The Catalytic Corner Interview
Featuring: Amanda Legler
“No I cannot forget where it is that I come from
I cannot forget the people who love me
Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be”
(I Was Born In A) Small Town.
What was your journey from your small high school to SYM Financial?
My hometown is really small, about 1000 residents, so we just have one school system that I followed from grade school through high school. I then pursued my undergraduate degree at Purdue University and furthered my education with a master’s degree. I’m also a CFP® practitioner. I’m so happy I made it to SYM.
What early experiences shaped your view of leadership?
My basketball coach, Mick Benner, was really big into preaching the importance of roles and personal accountability – letting us know that not everyone can be the leading scorer. I happened to be a rebounder, a defensive specialist: a role that isn’t going to show up in the box score or the local newspaper highlights.
He would sit us down after practice and talk to us about roles and accountability. He would point to someone and say “Amanda your job is rebounding and defense. That is your role and that is what I need you to do and you need to be accountable for that role.”
I was raised with the mentality that hard work is more important than a title or being the star. The person who was hired to clean the hallways is an important part of the team, as is the CEO. They have different duties and responsibilities and regardless we should always treat everyone with respect.
How would you describe your leadership style?
It’s hard to describe. I’m not sure why but at Purdue we had a leadership class and, long story short, out of the two hundred plus kids enrolled I was elected President of the class. I just feel like leadership is something that I don’t necessarily try to do but I just think that my values and my beliefs lead me in that direction. I want to help and support. I would say that I’m a very servant leader. A lot of my job involves training and mentoring, so I always try to encourage others along their growth path. I’m approachable and can be highly interactive with others. I think that helps others to be comfortable in asking me questions and seeking advice.
How would you describe your family impact on your approach to work?
One thing that sticks out in my memory is that my dad would always tell me to take pride in what you do. If you are going to do something you do it to your maximum level, you don’t start something unless you plan to finish it.
My mother taught me perseverance as she went back to school after having children to become a respiratory therapist. What a testament to hard work in the midst of child-rearing duties! My dad is a diesel mechanic with some serious side-hustle, so I can relate to a lot of my clients because many of them own small businesses. Everyone in our town will bring whatever they need fixed to his home. It’s really great and inspiring to see because he’ll help someone regardless of their financial means. He has this really cool, unique community where maybe someone can’t afford to pay him but their kids will bring over fresh baked cookies. His lasting impact and something that he instilled in me was to always help people regardless of their situation. The currency doesn’t always have to be in dollars.
Have you had any moments when your view of yourself dramatically changed?
Many young people go through experiences similar to mine that really alter their view of themselves. Likely it is the first time that we begin to ask: Who am I? As a child it’s common to categorize ourselves by labels or descriptions that are based upon our achievements. These are often stripped away when we widen our community and perspectives. Moving from a very small town, to a small university, and finally landing at a large university allowed me to recognize my value beyond a certain skill set. It also led me to associate my identity with more than just accomplishments.
I’ll share an example of a story at Purdue. I took a theater drafting course without having any idea what I was signing up for. If you’ve ever seen a blueprint, I was making something similar in that course. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and wanted a good grade so I spent a lot of time learning how to do it. I vividly recall that in front of classmates I started crying because my professor critiqued me: my line was too thick. Not exaggerating I started crying over a line that was too thick! I look back and that was a very pivotal moment in my life because I think at that point academics came so easily to me and I was not used to failing. I was so used to just achieving things so easily that I realized that my identity was wrapped around a worldly achievement. I worked really, really hard, and my professor was telling me that it wasn’t good enough.
I had a lot of “failure” moments during my early 20s which up until that point was a foreign concept to me. Experiencing failure led to a lot of personal growth and a reframing of my perception of my worth. This change was crucial to me being who I am today even though it was difficult to walk through. I learned that my value lies in being a child of God, not necessarily being perfect at everything I do.
Are there other examples from your life that speak to the catalytic or team approach you take?
At SYM, some people are very vocal leaders while others just tend to lead by example. I think even someone who doesn’t have a specific title can lead their co-workers. For example, there’s one person named Sydney Cale within our organization who is such an outstanding asset to SYM. She is someone who encourages others and builds them up. She takes the time to teach and mentor other individuals inside and outside of work. I know for me she is someone that I know I can go to and who will speak truth to me and kind of gently lift me up. I really believe that you can lead from the bottom and that you don’t necessarily have to have a formal title to lead and impact others.
You’re also a relatively new mom! How has that changed you in the way you are interacting with others and being catalytic?
Great question and yes. I think having a child definitely changes you! I would say the one thing that stands out to me is just having more grace with people. As someone with a type A personality I tend to be very black and white, which is not really the way the world works. So having that newborn in your house and literally not sleeping for three months straight has just made me realize that when you’re driving down the road and someone cuts you off, maybe that’s a new mom who hasn’t slept in three months and didn’t mean to. Just extending that grace to people is so important. Be quick to forgive and acknowledge that you don’t know what’s going on in a person’s life at any particular moment.
What is your advice for young professionals?
I would encourage them to think like and act as a servant leader from wherever they are: I think that’s something that anyone can do. Actions speak so much louder than words. I encourage everyone to take on work, learn every day, to grow professionally and personally. As a young professional, this is a great time in your life when you have opportunity to embrace and learn from the mistakes that you are sure to make. Be an encourager because people matter at the end of the day. If you have those bigger picture things in mind, those values and those goals, then that is what’s going to lead you to success. I think that’s why SYM is successful because we’re full of people who deeply hold our values to their heart, genuinely. That’s what matters.
This Catalytic Corner interview is written by Jerry Toomer and Julia North of The Catalyst Effect, LLC. For additional information and interviews see: thecatalysteffect.org
Do you know someone who has a catalytic impact on your team (s)? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your ideas!
Disclosures: SYM is an independent investment adviser registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about SYM including our investment strategies, fees, and objectives can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available upon request. SYM-20-110