“Adversity and tragedy can be defining moments in a leadership journey,” says Wilson Friestad. Referring to his own pivotal experience, the Fairfax, VA, native who now calls Washington, DC, home recalls what he learned when his father passed away from cancer in 2018.
“Hearing stories and anecdotes at his funeral from his friends and colleagues at the Securities and Exchange Commission, where he served for 22 years, left an indelible mark on my understanding of leadership,” Friestad says. He remembers hearing how his father was revered for leading with great integrity, mentoring others, championing the accomplishments of his team, and being a dear and distinguished friend. “I am incredibly proud of my father’s public service and dedication to protecting the U.S. securities markets, and I use his strong example as a guide for my own leadership.”
Practicing leadership has become nothing less than central to his own professional life.
Having graduated from UVA with a B.A. in Economics, Friestad also chose to pursue a minor in Leadership at the Commerce School during his time on Grounds. He explains that Economics provided him with a framework for evaluating the choices, trade-offs, and consequences arising from the need to allocate limited resources. “Economics also offers insights into how policies, incentives, and institutions shape economic outcomes and provides a basis for informed decision-making by individuals, businesses, and governments,” he says.
A Major and Minor in Harmony
In combining his chosen major with the lessons of the minor, he took advantage of a complementary pair of curricula that supported what he learned at both the College and McIntire, teaching him how to assess a situation, analyze data and trends, and reach a conclusion. “If my Economics major taught me the ‘what,’” Friestad says, “the Leadership Minor taught me the ‘how.’”
Now an Analyst at financial services consultancy Patomak Global Partners, Friestad says a good deal of his work involves collaborating with financial institutions to respond to regulatory enforcement actions.
“During these projects, I draw on lessons learned during the Leadership Minor, such as understanding and balancing the different, and sometimes competing, interests of stakeholders. I am also keen to remember tenets of good followership, such as being trustworthy and accountable, so as to best support my colleagues overseeing the engagements,” he says.
Lasting and Relevant
Those important concepts he took from the minor provided Friestad with an avenue to understand his own personal leadership style, and he explains that having the opportunity to reflect on and write about it was a transformative experience.
“The ‘Me as a Leader’ paper forced me to consider my core values, influential experiences and individuals, strengths, and areas for improvement,” he says. “The result of this paper was the creation of my guiding leadership principles, what I call my three M’s: master your craft, mirror greatness, and make decisions with confidence.”
Friestad was equally satisfied by the Leadership Practicum he took with McIntire Professor Paul Seaborn and explains that hearing the personal leadership journeys from the course’s many guest speakers, which included [solidcore] CEO Bryan Myers (McIntire ’09) and UVA Women’s Basketball Head Coach Amaka “Mox” Agugua-Hamilton, proved to be a powerful learning experience.
“Our class also had the opportunity to conduct a leadership advisory project with a real-world organization. My group paired with the Virginia Basketball Academy and analyzed an end-of-season parent survey to provide the CEO with trend analysis and insights on how the league could be improved,” he says, mentioning other notable projects with King Family Vineyards, Crozet Pizza, and UVA Recreation.
As he continues advancing in his career, he insists that the positive attributes he’s taken from the Leadership Minor cannot be overstated.
“Put simply, the demand for high-quality leadership is universal. No matter the country, the industry, or the profession, there will be leaders to whom people look to for direction and inspiration. The McIntire Leadership Minor will teach you how to grow into this role,” says Friestad. “I can say without hyperbole that pursuing it was one of the best decisions I made at UVA.”