Interview with Shoshana Vernick on Leaders in Education

By March 18, 2019April 11th, 2019No Comments

Shoshana Vernick, Managing Partner at Sterling Partners, discusses current investments, what makes a great CEO in education, thriving Boards and how Sterling is approaching diversity.

Learn more in this episode of the Knowledge Leaders Podcast, hosted by Todd Hand.

Listen to the Full Podcast Here

Podcast Transcript Excerpt

Todd Hand: An area that’s near and dear to our hearts is around leadership. And you’ve been a board member on lots of different companies and seen lots of different leaders. What are some common threads in your observation around what makes a good leader?

Shoshana Vernick: “Who is our CEO” ends up being one of the most important decisions we make as an investor. So when we’re considering who is the right person for the job or what are the characteristics of a leader, I always first sort of think of…culture and followership. So to me, the CEO can build and attract an incredible team against what their organization needs to do both today and in the present, and then as well as sort of helping the organization move forward.

We tend to gravitate towards leaders that are strategic thinkers. So they can assess a large number of information and puts both coming from the inside and the outside and put that into context to help the organization again to move forward and grow.

Our markets and our ecosystems that these companies are playing in, they are evolving quickly, and there’s a lot of certain businesses that are both competitors and peers at the same time, so having sort of an agile strategic mind is really important.

We like leaders that are decisive. When you have information in front of you which we tend to partner with individuals that have an opinion, that can be thoughtful in how they’re assessing a situation. But at the end of the day can put a stake in the ground, they have conviction, and they can move the organization through with speed, with velocity.

There are other sort of soft characteristics. I mean there’s a certain humbleness that is fairly consistent around some of our best CEO’s. So they’re incredibly smart.

They’re incredibly analytical, but at the same time, it’s not about them, but they’re *we* individuals, and they tend to have the right balance of being, you know, both mindful and heartful in how they approach their circumstances.

Todd Hand: Shoshana, that was one of the best definitions of leadership that I’ve heard in a long time. I think you nailed it. It’s about attracting talented people and getting them to pool in the direction that’s best for the organization.

I mean that’s that’s what we look for when we do CEO searches. The context of these businesses matters so much.

Shoshana Vernick: If you are buying a business from a Founder and a Founder has explicitly said, “Will you help me think about a thoughtful transition?” the CEO that we’re bringing in has to be so emotionally adept at working alongside of and paying respect for the culture that is there, the people that have been part of that first wave of growth while also thinking about how do we then move forward in a bolder, larger manner bringing in some new expertise to look at, you know, call it the same problem in a different manner.

And in driving forward the innovation that’s necessary for tomorrow. So we ask a lot of these of these executives, and so hopefully they view us as good partners along the way.

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