MReport February 2019

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22 | TH E M R EP O RT FEATURE I ntegrity, decisiveness, and empowerment. These are the three core qualities of an effective leader, accord- ing to Marcia Davies, COO of the Mortgage Bankers Asso- ciation (MBA) and creator of mPower, a networking group for women in housing finance, sponsored by MBA. While becoming an effective leader may seem an elusive goal with unclear standards—count- less articles, blogs, and studies have offered lists of important leadership qualities—it is clear that effective leaders bring success to themselves and those around them. In fact, researchers and founders of Zenger Folkman, a leadership training organization, found leaders who ranked in the top 10 percent at a large mortgage company they observed produced twice as much net revenue as leaders ranked below them. "We have found strong statisti- cally significant relationships between leadership effectiveness and a variety of desirable business outcomes such as profitability, turnover, employee commit- ment, customer satisfaction, and intention of employees to leave," Zenger and Folkman stated in a white paper. While their research is complex and asserts that different leadership qualities may be prioritized at different organizations, they did identify "character" and "interpersonal skills" as two of the "building blocks" of leadership capabilities. Widely acknowledged as a leader in her field, Davies seems to personify character and interper- sonal skills as evidenced by the comments of those who know her professionally. Despite a tenure that includes serving as a Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Housing and as Federal Housing Commissioner follow- ing 21 years at Freddie Mac, when her colleagues speak of her, they do not rattle off her impressive list of roles in the housing finance industry. Instead, they speak of her character and her leadership. "When Marcia speaks, people listen," says David Hrobon, President and CEO of Wintrust Mortgage. "She has a command- ing presence and is well spoken. People want to hear what she has to say." "I would also say that her ap- proach and message are focused on creating, identifying, and capi- talizing on opportunities that solve problems," he added. Monda Raquel Webb, former Business Development Manager at EarnUp, describes Davies as "a seasoned, erudite profes- sional who wears her honesty like a cloak. She's soft-spoken but mentally tough, purposeful and laser-focused." Davies describes herself as an "empowering leader" and a "risk- taker," and she seems not only to value "integrity, decisiveness, and empowerment," but to embody them in her career. Integrity "The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves." —Ray Kroc A sserting that she likes to "lead by example," Davies says, "I hold a very high bar for myself, and I operate with a high sense of integrity, and I expect the same from those that I lead." One extraordinary example of integrity early on in Davies' career was when she resigned from a job at the age of 25. Her manager at the time had been charged with taking on the role of a former director but without an official promotion and increased com- pensation. When Davies' manager formally requested the title and compensation for the role she was performing, the company fired her. Davies says she knew "the fact that they felt comfortable uncer- emoniously firing her two weeks before our mid-winter conference was because they knew I was there, and that I would step in and make sure everything happened." "But I knew I couldn't work for that organization any longer because they had treated her so poorly, and it was so unfair what they did," Davies said. "So I went in and I resigned." "We all can say, 'I will only work with people that lead with integrity or whatever,' but we've all been in rooms where they're talking about business decisions, and you think, 'I don't know. Is that the right thing to do?' That's different than feeling like you would have to compromise some- thing about yourself in order to continue in good faith supporting the goals of that organization." Davies' act of integrity was not punished. Shortly after, she found a job at the Mortgage Corporation, which became Freddie Mac a year later. Decisiveness "Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions." —Harold S. Geneen N ot only is Davies' resig- nation at 25 a story of integrity, but it is also a strong example of the second leader- ship trait she values: decisive- ness, which can carry with it a certain amount of risk. Davies did not waver in her resolve but acted quickly on her Lift Effective leaders rise by lifting those around them, not by attempting to climb above them. Marcia Davies leads by example, through empowerment, and by lifting those whose voices may not be heard. By Rachel Williams and Krista Franks Brock

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