How to consciously become a powerful leader

Your clients and your staff view you as a leader. Yet, strong leadership does not just happen. You must be intentional in a few key areas.


You must be visible because your clients are used to being able to see you. Even though you must leverage technology, it is important that they see you. It is a poor substitute for being in the same place, but it has been proven to be a powerful instrument.

Transparency and authenticity

You must be authentic and transparent about what you know, what you don’t know and when you know it. When you are in the financial services seat, you are privy to lots of information that people in other professions do not have. Being able to share that information with your clients and your team is a measure of transparency that is highly valued. That transparency underscores your authenticity.


Everybody’s trying to figure out what the future will look like on the other side of this pandemic, especially your clients. People will migrate toward the voice that is the strongest and has the most cogent argument. That is a real opportunity for all of us as leaders. Now is the time to create that clarity.

And with respect to your teams, it means your job is to define success. When people know exactly what they are playing for, they are motivated and inspired to deliver beyond that which has already been defined. And fear has no place in your success equation. What is the worst that can happen if you take a risk and it doesn’t work out? You fail, but guess what? Failure always brings you a gift, and that gift is experience. Now you know how to do it better; now you know how to do it differently; now you know how to do it successfully.

Creating other leaders

This is how you grow your power. The more you can invest in other leaders, the more you have an opportunity to grow your market share and to expand your footprint. If you focus on those things that only you can do as a leader, you leave yourself the capacity to evolve into the very best leader, the most powerful leader you can be.


Finally, you must be comfortable calling a thing a thing, no matter how bad that thing might be. When you are honest about an adverse situation, or you are transparent about the good, the bad and the ugly, people trust you even more.

It takes courage to call a thing a thing. We have all been in situations when we knew something should have been said, and we simply looked down at our shoes.

It takes courage to create clarity when you cannot see. It takes courage to engage enough with your clients and your team to build trust. And it takes courage to bring your authentic self into any environment, which is why so many people are challenged to do so. If you want to be seen as a powerful, impactful, influential leader, you must both expect and strategize to win.

This is excerpted from Carla Harris’ 2021 MDRT Annual Meeting Virtual Event presentation, “Leading, leveraging and building your business in a post-COVID world,” which is available for MDRT members. Harris is the vice chairman, managing director and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley. In 2013, she was appointed by former U.S. President Barack Obama to chair the National Women’s Business Council.

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