Chris Habib

Chris Habib knew from the start of his student career at Virginia Tech that he wanted to join the Pamplin College of Business. He spent his first year enrolled as Business Undecided, but after spending some time learning about the different career paths available through the school, he was really drawn to the Financial Planning program. By the end of his Sophomore year, he was enrolled in the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) program, which will allow him to test for and earn his CFP license upon graduation.

During that first year as a student at Virginia Tech, Chris knew that he wanted to get involved. He loved being a part of Student Council in high school, especially the event planning aspects, so when he learned about the Pamplin Leadership Development Team (PLDT), he was hooked. “I knew that I wanted to have a leadership role one day and PLDT seemed like the perfect place to find that and apply my skills.” After his first year on the team, he ran for Treasurer and never looked back. He held the role for two years and is now preparing for graduation.

He shared his insights on what makes a great leader. “To me, leadership is about bringing out the best in people. I think there are a lot of times where people have talents and skills that they themselves don’t necessarily recognize and I think that it’s up to you as a leader to help them search within themselves and discover what drives them. You also really need to understand how to bring the pieces together from different people, different talents, and to bring these people closer together as a team.”

He finds that this definition is “most applicable in the workplace, especially in the financial planning world is how I apply it specifically.” He explained the hierarchy of a financial planner’s office: The Director networks and brings in new clients, Senior Management manages the relationship with the client, the Manager does most of the work with the client, the Associate does the technical analysis, and Client Services manages the paperwork. “As a leader, you have to understand how each personality and workstyle meshes together with the team.”

He says that some of the best leaders are “a little bit outspoken”. “I’ve found that leaders who are able to walk into a room and have that presence…the ones who can say ‘follow me, I can take you to the next step’ are really important.” He also emphasizes good writing skills, especially “being able to synthesize a lot of information that you need to relay into a very short and concise email or memo, whatever it may be, while still conveying the message.”

As a leader, Chris has faced many challenges, such as finding the best ways to motivate people, especially those who are not contributing to the goals of the team. “My biggest challenge then is finding the proper way to handle those situations. You have to understand everyone’s personalities and realize that not everyone is going to respond well to severe criticism…you need to look deeply into people and learn how they are going to respond to your criticism and find the best way to help them get back on track.”

“All in all, leadership at its core is learning to strike the right balance between ‘how do I get these people to respect me and follow what I’m saying, while still being able to relate to them, and truly believe that I’m one of them. When some leaders aren’t respected, they can either be way too hands-off and just not command respect of the room, or be way too hands-on and try to micromanage people so everyone hates them because they just want them to leave them alone. It’s trying to strike that balance is the core of what separates out the best leaders.”

We wish Chris the very best of luck as he approaches graduation. He plans on relocating to California where he will pursue a career in Financial Planning. We know you’ll do great things!


Post written by Ms. Mary Callihan, President, Pamplin Leadership Development Team