Calling All Emerging Leaders

Written on behalf of the PlushMoney Impact program by Kamesha Longsworth

I had the privilege of participating in the Ernst & Young Emerging Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. from June 19-22. 250 students from across North America were invited to the summit and I felt quite an honor to have been selected. The experience was amazing. I enjoyed meeting and participating with a diverse group of students and E&Y professionals. The trip included many informative sessions and speakers on leadership, as well as opportunities to bond with my peers and the E&Y professionals. The seating assignments were aimed to help us meet as many E&Y professionals as possible from the geography we are interested in working. We competed in teams in a scavenger hunt all across D.C. on a record-breaking 100-degree and humid day. It was brutal, but hey, leaders are competitive and we sure did not take the competition lightly! To toot my own horn, out of the 250 participating students, I was one out of six students nominated to do an onsite video interview about the program and I gladly accepted this opportunity. All about branding yourself right?

The summit’s purpose was to strengthen our leadership skills, as we are Ernst & Young’s potential future leaders. However, the speakers wanted to make it clear that even if we do not pursue a career within Ernst & Young, that it is absolutely necessary to practice and have three important qualities as a leader: transparency, integrity, and inclusive leadership. The Global Vice Chair of Public Policy, Beth Brooke, spoke to us about these three qualities. Her professional background is impressive, including 31 years at Ernst & Young and working on a project for First Lady Hillary Clinton during the Clinton administration. The goal of this blog will be to summarize the amazing speech and extremely useful tips she presented.

Transparency simply defined means visibility, openness, accountability; it is more than the truth. Transparency is letting someone know who you are. It means you are not afraid, and that you have nothing to hide. As a leader, your actions better match your words.  You must be transparent. There must be nothing to hide so that people will trust you. This is critical to turning back the tide of corruption in the economy and government that we’ve experienced the past several years. Especially with today’s technology, everyone will know the moves you make. As Beth said, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” It is necessary to be completely transparent from the start.

Integrity: “you either have it or you don’t,” said Beth. Integrity comes from the word integer; you cannot divide it. Integrity includes attitudes and actions, as well as your words. For example, some businesses and professionals discriminate in pay practices, but they are espousing integrity and diverse values. Their attitudes and actions do not match their words. Nothing is more important than your personal reputation. Always do the right thing and do not be afraid to speak up. Guard your integrity because it is your most precious possession. Also, if you are working for a client and you just cannot agree with something, standing up or speaking out (instead of always keeping your mouth shut) keeps your integrity in tact.

Inclusive leadership brings everything together. It is a new style of leadership that fuses transparency, integrity, and leadership altogether. Beth stressed that Ernst & Young wants all its employees to be inclusive leaders for there is an increasing need to work globally and across diversity. Diverse teams outperform homogenous teams every time, for they have the power of diverse perspective and will see so much more than a homogenous team. But the diverse team has to be well led, and a great inclusive leader bridges the diverse gaps to bring out the optimal solutions. A great competitive advantage is knowing how to lead in a world of difference. An inclusive leader has to believe in the group and must know how to lead a diverse group to reach optimal results and solutions. Ask yourself, do you make difference safe as a leader? Valuing differences is important as an inclusive leader.

Beth’s speech really made an impression on me. Inclusive leaders ignite creativity and innovation and as a leader that is what I want to do. I want to engage my teammates and respect their different values and ideas. You have to be who you are and give others the opportunity to be who they are. Only so will you get the most from different perspectives – if you are an inclusive leader and partner. Celebrate differences and you will reach better conclusions that way. Inclusive leadership ties in with integrity and transparency because in order for others to be who they are and to bring their best ideas forth, they have to believe in you as well for whom you are and they have to trust you.

Other tips from Beth Brooke:

  • Advice: always ask questions and why you’re doing what you’re doing.
  • Be yourself; it will allow others to be themselves too.
  • Use the platform in which you have access to make a difference.

To be a leader who makes an IMPACT, be sure to remember “ILT” – Integrity, Inclusive Leadership, and Transparency.

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