84: Leaders With Heart Understand That Leadership Is To Be Learned, Studied And Explored

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Shawnte Cox Holland, Head of Culture and Engagement at Vanguard on her leadership style, her unique view of why she leads the way she does, her experience when she was not the best version of her, what she did to become more enlightened, and some insightful pearls of wisdom.

Key takeaways:

  • Be the leader who pursues the art of what is possible and ask what is missing.
  • Recognize your employees for a job well done.
  • Take a step back & figure out the value of being a leader.
  • Focus on leadership excellence all around.
  • Take time to play and connect with your team.
  • Continue to learn how to be a better leader.
  • Be candid, develop and coach your people.
The pearls of wisdom from this episode is a must have!

Shawnté Holland is a Strategy and Organizational Effectiveness expert with over 20 years of experience guiding organizations through the process of defining and implementing business and IT strategies and the people strategies needed to enable them. Shawnté uses innovative and research-based approaches to practices such as organizational and job design, team management, leadership development, and employee experience in order to create high-value outputs for organizations.

As the Head of Culture & Engagement for the Vanguard Group, she oversees evolving how Vanguard continuously assesses the existing employee experience, drives actions to improve it, and ensures that a healthy and authentic communication loop exists between leaders and employees. Prior to joining Vanguard, Shawnté worked for Gartner Consulting leading engagements and conducting research for private and public sector clients. Shawnté holds certifications in project management from PMI, change management from ProSci, and is certified by the Federal CIO Council for technology leadership.

Shawnté is a graduate of the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, holds a M.S. in Technology Management from George Mason University, and is finishing up her dissertation for a Doctorate in Business Administration from Wilmington University. Her research is related to using organizational culture to accomplish business outcomes.

Constant Learning 

I am in a constant state of learning. While I have had many experiences around leadership, I also recognize that there’s quite a few more that I have to go through. Still, there are things that will potentially continue to shape my approaches. 

I am experienced but still eager to learn more and to improve. As people continue to study this body of work and learn more about leadership and what makes a real effective leader, I am continuously intrigued and I stay abreast of what I can always do better.

I never had the drive to lead myself. Other people always pointed out that I should lead something, which I think points to my style. I am humble and honestly while still being confident in leadership.

Take a step back, and think about what the real value of a leader is to a team. – Shawnte Cox Holland #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Four Jobs

Some just never have an outright desire to lead large organizations. 

Leadership is not about me. It’s about the work that needs to be accomplished and the people that I am leading. It’s very much akin to servant leadership

I fully expect to not be the sharpest tack in the box. If I am the smartest one on my team, then I view that as an issue or an opportunity to overcome. My value as a leader is in allowing others to shine.

A leader has four jobs. The first one is to be able to communicate a really clear and focused vision for what you’re trying to accomplish or achieve, or where you’re trying to get to. 

Job number two is around really ensuring that you know your dealings as a team, and you consider a variety of perspectives to resolve them.

Job number three is around ensuring that my team has what they need to be successful, which is more like servant leadership. 

Then, job number four is to really acknowledge a job well done and celebrate successes, however small, along the way. That’s what helps encourage and motivate them to keep going, working, and putting in the extra mile.

Our real value as leaders is in the ability to bring people around a common vision and focus, and to deliver them with excellence. – Shawnte Cox Holland #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Collection of Takeaways

In leadership, what I have gotten is not one thing but a collection of things. And the catalyst happened when I was at a pretty young age. 

I was 16 and I remembered going away to a youth leadership camp in the woods of New Hampshire. My co-participants and I were given a task to get a set of supplies across the lake without knowing how many would we need, or what the mission was. It was a quest. 

During the camp, while we were doing our own quests, our facilitators would introduce new challenges, which were things that are nearly impossible to do. My takeaway from that experience was,  your challenge or situation can change anytime. 

Hence, to remain successful is to constantly be able to have a variety of perspectives, skillset, and expertise so that you can handle whatever comes your way, and still be able to produce the expected output. 

I didn’t fully grasp the lesson right away. But as a progressed in my leadership, I realized that that has become the hallmark of what I think is important as a leader. Ensuring every perspective has an opportunity to be heard and making sure that my team has what they need, will collectively give us better results.

Celebrate wins, no matter how small it is. – Shawnte Cox Holland #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Leadership is not about me. It’s about the work that needs to be accomplished and the people that I am leading. – Shawnte Cox Holland #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Leaders are not supposed to be the smart ones in the room. – Shawnte Cox Holland #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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