By Rachel Hastings
25 May 2021
Success in today’s corporate environment demands constant evolution—a challenge that Eileen Mastrio has embraced throughout her career. For Mastrio, who is the head of financial advisors strategic initiatives marketing at MassMutual, Tuck’s Leadership and Strategic Impact Program (LSI) was a natural step on that journey.
“I am fortunate that MassMutual has a great commitment to personal development,” said Mastrio. “After completing my MBA, an executive certificate in organizational leadership, and becoming certified in Agile, I was looking for an executive program that would challenge my strategic leadership style.”
Tuck was already on Mastrio’s radar—her elder daughter, Elizabeth, graduated from Dartmouth in 2019, while her youngest, Julia, is a current first-year (her son, James, graduates this year from the University of New Haven)—so when she learned about the Leadership and Strategic Impact Program, it seemed like the perfect fit, and she quickly found that it provided just the push she’d been seeking.
“During the program we were challenged as leaders to have the courage to move way beyond our comfort zone,” Mastrio explained. “It’s about striking a balance to be true to yourself, to reconcile our yearning for authenticity in how we work and lead with an equally powerful desire to grow.” Mastrio noted that this theme came up during several sessions. During a breakout group, participants discussed the importance of maintaining coherence between their personal beliefs and their actions, even when it’s uncomfortable. “We spent a lot of time on leading in a crisis, which is certainly applicable to the pandemic,” Mastrio said. “Among the many strong leadership behaviors, we discussed being transparent throughout the process; even about what you know and what you do not know at that moment.”
The power of authenticity resonated throughout the week, particularly in Professor Ella L.J. Bell Smith’s session, "Exercising Your Leadership Muscles to Pay it Forward.” Mastrio was struck by how Smith created a safe space in which participants were able to share their experiences navigating race and gender in the workplace. “Her approach was so impactful to help us understand diversity and inclusion in the workplace and how, as leaders, we need to be examples of inclusion,” she said.
The candor of LSI professors and participants alike stood out to Mastrio as a key driver of the program’s success. In Professor Pino Audia’s sessions, participants examined their leadership style through 360-degree assessments, as well as through one-on-one conversations with Audia and other executive participants. Mastrio noted that, while she had completed other leadership assessments in the past, LSI pushed the analysis of the results a step further. “We were invited to hear honest observations from Professor Audia and others to help us see things that may have not been immediately visible to us at the time.” Each participant used them to develop a personalized action learning plan, as well as to build personal narratives about their career paths and next steps.
For Mastrio, those exercises were a strong starting point for ongoing development efforts. “I revisit my action plan often and even have small reminders around my workspace about what I need to be more aware of and work on,” she noted. Continued touchpoints with others in her LSI cohort have bolstered that work. “We were able to check in as a peer group after the program to see how we are doing on our plan,” Mastrio said. “We helped each other point out where we've grown and where we need to continue to work on our leadership styles.”
Mastrio also shared one piece of essential advice for future participants. “Your ability to be 100% engaged for the week will determine what you get out of the program,” she said. “I'm so grateful that MassMutual allowed me to put away my work laptop and really focus my attention on the program.”