Relationship-Oriented Leadership in Finance

Devika Jhunjhunwala is a Richmond alum who graduated in Spring 2019, and who currently works as a Senior Credit Analyst at Virginia Commercial Finance (VCF), VA. Speaking with Devika gave me important insights into the nature of leadership within the finance sector, an area that I was previously unfamiliar with. We discussed many topics including the organizational culture at VCF, specifics of Devika’s role, and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on VCF’s lending activities, among others.

I believe that Devika’s work at VCF and her experience with her coworkers there could best be captured by the distinction between task and relationship-oriented leadership behaviors. Much of Devika’s role as an analysis involves meeting and communicating with clients, reviewing their monthly financial statements, and advising them on financial matters. As she explains it, maintaining a healthy professional relationship with her clients forms a big part of her job. And even though some parts of her job require special technical and task-oriented skills, such as analyzing large amounts of data and singling out economic trends, she believes that her social skills play a far more important role in her overall dealings with the clients. Hence, Devika’s interactions with her clients lean more heavily on the relationship side of leadership behavior.

At VCF, Devika also oversees junior analysts and interns, whom she mentors and trains. Part of her duties in this role involves supervisory functions, but another part also involves getting to know her subordinates well and forming a strong working relationship with them in order to work together on company projects. She mentions that in light of the recent shift from office-based to remote work environment, the latter part of her duties has increased substantially. That is, part of her daily duties now also include setting aside some time every month or so for team bonding activities such as out-of-office lunches.

In light of COVID, however, all her work has shifted remotely. Hence, she told me that it has become difficult lately to form the same level of working relationships with her coworkers as she used to develop in-person. Despite this, as a team leader, she does her best to organize virtual gatherings such as Zoom lunches and breaks with her coworkers. Hence, even though COVID has impacted the balance between her relationship and task-oriented leadership behavior, she still does her best to make her leadership style as relationship-focused as she can.