052015_CFO_conference_0037In May 2015, we were proud to host our 2015 CFO Leadership Conference, a full day of practical leadership stories shared by the experts who experienced them. Over 300 senior financial executives and other individuals joined us at Bentley University’s LaCava Center in Waltham, MA, to share their own unique stories and challenges.

We were especially honored to host two phenomenal individuals to tell us their story of leadership in action. In the morning, we kicked off with a chat with Gayle Cameron, Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner and former Deputy Superintendent of The New Jersey State Police.

During her time with the New Jersey State Police, Lieutenant Colonel Cameron commanded the Investigations Branch, which had authority over the areas of: casino regulation, specialized investigations, intelligence gathering and analysis, and forensic sciences. In this position, she held the agency’s top security clearance and interacted on a regular basis with the US Attorney from the District of New Jersey, the State’s Governor, the New Jersey Attorney General, and was the primary liaison with all federal law enforcement agencies. (For her full bio, click here. It’s impressive!)

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What struck us was the latitude at which Cameron led. Not only was she tasked to continue to bring together a statewide police force, each of which had their own unique challenges, but also to collaborate with separate agencies, and even ‘manage up’ to elected officials.

When asked about her approach to leading what we consider to be a strong workforce through multiple challenges, she offered the following tips:

  • Be Confident: Observe what you like in the leadership you experience, and endeavor to mirror that. Be forward thinking, and don’t get stuck in the mud. Surround yourself with people smarter than you and constantly learn from others.
  • Listen To Your People: Always actively listen to your people, especially those who disagree with you. By demonstrating that you listen and respect their opinions, you’ll have a much better time bringing your team to the table.
  • Inspire People: Be enthusiastic and energetic. The only thing you can choose to bring to your work is your attitude.
  • Be Honest: Always, always be honest with your people. Lies have a way of outing themselves, and recovery from the fallout is impossible.

Moving forward, she said, these tips can serve you well, especially as you move into more visible positions tackling contentious issues (her current role, for example).

According to Cameron, her role, and that of the Gaming Commission, is to carry out the law in the State of Massachusetts. The challenge and opportunity in that is to bring disparate and sometimes polarized opinions together to move forward. Cameron and the Commission actively work to listen to all of the voices that they can, and get all of the information that they can to help make the best decision possible.

(While Cameron did comment on a few of the decisions, challenges and opportunities that the Gaming Comission is now working through, we think it’s best for you to visit the Gaming Commission’s site here to learn how and why they do what they do.)

Cameron’s parting advice for our attendees:

  • As you grow, your sphere of influence grows. Your leadership must be greater than the individual.
  • Always be ethical. All you have in life is your reputation
  • Be enthusiastic and interact with your team
  • Your positive attitude will lift others

052015_CFO_conference_0299In the afternoon, we welcomed Major General L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General of The Massachusetts National Guard, to tell his story of leadership in action.

After serving as a fighter pilot and commander in his early career, in early 2000, Major Rice became a 2 Star General. He received a call from Former Governor Patrick to command the National Guard in Massachusetts. 

A few days after he accepted the position, he was completing his duties at the Boston Marathon as the first of two pressure cooker bombs went off. The two honored warriors he was escorting, who happened to be medical specialists, jumped out of his car to offer aid at the medical tents. 

Chaos ensued and police and military mobilized immediately. We all remember the scene, the news, the pictures. General Rice remembers looking down on the street and seeing a sneaker of a runner with a foot still in it. While viscerally reacting to what was happening around him, he recalls a Boston police officer grabbing him and saying “Wake up – we have work to do.”

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Immediately, he moved into action, coordinating quickly with the FBI and the Boston Police Force. Impressively, all government, state and local agencies coordinated easily with each other, moving quickly to tend to the information coming and to secure the route.

Most amazingly (but not surprisingly), General Rice cited the leadership and loyalty of Bostonians as the single largest impact during the Boston Marathon. Of the 30,000 runners who ran the 2013 Boston Marathon, only 5,000 were able to finish. After the initial impact of the bombs, the race route was clear, mostly due to the willingness of Bostonians to open their homes to stranded runners to care for them while the dust settled. They did this without being asked.

He also commented on the architecture of decision making in the aftermath of the bombings. While usually the top ranking person makes the decisions, in this instance, federal and state groups deferred to local government (former Mayor Menino) to make the call on whether to evacuate Boston, to instill a curfew, etc. This respect of local leadership helped ease panic in Boston, and mobilized the city to respect order, stay calm and feel as secure as they could as officers hunted the suspected bombers through the streets of the city.

So what did we learn on leadership from General Rice? It was not the comments on leadership that he made, it was the way that he told his stories. The communication, the collaboration, and most importantly, the celebration of his team, his soldiers, that spoke to us. He did not comment on his own decisions and his own actions, but rather, the actions of the team around them, and how they made a difference.

Lesson learned: Leadership is not only the decisions that you make, but the way your team carries them out. The way you inspire loyalty and trust in your employees, and the way you celebrate them publicly, makes all the difference in the type of leader you are.

For more information about our 2015 CFO Leadership Conference, please go here.