Philadelphia, PA, April 30, 2015 (CDFI Connect)—Lorena Roman, Director of Business Consulting for Working Solutions Group completed the inaugural Citi Leadership Program for Opportunity Finance as an Emerging Leader. She sat down with CDFI Connect to reflect on the impact the program has had in her life, and the relationships she has built as a result.
Tell me about how you first heard about the Citi Leadership program, and what encouraged you to apply.
I originally heard about it through the OFN Newsletter, Opportunities. I was interested in participating because I wanted formal leadership training, and had not seen any similar opportunities up to that point. Prior to this offering, I relied on articles and books on leadership. The fact that this provided the formal training I already wanted and was so specific to the CDFI industry made it a perfect fit.
What were your expectations going into the program?
I expected lessons in leadership and opportunities for team building, collaboration, and brainstorming. Knowing this was OFN-led training, I knew that a major facet was going to be looking at the current state of CDFIs; exploring where we are going as an industry, and how leadership plays a crucial role in this direction. There were also some unknowns that I was excited about. Knowing there wasn't a completely set agenda in the beginning allowed for exploration and setting expectations for future iterations of the program.
Tell me about how you leveraged this opportunity as part of the inaugural class.
I was really excited about being a part of the inaugural group, because I knew that a lot of what we did, and the risks we were taking by going in blind, would be translated into a more formal curriculum going forward. For instance, a small group of Emerging Leaders started a leadership book club in the program, delving into some advanced leadership topics. For us, it was something we wanted to add to the training we were already receiving. And now it is a formal part of the program for this second year of leaders.
Can you share some of the most thought provoking moments from the program.
There were so many moments that really stayed with me. For me, I think one of the most poignant ones was recognizing my personal values and how they have shaped my decisions when it comes to work and personal life. This came about as part of an exercise where we explored the role of values in leadership. Each leader had to choose values that were the most meaningful to them and then prioritize them. As I came to the end of the process, to some degree I was surprised to see what I was choosing as my top two priority values. And then I thought about it and I gained insights into why I do the work that I do.
That was one of the best elements of the program. It allowed moments of reflection that you don’t get to do on a general day. It provided an opportunity to really consider what inspires and motivates you as a person and as a leader.
Tell me about how your cohort of Emerging Leaders worked together through the year. And have you kept in touch?
Actually, I had more than one network of leaders: I had a cohort network—all 20 Emerging Leaders; a book club network of four Emerging Leaders; and I also had a regional network—three of us Emerging Leaders in the San Francisco Bay area, who met regularly to have lunch. I feel lucky to have met my cohort members. We are all still in touch, and we are a very collaborative group. Working with them, I gained a circle of individuals in the industry that I really connect with, and that I know I can count on for advice. The book club is still active, in fact we have added a new member to our group; and my regional leadership network still meets regularly for lunch.
What impact has this program had in your career development and career aspirations?
I am a lot more aware of team dynamics and how everybody has a team personality. I understand now that this personality will guide their actions and how they communicate with each other. Understanding this underlying dynamic can create stronger teams when you realize how each person works and how they best work with one another.
I also feel that this program has changed my communication behavior. Communication is a big part of leadership and I am much more aware of how this plays out.
How has your opinion about leadership changed as a result of this program?
One of the interesting concepts that continually came up in the program is that a leader needs followers to be effective. It made me realize that a title doesn't make a person a leader. Leadership is more about getting the group buy in, getting others to hear your ideas and to take your advice. It made me realize that leadership can happen at different levels without the formal expected structure.