PwC executive concludes 2016-17 Penn State Smeal Executive Insights series

Andy Elder
March 03, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Smeal College of Business faculty, staff and students heard two executives’ interpretations of leadership and more during this semester’s Executive Insights lecture series.

Jim Flanagan, PwC vice chairman and U.S. managing partner who spoke Feb. 28, was the second speaker of the spring semester.

“(Be) genuine, truthful, direct. I think they are all critically important. People who try to be something they are not, you can’t be comfortable in your own skin. You need to be who you are,” he said.

The first speaker of the semester was Dr. Frank Alderman, the co-founder and CEO of MedExpress Urgent Care, who spoke earlier in February. He also talked about what he said he believes are the keys to effective leadership.

“My medical background and leading medical teams taught me you have to be a decision maker,” he said. “You have to lay out a vision. You have to have a strategy. You have to be able to articulate that and communicate that to your teams. You have to lead by example.”

Flanagan reassured the students in the audience that feelings of insecurity aren’t reserved for the young or inexperienced.

“Everybody at some level is insecure. If you’re not, then you have a different problem — you’re unaware,” he said.

That awareness, he said, enabled him to try to achieve a satisfactory level of work-life balance.

“At times along the way I did not have it right, in terms of that balance. It’s not like every day was a perfect day. I love our firm, I love our people, I love our clients, but I love my family more,” he said.

Alderman, who started his professional career as an emergency-room doctor before co-founding MedExpress to help correct problems he saw in the ER, said there are similarities between medicine and business.

“There are a lot of parallels. I don’t care whether it’s health care, retail or business, the nucleus, the core 80 percent that’s going to define your level of success, is hard work, vision, strategy, communication, leading by example,” he said.

Flanagan, when told of Smeal’s commitment to a culture of honor and integrity, said embracing those values would serve students well in the workplace.

“It’s not complicated if you constantly ask yourself that question, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ he said. “We preach that to people all the time, from the moment you join the firm. Integrity is critical to our firm and to our profession.”

Integrity, he said, led his firm to admit to a mistake in handing out award envelopes at this year’s Academy Awards.

“It’s our fault,” he said. “We simply made a mistake.”

PwC is the official accounting firm of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Smeal welcomed three other Executive Insights guests during fall semester: R.B. Harrison, chief omnichannel officer of Macy’s Inc.; Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation; and Ray Lane, former president and CEO of Oracle and the current managing partner at GreatPoint Ventures.

Now in its eighth year, Executive Insights is designed to complement the Smeal educational experience by bringing high-profile leaders to the college to connect with students, faculty and administrators. Past Executive Insights guests include dozens of leaders from organizations such as Archer Daniels Midland, BASF SE, Boeing, Credit Suisse Group, Dell, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Johnson & Johnson, Kohl’s, KPMG, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, PwC, Samsung, Siemens, Verizon, Tumi Holdings Inc., and Urban Outfitters.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 03, 2017