Connecting: one of the keys to centered leadership

  |  Posted by

UMB’s Dana Abraham spoke to the Saint Louis University Cook School of Business this week. Here is an excerpt from her talk.


The leadership model is advancing, and evolving into a better place than ever before.

What began as a specific push for progress among women in leadership roles spurred the study1 that formed “Centered Leadership” – a model that has served successful professionals around the globe. Common themes appeared in this study, and the data was later validated by a survey of 2,500 executives.

They called the resulting model centered leadership. It’s about having a well of physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual strength that drives personal achievement, and in turn inspires others to follow.

One of the elements to this model is connecting.

Connecting: Identify who can help you grow, build stronger relationships and increase your sense of belonging.

People with strong networks and good mentors enjoy more promotions, higher pay and greater career satisfaction.

One thing that differentiates a leader from a manager is the leader’s ability to figure out where to go to get things done. In order to get things done, you need three types of essential networks.

1)     Work Resource – The people in this network assist you with projects and give you access to information and ideas.

2)     Personal Support: These are your personal counselors, your friends. They provide a safe place to vent.

3)     Career Support: These include your mentors, coaches and sponsors.

HOW to network –

  • First of all, don’t start with an actual networking event. Instead, work on meaningful encounters with others. For example, getting to know people by working with them on a committee or taking part in a shared interest.
  • Remember to give, not just take. Effective networks are earned. There is a need for reciprocity when people receive—they feel obligated to reciprocate. Focus on the value you add to others and what you bring to these relationships. Do you have expertise, a point of view from another generation, information, referrals?

When I first joined UMB, I tried to connect with our largest and most profitable commercial banking clients. I needed to prove myself to these business partners. I laid out my service model, but didn’t have any referrals. It wasn’t until I first referred business to them that they saw the value I could bring. Today, commercial bankers are my leading sources of new business.

It’s also important to take a long-term approach. Build relationships before you need them so you can save time in the future.

What’s the difference between a mentor and a sponsor?

Mentorship is important to our personal development, but sponsorship will help us break through. A sponsor is willing to go beyond the role of mentor to stick out his/her own neck to create an opportunity for a protégée.

A mentor dispenses wisdom, while a sponsor gets involved. Sponsors believe in you, but mentors don’t always go that far.

I have been fortunate to have sponsors. My direct supervisor has put my name into the hat several times and has an interest in my personal development. I also have peers from other lines of business who I would view as sponsors—people who would recommend me for a project or development opportunity.

Networks are about reaching out, showing interest in another person, and offering help – a true key to professional growth. Authenticity matters, so develop an approach that fits your personality and style.


1 – A study was launched by McKinsey and Company to determine what drives and sustains successful female leaders – this was done to help younger women navigate the paths to leadership to learn how organizations could get the best out of this group of talented associates. This work was lead and later published by Joanna Barsh, Suzie Cranston and Geoffery Lewis. They interviewed 85 successful women from across the globe and in diverse fields.

Dana Abraham is president of the Personal Banking Division and is responsible for the delivery of comprehensive financial services. Her areas of focus include Wealth Planning, Private Banking, Personal Trust, Investment Management and Insurance. She joined UMB in 2005 and has more than 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. Abraham earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in both accounting and economics from the University of Louisiana. She is a graduate of Leadership Overland Park and Kansas City Tomorrow Leadership programs.

Tagged: , ,