Maria Ramsay’s career has followed a winding path. First, she spent years in healthcare working as a registered nurse. Although she loved helping her community, the shiftwork took its toll. That drove her to explore the possibility of transitioning into healthcare management. She was excited by the prospect of influencing operations and made the move into managerial roles.
From there, she shifted gears again and started doing government work for the New Plymouth District Council before joining the TOI Foundation, which reduces economic and social inequality in the Taranaki region of New Zealand. After serving for 10 years as trust manager, Ramsay became the foundation’s Chief Executive Officer.
As CEO, she combines her love of leadership with her passion for serving her community. She recently took the time to share how her participation in Columbia Business School Executive Education’s Advanced Management Program helped her learn to be a value-driven, authentic leader.
There were excellent people in the Advanced Management Program. Because we all came from such diverse backgrounds, our work together taught us to look at things through different lenses. I’m still in contact with several people from my cohort, even though we completed the program in 2019. We have a WhatsApp group that we use to communicate. I also stay in touch with several lecturers from the program. I still have regular catch-ups with some of them, which is excellent.
There were a couple of sayings from the faculty that stuck with me. One of those sayings was, “Deposit a grain of sand that will grow a pearl of wisdom.” This means that if you want to make a change, you have to allow things to evolve, taking time. Before I participated in the program, I was someone who tried to implement my ideas immediately and would rush things through.
One of my biggest takeaways was to consider authenticity. I learned to look at the foundation’s brand and whether or not it indeed showed what we were about within our community and whether it represented us accurately.
I also learned the importance of being clear about what you want to do. You must have a vision and then develop a process to move forward. For me, it was about bringing people along the journey of change. We’re an organization that’s growing and evolving quickly. We give out around $24 million a year, which is quite a large amount of money for a small population of 120,000. We need to think carefully about what we’re doing. If we want to have a profound impact, we have to consider future generations.
The Advanced Management Program taught me that you need to be focused and that you shouldn’t have a complete scattergun approach. Another thing I took away from it was the importance of being values-based in everything you do. That requires thinking about your leadership style and your organization’s values and then leading authentically.
The program is appropriate for anyone in a senior leadership role, particularly in industries or organizations experiencing growth and change. I believe that it’s really valuable. As far as the individual participant goes, they need to be open to challenges and different ways of doing things.
Columbia Business School Executive Education’s program gives you space to sit back and reflect on your leadership style, how you work, and how to get the best out of people and yourself. You reflect on yourself first in this program. You find your weaknesses and strengths, learn how to capitalize on the strengths, address some of the shortcomings, and improve. My advice to anyone considering enrolling would be to go for it. Definitely go for it.
The Advanced Management Program by Columbia Business School Executive Education builds its curriculum on three pillars: leading authentically, thinking strategically, and executing dynamically. In over 50+ sessions, it explores novel approaches to leadership, innovation, alignment, and strategy. If you are a senior executive seeking a perspective-shifting experience, the Advanced Management Program may be the right fit for you. Apply today.