’ve thrown rolling across the floor.  Management is interested in keeping that ball rolling on its given trajectory as efficiently as possible.  Leading is about sticking a foot out and changing the trajectory of that ball.  There’s a lot of people that are in “positions of leadership”, and what they’re really doing is managing. That’s not a value judgment.  It's not like managing is better than leading or leading is better than managing.  You need both of those, and, frankly, most people are enacting some set of those behaviors, hence, why it’s not a position.  It’s a set of behaviors.

There are management behaviors and leadership behaviors.  It’s not a management position or a leadership position. Leadership is imagining a plausible alternative to the status quo, setting direction, and then motivating people around that.  Management then takes that and tries to implement that, organize people around it, make a set of decisions and use their authority to get people to do the things that have been enacted. Then that gives us not just the distinction between leadership and management. If we think of the leadership mindset as one of saying “How can we do things differently than we’re doing now?” then that could be anything from a new strategic direction to needing to get a direct report to perform differently. It can move anything from the dyadic level, to if a person isn’t performing particularly well, and figuring out how to motivate them to perform differently or better, or how to shift where an organization is going. In each one of those cases, we’re intervening so that tomorrow is going to look different from today because of the things that we are doing today. 

Management is trying to keep things going successfully as they are.  So that mindset around what could be different and how someone enacts that change is part and parcel to leading.

You probably heard this idea that people are willing to put up with an unpleasant status quo over changing to something different because that “different” feels uncertain.  I talk about it as our average comfortable miserable Tuesday, where things are kind of annoying, and how great it would be if things change.  If someone suggests enacting those changes, then we may get a little skittish and scared because we wonder, “What’s this new thing going to look like?”  We’re inhibited so much from our fear.

So, the idea with how you translate the mechanism that translates mindset to behavior is to some degree the courage to speak up and push against the status quo.  There’s this line that I think is unfortunately true, which is that if you’re not upsetting at least someone, you’re not leading.  And it doesn’t go the other way, it’s not like if you’re upsetting a lot of people, you’re definitely leading.  You could just be really annoying.

The idea of “if you’re not upsetting someone, you’re probably not leading” is because the status quo, even if suboptimal, is comfortable for people.  So, people will push back if there is the notion that change will happen.  The mechanism that translates the mindset of what we do differently to actually doing differently is having the courage to act on some of that.

Are there any steps one can take to help to develop that leadership mindset? 

My pedagogical approach is very much rooted in the research on adult development and learning, which is adults don’t learn by being told things. This cycle on adult development and learning is that people have an experience and then they reflect on that experience. They internalize those learnings and act again. 

An experience is not some person talking at them.  The experience is being put in a somewhat difficult scenario, and they have to find their way through it.  It’s the practice of action that is the way that people learn.  It’s not debatable from what the research is showing on how adults learn.  So, when I say steps that people can take, it’s not like there’s three things in a PowerPoint slide.

We end up doing exercises and activities in class where people get to see how they will behave rather than hypothetically saying what they think the right thing to do is. As we know, when you’re put in a real situation, all the knowing in the world gets crowded out by the actual rush of the moment.  The idea is not passively listening. The point is to do a set of activities and see how they behave during those activities, and it’s not for me to see how they behave.  It’s for them to see how they behave.  That’s really where the learning comes in.

Do you have a leadership success story from a former student?

I do hear from former students recalling when they did one of the activities, and how they were in the hot seat and feeling uncomfortable, and two years into working, the same example came up. They were able to conjure what they felt like in that moment, and acted differently than they would have otherwise. That’s from MBA students and some of the students who have taken this course and similar ones. 

Emotion is one of the things that really emblazons memories in our mind.  When we feel something, we remember it more than when we’re just thinking about it.  There’s plenty of cases where students will end up writing to me later, it could be six months or eight years, where they remember something we did in class, and it came up in their life.

For more information or to register for the class click here.


About the Author

Eileen Wubbe 150x150
Eileen Wubbe is senior editor of The Secured Lender and TSL Express e-newsletter.