Roger Ferguson, head of TIAA CREFF, recently spoke at Darden on leadership. - The Daily Progress: Cbj

Friday, September 19, 2014

Roger Ferguson, head of TIAA CREFF, recently spoke at Darden on leadership.

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Posted: Sunday, February 9, 2014 6:00 am | Updated: 7:09 pm, Sun Feb 9, 2014.

Leadership can be distilled to four key elements, a leading financial services executive recently told students at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.

Roger Ferguson, president and CEO of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund, better known as TIAA-CREF, shared his approach to leadership with students last week as part of Darden’s leadership speaker series.

“I think about four different characteristics that leaders have: Expertise, appeal, empathy and fortitude,” Ferguson said. Expertise, he said, is the foundation upon which the other characteristics are built.

“Nobody wants to follow someone who’s a complete amateur,” Ferguson said. “Expertise strikes me as being a bedrock basis of leadership.”

As head of TIAA-CREF, Ferguson leads a company that has about 8,000 employees, serves about 4.8 million people and has about $564 billion in assets under management, according to the company’s website.

Appeal, he continued, is the ability to articulate a sense of vision. Without appeal, it’s hard to inspire followers if they have no sense of purpose. Good leaders also demonstrate and convey empathy. 

“You want to follow somebody that validates what goes on in your life,” Ferguson said. And finally, fortitude is essential to push through when the going gets tough.

“Everyone understands that the path is not always smooth … There will be challenges that come up in the back and forth of competition. I think most followers want to see their leader lead through with a degree of competence.”

In his former role as vice chairman of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve, Ferguson was the only board governor in Washington during the attacks of 9/11. In the midst of the fear, chaos and uncertainty, he made the tough decisions to keep the Fed open and functioning.

Margot Sakoian, a second-year Darden student who is slated to join JP Morgan in New York, said she felt inspired and confident following Ferguson’s talk, which touched on “very familiar” topics.

“It made me feel good about the real-life applicability of the things that we learn here,” Sakoian said.

Cyber-training returns

Piedmont Virginia Community College’s Analyst Boot Camp program is slated to return this month. The 10-week program provides students with the tools to be successful analysts in the intelligence community, Valerie Palamountain, PVCC’s dean of Workforce Services, said in an email.

The program is set to run from Feb. 24 to May 2. During the program, Palamountain said, the process will be initiated for students to receive a top-secret security clearance.

The training can position students for opportunities at places such as the National Ground Intelligence Center, although the PVCC program is not mandated for employees there.

Desired qualifications include at least a bachelor’s degree; strong public speaking, writing and Microsoft Office skills; and previous analytical experience. Students must be U.S. citizens and submit to a criminal background check. More information about the program is available by calling 961-5354 or emailing

Whiskey Jar accolade

Finally, if you’d like to take a break from the heavy topics of finance and cyber-security, consider heading down to the Whiskey Jar. Located on the Downtown Mall, the establishment recently was named one of the top 100 bars in the South by Southern Living magazine.

At the Whiskey Jar, patrons are most likely having “The Shallow South with Virginia made A. Smith Bowman bourbon, Laird’s apple brandy and peach and cherry bitters,” the magazine wrote in a web blurb. | 978-7243

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