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On Leadership with Shanna Hocking

Shanna Hocking, Associate Vice President, Individual Giving, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Intrigued by a review of the recently published “Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent” by Sidney Finkelstein, author and Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College, Shanna Hocking was “compelled” to read the book.

The book has been widely lauded as “one of the most important, groundbreaking, and actionable leadership books to hit the market in years.” In reading the book, Shanna found “validation” of her own philosophy on encouraging innovation and giving talent a chance to flourish in the workplace. She also found inspiration in Mr. Finkelstein’s insights (following a decade of research) into elevating your personal leadership, aka “superboss,” style.

At The Wharton School since 2009, Shanna expresses excitement about nurturing passion, dedication, and commitment in the next generation of advancement professionals. She calls passion a “real differentiator.” Other leadership attributes—strong communication and listening skills, creating trust, inspiring others—are important too. In Shanna’s view, passion is how to demonstrate that your work is personal to you and part of your drive to be a leader.

Having recently co-written an article on career development, the idea that no matter where you are in your career you can “lead from where you are” is central to Shanna’s career philosophy and the central message of the article. This means not waiting for a title, or for someone to bestow new authority. Start by bringing enthusiasm to what you do, support your colleagues, be curious, learn continuously, be generous with your time and talent, and raise your hand for new responsibilities. These things will not only set you apart, but are excellent practice for when you do get the chance to lead.

It’s also important for “an aspiring leader to know why they want to lead,” Shanna states. Leadership is not an easy role so, she advises, you need to be clear on your reasons. You have to really dedicate yourself to empowering others, making change, inspiring those around you, supporting a mission. By practicing those things now, not only will you be ready when the big job comes your way, but you’ll be recognized as one who is qualified to take that big job!

Introspection, or learning more about what kind of a leader you are, or might be, informs your self-understanding. Shanna cites an article she read in the Harvard Business Review, “Do Women Make Bolder Leaders than Men?” Particularly interesting to Shanna were the seven behaviors the researchers cited as the basis for the creation of the resulting “boldness index.”

“If that’s how you are going to define bold, then that’s the kind of leader I hope that I am…that I believe that I am,” she declares.

When it comes to her own tactics for encouraging leadership within her own team, Shanna says she likes to “put people directly into situations where they can learn.” Whether meeting internally with senior leadership, or externally with donors, the exposure to such situations encourages growth and self-confidence.

A comment on how such encouragement and confidence might be good for retention, Shanna counters, “Well, yes, but when that isn’t the result, then I’m just really proud of what they [staff] go on to do next.”

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Shanna Hocking is the Senior Director of Major and Planned Gifts at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Shanna leads the major and planned gifts program, guiding a team of gift officers in their fundraising and engagement strategies for alumni and friends of Wharton and serving as a senior fundraiser for the institution, working primarily with alumni in New York City and London. In addition, she directs Wharton Women in Leadership, an initiative to engage senior executive alumnae as volunteer and philanthropic leaders with the School, which she initiated and developed in 2011. Shanna has spent the last six and a half years at the Wharton School, starting as Senior Associate Director of Major Gifts before being promoted to the Director of Major Gifts and then to her current role.

Prior to relocating to Philadelphia, Shanna worked for the University of Alabama from 2004 to 2009 in progressively more responsible roles, ultimately serving as Director of Leadership Gifts for the Office of the Vice President. She also worked in development at Duke University and the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Shanna has held volunteer leadership positions with Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, Rotary International, University of Alabama Hillel, University of North Carolina Alumni Association and Junior League. She is currently a member of the board of directors at Temple Beth Hillel Beth El in Wynnewood, PA.

Shanna received a BA in Psychology from Columbia University and a BA in Modern Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary. She is a Certified Fund Raising Executive.


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