TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson: For Leadership Lessons, Read a Biography

"There's so much to learn by reading about how real leaders handled real challenges," writes Ferguson.

TIAA is No. 27 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list

(Originally published on LinkedIn)

I recently had the chance to hear two highly esteemed leaders speak about leadership. Both of them discussed their own experiences and shared their lists of the "essential qualities of good leaders." While each emphasized the importance of communication, their lists were otherwise very different.

Roger W. Ferguson, Jr.

I found this fascinating, and it underscored something I have long believed to be true: leadership is actually a very personal endeavor. There's no cookie-cutter approach or failsafe recipe to follow. The qualities that make a person a good leader will depend on his or her unique style and personality and on the specific nature of the environment in which they and their organization are operating. There are many roads to leadership success, because no two leaders, and no two organizations, are exactly the same.

I get asked all the time to recommend books about leadership. Certainly there's no shortage of business books on the topic, and there are a number of good ones out there. However, I tend to point people toward biographies. There's so much to learn by reading about how real leaders handled real challenges. A good biography gives insight into its subject's character and personality, explores the challenges and opportunities they faced, and shows how they were shaped by their life's journey. It illuminates how leaders are influenced by the broader social, political, and economic forces of their times.

Biographies also remind us that the path to becoming a strong leader is rarely straight or predictable. Ron Chernow's recently published biography of President Ulysses S. Grant is a great example. The book tracks Grant's journey from his Ohio boyhood to West Point to Civil War general to two-term president. But the book highlights Grant's failures as well as his successes, giving a strong sense of the up-and-down nature of his life. It's instructive to understand how he managed the setbacks and personal struggles he faced, from his earliest years up to his death, and still managed to have, as one review put it, "a transformative effect on his country's history."

Similarly, Helene Cooper's recent biography of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first democratically elected female head of state in African history, follows her evolution from "an ordinary Liberian mother of four boys to international banking executive, from a victim of domestic violence to a political icon, from a post-war president to a Nobel Peace Prize winner." It offers many leadership lessons along the way, especially about perseverance in the face of adversity.

I wish there were a roadmap to becoming a good leader. That would make the job so much easier. The truth is there's no one formula for success, but in the absence of a perfect "how-to" guide, biographies can be the next best thing.

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TIAA Names Lori Fouché as CEO of Retail & Institutional Financial Services

TIAA combines businesses to meet the evolving needs of customers through an integrated team

Originally Published by TIAA.

TIAA, a leading financial services provider, announced the appointment of Lori Fouché as Senior Executive Vice President and CEO of Retail & Institutional Financial Services, effective August 7. Fouché will report directly to TIAA President and CEO Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., and will serve as a member of the company's executive committee.

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TIAA Introduces TIAA Bank, Serving Consumer, Institutional and Commercial Clients Nationwide

TIAA acquired EverBank, a pioneer in direct banking, in June 2017. Building on EverBank's nationwide consumer and commercial platforms, TIAA Bank offers a full suite of financial products and services for consumer, commercial and institutional clients, furthering TIAA's mission to help clients achieve financial well-being up to and through retirement.

Originally Published by TIAA.

TIAA, a leading financial services provider, today announced the launch of TIAA Bank, bringing together EverBank and TIAA Direct under a new name and brand dedicated to helping clients reach their unique financial goals at every stage of their lives."

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TIAA Celebrates Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month by Addressing Overcoming Stereotypes​

One of the national events featured Amy Chua, Yale University law professor and New York Times best-selling author of multiple books including "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" and "The Triple Package," which is particularly relevant to the workplace and ERGs.



May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, which celebrates the history, heritage and contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month started in May 1979 as a week celebration, and in 1992, Congress passed a law that annually designates May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

To honor and recognize this heritage month and its employees with this heritage, the TIAA Asian-American professionals' Employee Resource Group (ERG), called Engage ERG, hosted events in multiple TIAA offices for employees to enjoy and learn more about the Asian culture. One of the national events the Engage ERG hosted was a speaker event on May 10 with Amy Chua, best-selling author of multiple books and law professor at Yale University. Amy Chua is well-known for her New York Times bestseller books, including "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" and "The Triple Package," which is particularly relevant to the workplace and ERGs.

The TIAA Engage ERG's motto, "loud & proud", was a theme in Chua's internal speaker event to TIAA employees. She shared her journey growing up with immigrant parents in the US, and how she felt like an outsider at school and work. She later used this feeling as a strength and it motivated her to be proud of her heritage; using her unique skills as a competitive advantage to connect with global issues.

As a part of this month's activities, TIAA employees were encouraged to stand "loud and proud" and be their authentic selves and deterring individuals from "being" what society expects them to be, and to let the workforce embrace all types of cultures, skills, strengths and backgrounds for the company's advantage.

Amy Chua's story and experience resonated with many of the over 380 TIAA employees who attended the event in conference rooms and on the phones nationwide. She encouraged employees to embrace their culture, and to not let their individuality hold them back simply because it is different.

"Although Amy talked a lot about the challenges and struggles of Asian Americans, I think these are struggles that everyone can relate to. Regardless of your race, gender, beliefs, or sexuality, we are all trying to fit in, trying to overcome stereotypes, trying to make our voices heard," said Wen-Fu Wu, National Co-Chair of the Engage ERG and Managing Director of Asset Allocation at TIAA. "Conversations like these really help us realize that we're all more alike than we are different, and ultimately bring the organization closer together."

Carolynne Singerman, the National Communications Chair of the Engage ERG and a Financial Services Consultant at TIAA, said what resonated with her the most was to realize that positive things can come out of terrible and misfortunate events. . "To me that means instead of looking at it as "why me?" look at it as a way to learn and grow." Singerman added, "I believe it is important to have cultural discussions in the workplace so that we, as employees, can embrace and respect our differences and that we all are human. This acceptance also projects through our business practices."

The TIAA Engage ERG started in 2015 and currently has 501 members. Its mission is to elevate the success of the firm by providing recognition, development, and networking opportunities, especially for Asian-American employees. The ERG hosted additional events this month, including another guest speaker, a kite festival in Denver, and a Dragon Boat festival in Charlotte.