After Earlham, Joe Hedrick earned his M.B.A. at Duke University, and began his banking career with Chase Manhattan Bank in New York. At State Street Corporation, he has worked for a number of years on risk and compliance issues. That background made him a natural choice for his current role as the trust bank's chief ethics officer. This is an expanded version of an interview that appeared in Earlhamite magazine.
How did you get into the financial field?
Via a circuitous route to say the least. I majored in Economics, and was on what was called the management or business track. During my time as a student, I worked as an electrician in the maintenance department. I continued that work for about a year or so after graduation. I then spent some time in Berkeley, California with Will Ault Brinker '74 running a very small contracting business. I then came back to Earlham and worked for maintenance again on the HVAC team. My girlfriend, Lisa Smith '77 had started law school at Duke, and I would drive to North Carolina to visit her. Early on, I met a guy who was in his first year at the business school. I was flipping through a few of his textbooks and said to myself, "I've seen this stuff before, I think I could do this." So I earned an M.B.A. at Duke. Lisa finished law school and got a job in the District Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, and I got a job at Chase Manhattan Bank.
What do you think makes a good leader?
Throughout my career I've worked for many managers, but few leaders. A leader is one that inspires. A really good leader conveys a clear and strong sense of the direction the organization is moving, and does so in a way that people are excited and want to do what it takes to achieve that vision. On a more day-to-day level, one of my former managers, a person I deeply respect, used to say that a good leader communicates and over communicates. People who work for me want to know what's going on, what's coming down the road, and how it may affect them. So I work hard to explain what my plans are and how they will be involved in the decision-making processes.
How do think your Earlham education affected your approach to leadership?
In my role as the Ethics Officer, I've sometimes thought, "Oh, I guess I should have taken that ethics course or that Quakerism course," but I think that there are a lot of things about Earlham's approach that have stuck with me. In my work, we deal a lot with shades of gray, so I find it very helpful to try to reach consensus among my team on various issues. Talking through issues as a team means that even if a member of the team disagrees with the final decision, at least they feel that they had some input. It is important for leaders to let people know that their opinions are valued. Similarly, the ethics team works closely with, and relies on other business areas to achieve its goals. Therefore, consensus building with those areas is critical to the team's success.
In what other ways did Earlham prepare you for your career?
I would like to think I developed a capacity for critical thinking. I may not be an expert on every aspect of our business, but I need to understand enough so that I can talk intelligently with portfolio managers, for example. I've found that people have little time for people who don't have an appreciation of what they do. My Earlham education gave me the skills to be able to become conversant in areas that are not my expertise.
Another thing about my time at Earlham that was very important was foreign study. I spent the fall of my senior year on an Earlham program in Edinburgh, Scotland. That experience opened my eyes to the world in a way no textbook could have. It was the first time I had traveled outside the United States, and it helped me to develop a level of cultural awareness and sensitivity that has been crucial as I have traveled on business to Europe and Asia. One could make the case that the State Street I joined a number of years ago was a U.S.-centric company. That is clearly not the case today.
What's your idea of a great day off?
I like to be physically active, so I really enjoy hiking, biking and skiing.