The below interview with NSLS Vice President Tierney Wade was originally published in Authority Magazine.
Get outside of your own personal bubble: If you are a leader who is truly committed to building an inclusive and equitable society, it needs to start at home. Who do you surround yourself with socially? Has it been the same people for the last two, five or 10 years? How often are you introduced to new ideas, cultures and philosophies through your social or extracurricular activities? As a leader, you can’t create an inclusive and equitable office if you aren’t committed to doing so in your personal life.
As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tierney Wade. Tierney Wade is vice president of The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS). In this role, she is responsible for bridging the gap between the company’s visionary strategies and operational efficiency. Over the last 15 years, Tierney has assisted companies in the education industry by bringing business concepts to reality. In collaboration with the executive teams, Tierney has created and implemented organizational and operational infrastructure to systems and processes to accommodate rapid growth objectives. In her current position as vice president of the NSLS, Tierney plays a key role in how the organization engages and empowers more than one million students nationwide through its leadership program, with the sole focus of building leaders who make a better world.
Authority Magazine: Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Tierney Wade: I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my background and experience. Throughout my career, I knew I wanted to work with students to provide guidance and support as they navigate their way through their educational experience. As an immigrant, I learned at a young age the benefits of community programs. While well intentioned, my parents had limited experience with the American educational system. The public schools I was ushered through leaned more heavily on test scores and less on guidance counseling, so it was up to me to figure out my future. That unfortunate experience left an imprint on me, so it is no surprise the last 15 years of my career have been focused on working with organizations that educate students on the things they don’t often learn in school. This includes college preparedness, test prep and leadership programming — all of which fall under ancillary education that, as was the case for me, is often ignored or underserved.
AM: Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
TW: If you had asked this question a few months ago, you would have gotten a completely different answer. Alas, we are in the middle of a global pandemic, which impacts every single person and every business, large or small, around the world. Whether you own a small mom-and-pop shop or run a large Fortune 500 firm, you must learn to “pivot” your business in order to survive. To pivot effectively, leadership must be creative, agile and, most importantly, be of service. Now, more than ever, a leader is called to think beyond their industry experience and to anticipate the needs of people on a human and an emotional level.
Like anyone during this time, your team is experiencing the pains and frustrations of life during COVID-19. At the onset of the pandemic, our organization made an early call to go fully remote. We provided “work-from-home” workshops, shared benefits for healthy living while working remote and promoted social virtual hours before these terms became common. The emphasis was, and remains, on communication, whether it is instructional or simply to provide support and reassurance. It is moments like this that truly reveal the character of a company and those who lead it. I never forget that for a second.
As vice president of the NSLS, I work alongside a highly strategic and innovative executive team. To support our university partners and students, we quickly adapted to create a Live Online experience, mimicking that of the campus experience — and we did it in a tactical and precise manner. We used our technological platform to offer a free “Lead from Home” series, where our chapter and student leaders across the nation could learn from leading industry experts in the medical, financial and education fields.
While the COVID-19-driven transition had its stresses, it was wonderful to see our employees in every department working hard and working quickly to accommodate all the changes. Without the work put in by the staff, our plans remain just that — plans.