‘It Starts With People’: How to Grow Into an Influential and Inspirational Leader

Sponsored by Capital Group

Donna Rogers. Photo courtesy of Capital Group.

Donna Rogers. Photo courtesy of Capital Group.

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June 19, 2024 at 10:9AM UTC

To understand what makes Donna Rogers, Client Services senior manager for Shareholder Services at Capital Group,  such a great leader, we have to reflect on her childhood.

“My parents were always available to support others,” Rogers tells us. “They were very charitable and civic-minded leaders.” Rogers remembers how her parents were always helping other families with food, shelter and wisdom. “It was an example of their faith in action,” she says. “Faith is a strong pillar for me, too, and I’m guided by it.”

As for their professional lives, Rogers notes that both parents rose to leadership levels. “My mom became a part of the executive leadership team at the organization she worked for, and it was amazing to see her operate in that space and see the level of respect and responsibility she earned,” Rogers shares. “She carried herself in a regal manner. My dad was grounded, humble and well-respected. I was raised to work hard and serve. It felt right to me. It felt natural.” 

These strong values of supporting and helping others have defined Rogers’ role as a manager to this today. Over her 23 years at Capital Group, Rogers has held multiple management roles. And through it all, her devotion to empowering others has shined through.

“I strongly believe that your team is a reflection of you; and how your team operates is a reflection of the leadership,” she tells us. “I love taking on situations where someone may be struggling in their role or battling the imposter syndrome and helping them uncover their superpowers. If I'm able to do that, I'm helping them as a person, which will help them as a leader, which, in the end, helps Capital Group as an organization.” 

In her current role, supporting others is the core of everything Rogers does. “My main responsibility and passion are to develop, support and lead my people,” Rogers explains. “I try to stay engaged at every level: coaching, developing and helping others reach their full potential. I strive to create an environment where associates feel valued, where they can contribute, where they can bring their authentic selves to work every day and where they can contribute to the business goals.” 

As a leader responsible for supporting, training and cultivating other leaders, Rogers is cognizant of focusing on the human side. “I think we should start with the person, and if we use a human-centric approach, we will ultimately meet our goals,” she says. 

And Rogers’ positive influence doesn’t stop with her team. “I’ve been involved in developing programs for emerging leaders, advancing racial equity and planning and facilitating forums for leaders and associates to come together and share experiences,” she reveals. “I help ensure there are proper forums for associates to share their voices and gain support in navigating through challenges within their work or social environment. My focus is always on getting to know the people I work with and understanding the objectives we’re all trying to meet.”

To learn more about how Rogers acts as such an inspirational and motivational leader, we asked about her top advice for leaders and how she supports others — both in and out of her day-to-day role. Here’s what she had to say. 

Let’s start with your leadership lessons. What are some of your driving principles as a leader today?

Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders, not power and control. If it’s just about you, it ends with you. If it’s bigger than you, it transcends you. 

I have four principles I follow when it comes to my own leadership. The first is to have a purpose. Your team is a reflection of you. When you have a purpose, you can be a source of inspiration and confidence. 

The second is to develop courage. Ambiguity can be intimidating, but it’s important to embrace it. Yes, barriers exist, but don’t allow those barriers to paralyze your ability to move forward. 

My third principle is to embrace humility. We build power by serving others. We must glean the real needs of the organization and galvanize others to do the same. Empower others. Build trust. Trust is a game played on the ground. 

My last principle is to be strategic. Remember that building your network increases your resources and business acumen. 

What’s one particularly effective strategy you’ve used when managing an individual or team? 

Uncovering motivators and understanding true passions. In doing so, you might find opportunities to leverage their key drivers. 

Also, don't be afraid to take risks. As a leader, I’ve learned how to be comfortable with allowing others to take on more responsibility and take their own risks. 

A pivotal point early in my career was when one of my managers gave me a challenging assignment that probably was more suited to her role. It was a high-risk, very visible project, and my manager gave me the opportunity to lead the effort. At that time, I think she had more confidence in me than I had in myself. She really stretched me and helped give me confidence and the freedom to fulfill the task, as well as rally the team around the effort and move it forward. She was there to support me. And after I was able to get it underway, I saw what she had done — she took a calculated risk — and I realized I could do the same. 

If there’s an opportunity to take calculated risks on people to help develop them, we should take that opportunity. We have to allow space for people to learn and fail. We can take all of that, and then we can pay it forward. It's a cycle of learning and growth. 

I do this at Capital Group. My approach is to have a meeting of minds — to set clarity around objectives. It's so important to make sure objectives are clear and ensure mutual understanding. Once the set objectives and desired outcomes are clear, we can move forward. I want to hear their voices, ideas and definitions of what success looks like and how that will be measured. 

I try to make room for individuals to operate and lead. I want them to feel confident while knowing I’m there for guidance and support. It only gets better over time — until they’re flying on their own

What’s the No. 1 thing you hope your direct reports are getting out of working with you?

I hope they understand the importance of hearing every voice. I participated in Stanford’s Black Leaders Program, and one thing that really resonated with me was the importance of using my voice. My voice is unique — no one else has the same sentiment, experience or thought. If I'm not using my voice, I'm doing the organization a disservice. It’s important for leaders to make room for all voices to be heard.

How do you strive to be a service- and civic-oriented leader outside of Capital Group?

I’ve served on the board for Seton Youth Shelters and SAMMinistries. Both nonprofit organizations address the needs of our homeless community and those individuals needing a second chance and support to reintegrate. Volunteerism is important to me, whether that’s providing for the homeless on the street or participating on a nonprofit board to advocate and support. Like me, my children were raised with a charitable 

mindset, knowing we take nothing for granted and we always help those in need. It brings me so much joy to see my young, adult children living their faith in action, like our prior generations, as they fulfill their careers and life pursuits. Helping others not only brings joy and balance, it helps me be mindful that when you strip the title away, we are all human and connected, having more in common than we allow ourselves to recognize. I like to think of it like an analogy; we’re all one of the pieces of fabric needed to make a beautiful quilt.”

Throughout your work, how have you helped young and aspiring leaders, particularly women, start to grow and have the confidence to find their own voice?

I have a dialogue. I encourage others to ask for feedback. If we just ask for feedback, we can learn a lot about ourselves and how others see us. 

I love this exercise: On the left side of the paper, list words you’d like others to use when describing you as a leader. Then solicit feedback from others by asking how they would describe you as a leader and write those words on the right side of your paper.

Understand your baseline and where you are today. Have the conversation with the people you regularly interact with and allow them to really share with you. From that, you will learn some pretty significant things that will increase your confidence and highlight areas to focus on developing. Really dig in. Start with you. Understand where your strengths lie, where you think they lie and what others see in you. 

Also, remember that successful leadership can look different from person to person. We all bring our unique styles and personalities. Each of us appeals to different people in different ways, but there are always commonalities that we can find in order to help each other. 

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