QUESTION: Which PMBA courses, events, self-assessments or experiential activities (ChallengeWorks, Disaster City, International Experience, and Capstone) made the most significant impact on the development of your leadership understanding and ability?

The personal statement of leadership exercise had the most significant impact on the development of my leadership understanding and ability. The process began at the end of the first semester with reflection about effective characteristics of leaders and ended with a draft of my personal statement of leadership philosophy. After completing the leadership journey created through the effective design of the program’s courses, events and activities, I revisited my first draft during the last semester of the program. Equipped with my deeper awareness and understanding of leadership, I was able to significantly improve my personal statement. My leadership philosophy was now clear and concise, but most importantly, it was my own.

QUESTION: What is the most important insight you gained regarding leadership?

One must find his own leadership voice in order to be effective. Although leadership is a skill that can be learned, an authentic message delivered in a natural voice will produce the best results.

QUESTION: What is the most important leadership tool or technique you learned?

Given the collaborative nature of today’s work environment, the framework described in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni has been very useful. This model points out the common pitfalls that restrict teams from producing optimal results. Understanding these common limitations of teams has allowed me to quickly diagnose problem areas and make adjustments.

Increasing my awareness of the importance of emotional intelligence (EI) has contributed to my effectiveness as a leader. In my pursuit to increase my EI competencies, I have increased my patience and improved my listening skills. This has allowed me to focus on asking the right questions to uncover root issues, understand initial decisions and suggest appropriate alternatives.

QUESTION: Did any professors have a particularly strong influence on your leadership maturation? 

Leadership and communication are closely linked and are both woven into the program from start to finish. Accordingly, Executive Professor John Krajicek was instrumental in my leadership development. His assignments put us in scenarios requiring leadership expertise and challenged our current communication skills to maneuver through the situation. He then asked that we create an individual communication development plan to address any gaps revealed during the previous exercise. This process accelerated the development of both my leadership and communication abilities.

QUESTION: How have you applied your leadership knowledge or tools to your career/job?

At the end of the first semester in the PMBA program, my company decided to close our Houston office and consolidate operations into its headquarters out of state. I was at a personal and professional crossroads, but I decided to continue my career with the company and relocated my young family to Oklahoma. Not wanting to abandon my commitment to the PMBA program, I also decided to continue pursuing my MBA. This choice proved very beneficial as I was able to apply the leadership training from the program to my role as a Revenue Accounting Supervisor leading a group of 11 direct reports. My new staff included external hires, internal transfers, and a couple of “relos,” like myself. The team was changing, but the deadlines to record and distribute approximately $70MM in oil and gas revenues each month were not. I knew we were responsible for producing accurate results on a timely basis, but I needed to influence the team if we were going to meet this goal.

For this, I turned to The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. After exploring this model during a class session, I decided to implement the concepts into my team meetings. We began with the foundational element of the framework, building and sustaining trust. I introduced the topic of trust during an early team meeting and built on the discussion during subsequent meetings by reviewing the constructs of trust, sharing personal experiences and finally having the team present examples of trusting each other. With this foundation, the next elements of the framework naturally fell into place. Through productive, open dialogue, a commitment was formed, and the group began holding each other accountable to produce the high-quality results I had envisioned.

QUESTION: Have you assumed greater leadership responsibility at your job as a result of your PMBA leadership training?

In March 2014, my company acquired the Eagle Ford Shale assets of a privately held exploration and production company for $6 billion. A month later, I presented my capstone project to the senior management and project sponsor at my company. The capstone allowed me to demonstrate an ability to apply an analytical framework to solve a real business problem facing our company. The leadership skills I developed were also displayed as I was tasked with forming a cross-functional team to solve a business problem outside of my expertise. At the end of April, I was assigned as the Business Lead for converting the systems from the recent acquisition to our ERP system, SAP. I was now tasked with creating the integration plan and leading a cross-functional team of approximately 50 people. I believe the skills demonstrated during the capstone presentation influenced management’s decision to assign this project to me.

These leadership skills developed during the program and displayed during the capstone presentation will also provide the foundation for the success of the SAP conversion project.  Three weeks later, I graduated from the PMBA program, and at the end of May, I was promoted to a management position. In addition to my project role, I am now responsible for leading a group of supervisors and staff of approximately 50 people. I would not have realized this success or have been prepared for the responsibilities that accompany these roles if it were not for the leadership development I experienced during the PMBA program.

QUESTION: What advice would you give to prospective PMBAs who are considering pursuing the degree?

I would advise prospective students to be aware of the impact of leadership, and the shift in perspective that is required as one moves from pursuing individual achievement to influencing others. Given the professional experience level for most prospective PMBA candidates, individual contributions have highlighted the success they have realized to date. These accomplishments may put these talented individuals in a position to lead, but a different set of skills is required for success in a leadership role. These skills are being taught in the Mays PMBA program, and it is essential that candidates do not let these opportunities pass them by.