Ingredients Of Strong Business Leader? Toronto Exec Sean St. John, Others Share Insight

Posted on Jun 10 2019 - 7:23pm by Editorial Staff

Like a good coach, effective managers can see their employees from both a professional and personal point-of-view.  They are able to ask themselves, What is this person’s strongest attributes and skills? What do they excel at the most? What are their goals and aspirations?

Effective leadership goes far beyond understanding an employee based off of their performance review.  It requires having real conversations and getting to know them on a more personal level.  When it comes to cultivating a work culture that places people first, one thing is for certain, a paycheck isn’t the only incentive for employees to do their best work.  In fact, a Gallup poll found only 22% of employees strongly agree that their pay and incentives motivate them to do what is best for their organization.

As the Assistant VP of Talent Management and Corporate Communications at Combined Insurance, Melanie Lundberg believes a strong manager should be able to provide continuous coaching and feedback that helps an employee develop, grow, and achieve that next level of performance.

In a blog, Melanie wrote: “This requires open, honest conversations with the employee about what is working well and where there is opportunity to improve. As a manager, you should hope that every employee who is under your leadership learns something new about themselves, becomes a stronger professional, expands their responsibilities, is promoted, or transitions to a new role that may ultimately be a better fit for them.”

As executive vice president and co-head of Fixed Income, Currencies & Commodities at National Bank Financial in Toronto, Canada, Sean St. John has built successful banking career by employing a “people first” management style, one that focuses on the combination of the team to achieve great things.

His approach works.

Under Sean St. John’s leadership, National Bank has earned a reputation in the banking industry as a top-ranked underwriter in Canada, including ranking number one for government high-yield finance and Infrastructure finance.

When asked what management wisdom he would share with other leaders, St. John first response is to be generous with recognition.

“Everyone needs to know that they and their work are appreciated,” he says. “It’s very important to let employees and teams know that their efforts are being noticed. Encouragement and positive reinforcement are very positive things. They build morale and give employees reasons to feel good about their contributions to the company.”

Like St. John, Ross Cohen, COO of, can attest to the power of a simple, “thank you.”  Ross also says that good managers earn respect by staying humble. He writes: “They leave the ‘my way or the highway’ mentality at the door.. They also roll up their sleeves and work with the team by brainstorming and sharing ideas to work through complex issues. They foster an atmosphere where it’s not only acceptable, but desirable, for the team to ask a lot of questions. Great leaders are also honest about the fact that they don’t know every answer, and that they’ll know a lot more two years from now than they do today.”

In addition to staying grounded, effective leaders also recommend keeping a positive mindset at all times when working with staff.

“People in general are happier and often work more effectively when they’re in an environment that fosters positivity,” adds Sean St. John. “You’re spending at least eight hours a day at work, and probably more. You want people to be happy, give 100 percent to their work and feel good at the end of each day when they leave.” There’s no question: good leaders are born by great teams, and good teams are made great by excellent leaders. This give-and-take mentality will ultimately benefit the business overall.

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Editorial Staff at I2Mag is a team of subject experts.