SAM Series: Visionary


Matt Andrews, Staff Writer

Whitney DeSanti, a store team leader for Simpsonville’s Target store, delivered a speech on leadership and the importance of personal growth and development to students. The meeting, held in Room 108 of Jacobs Hall at 4:30 p.m., offered the Society for the Advancement of Management (SAM) members and various students and faculty a new perspective on leadership. DeSanti completed Target’s leadership program as a requirement for her current role as store team leader, and shared with guests the importance of a leader’s vision to guide others from a current to desired state. She equally stressed the value in facilitating development in others, and provided practical tips for attendees to impact others in their own lives. Leveraging the valuable knowledge acquired from completing Target’s leadership program, DeSanti used her leadership skills to inspire the audience to become leaders themselves.

DeSanti opened her lecture by providing background information to connect with the group; DeSanti decided to take a position with Target after unnamedseveral years of switching jobs. This choice was a pivotal moment in her life, jump-starting her future career in leadership development. Six years and three positions later with the company, DeSanti earned her current role of team leader through hard work and outstanding people skills, which were further refined through Target’s development program.

The conversation then segued into DeSanti describing the tenants that shape Target’s leaders.  She listed them as Culture, Accountability, Boldness, Curiosity, and One Team. Target’s environment encourages its leaders to be bold and challenge the status quo with novel processes and techniques to create a culture of accountability and teamwork for its employees. Leaders that complete the development program not only improve skills in the competencies listed above, but they also further refine their interpersonal and communication skills with people.

After describing the leadership program, DeSanti offered further advice on how attendees can personally develop skills in their own lives. She stressed the importance of leadership as an active choice made every day; it requires personal growth and sharing knowledge with others. Change begins with self-change, which is why DeSanti recommended seeking out a mentor for guidance. Once a solid foundation has developed, then the leader can be a mentor to others, creating a culture of coaching that can be passed on to equip others to be better leaders.

So how does this leadership lecture apply to students not involved in business? While business students often study leadership to inspire their employees, there is value in the idea of shaping others to be successful workers for other fields. The first field to analyze is the trade and artisan industry.

During the Middle Ages, skilled workers were heavily respected and vital to the Medieval economy. These artisans knew that to meet demand and to create a legacy for their business, they needed to train up others in the field. Thus, guilds were created where apprentices were assigned to masters to learn the craft. These masters were leaders in their fields, sharing their expertise to prepare the next wave of craftsmen. This tradition is still alive today, with many artisans coaching apprentices to achieve their career or leadership goals. Modern examples would be a watchmaker or furniture maker.

Leadership is also evident within religious organizations as well. One pastor who perfected this model of leading is Andy Stanley. Stanley formed North Point church in Atlanta, Georgia, whose vision was to be a church for the unchurched. He effectively cast this dream to his congregation, equipping and mobilizing them to be missionaries in their everyday lives.  This resulted in incredible growth, allowing the church to become a multi-campus organization throughout the metropolitan area. Many pastors follow this leadership model. While the pastor cannot bring in many people to a congregation alone, he or she can equip their laypeople to be hospitable and purpose driven leaders like the religious elders to grow the church.

In conclusion, leadership starts with personal development of achieving a desired state, and then evolves into equipping and helping others reach their goal. This concept is not only valuable within the business world, but can be applied to all areas of study. All fields can benefit from a leader refining personal skills and then facilitating this same growth in others; the roles will change with the novice becoming the the coach one day.  So whether it is a lobbyist attempting to increases followers for a platform, or an x-ray technician coaching the skills needed to be successful, a leader who develops not only themselves, but also inspires others creates a legacy.  These leaders are remembered for being visionary.