When it comes to challenges in leadership, Jake Aguas has been there. Jake, a Vice-President for Washington Mutual in south Orange County, recalls his introduction to WaMu five years ago.
"When I first joined the bank, there was a financial center that had been underperforming. Morale was low, productivity was low, turnover was high, and employees didn't believe in themselves." He adds, "To top it off, at this point I knew nothing about banking - but it was my job to turn the situation around."
But some wise words from his regional manager still stick with him to this day: "He said, 'Right now, I don't need a banker; I need a leader. If you focus on being the best leader you can, you'll find you'll turn this place around and learn banking along the way.'"
From that experience, Jake realized the importance of developing people-oriented, values-based leadership skills. That's what led him soon after to join Biola's Masters of Organizational Leadership program.
In addition to being a husband and father, Jake has been managing and leading people for almost twenty years in different careers. He admits, "Ten years ago, I would have said that in the business world, it was only about results. There wasn't a lot of appreciation for the relationship side of business." Investing in the MOL helped him changed that approach.
Throughout my career I've found that there's a difference between good leaders and great leaders. Good leaders lead, but great leaders serve. The idea of a servant-leadership was what attracted me to the MOL program."
Part of the MOL's emphasis is redefining success as a reflection of biblical leadership principles rather than a drive for money and power. Jake's definition of success changed as he worked through the MOL as well. "I felt an enormous value and there were some critical things that I saw were essential for leaders that aren't taught in many MBA or MA programs."
Besides building on, developing, and applying his leadership skills at work through the MOL, Jake has also seen his involvement in the MOL allow him to share his leadership learning with others - close to home at Concordia University, as well as overseas at Bishop's College in Gloucester, England, where he spent time teaching leadership fundamentals, self-esteem & team-building. The MOL also opened up the door for Jake to be invited to be part of special projects at Washington Mutual providing leadership tools and training for high-talent employees. "It's definitely given me more credibility as a leader in the company - and it's made me a better husband, father, boss, friend, son, by keeping me focused on what's important. One of the biggest obstacles that many leaders face is being distracted and pulled into situations that may be morally compromising. Having a good biblical foundation week after week makes everything I do constantly brought back to, 'Is this something that would honor Jesus? Can people see Christ in me?'"
As for his challenging early days at WaMu, Jake recounts a happy ending: "The obstacle was believing in myself and trusting God to pull me through it. I started serving my employees by asking them, 'What's working here? What isn't? Will you be part of my team and help us with solutions?' We turned that operation around into a top performing financial center within a year."
"By serving as a leader, you get better results in the long run, and you get a satisfaction that you can’t just get by numbers. The MOL affords immediate application into all kinds of areas in life."