Transformational change of traditionally underserved communities requires vision and commitment. It calls for visionary leaders. Leaders like our honoree, Ileana Musa.
As the Co-Head of International Wealth Management and the Head of International Banking & Lending at Morgan Stanley, Ileana Musa has had the opportunity to support not just the company’s clients, but a community that has played a key role in who she is and what she stands for. Her untiring work ethic comes from a hardworking mother who made it possible for Ileana and her two siblings to get an education they could thrive on.
In addition to being a member of several management committees at Morgan Stanley, Ileana co-chairs the enterprise Latino Employee Network, is part of the Girl Scouts National Board (GSUSA), sits on the Corporate Advisory Boards of the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA), and was one of Latino Leaders magazine’s ‘Top 100 Most Influential Latinas’ in 2020.
For relentlessly working towards paving new paths for women and girls and championing inclusion at every organization where she’s worked, the Red Shoe Movement honors Ileana Musa with the 2021 Hall of Fame.
Ileana Musa’s Impact on Communities Through Diversity
RED SHOE MOVEMENT – Tell us about your role at Morgan Stanley and the ways in which it has helped you give back to your community and create a more diverse workforce.
ILEANA MUSA – I’m Co-Head of International Wealth Management and the Head of International Banking & Lending. In these roles, I lead the segment and strategy that focuses on Morgan Stanley’s International Client Advisors and international clients that reside around the globe. Helping them build, preserve and manage their wealth, and pursue financial goals and a strong family legacy.
I was recently asked to join the Morgan Stanley Foundation Advisory Board, which focuses on children. I’m inspired by the work and impact the Foundation has done with communities around the world, through long-term collaboration with employees, and through long-term delivery to find effective and impactful solutions.
I also have the privilege of co-chairing and leading the Latino Employee Network, with over 2K members. This provides a network to both Latinos and non-Latinos to capitalize on Latino talent, doing more for both our clients and our communities.
RSM – Which of the values and principles you were raised on would you say have served you best to affect transformational change? What unique assets does your personal experience help you bring to the table?
IM – I was raised by a single mother who worked multiple jobs to make ends meet but her passion for learning, education and her perseverance taught us the value of a strong work ethic. She was a true role model, returned to school to pursue a degree at almost 70 and ensured all three of us graduated from college. My family and culture influenced me greatly. My personal mantra is, take personal risks regularly, never hesitate to ask for help, and use your influence to serve others and not to take from them.
Read about another Hall of Famer's community involvement
Habits that Contribute to Transformational Change
There is also a philosophy and a ritual of good habits that I have learned to practice. There are five points I want to highlight:
1Lead by example – Rolling up my sleeves and showing the way to those I have the privilege to lead. My strong work ethic from an early age influenced my ability to get into the trenches with my team. That engagement generates empathy, credibility, and followership.
2Have a mission, a vision, a strategy and a plan – In order to win personally and collectively, I’m laser-focused on having a plan that others can connect to. A plan that is measurable and that is both strategic and tactical. This road map is important to get others behind my goals. My mother always had big dreams and goals and taught us to do the same: to stay the course and to push through hardship and challenges.
3Be a game changer and take risks – I was taught to give back at a young age, to help others and to leave my footprint wherever I went. This means leading through unchartered waters and having foresight and intuition. As a little girl, my mother pushed me to ask for help, ask for resources, and to go for it. She’d always say “El no ya lo tienes…” Take the risk and ask, since you have a 50% chance of getting a YES.
4Be Compassionate – Understanding that every individual brings a unique set of skills that have to be fostered and leveraged to lead to motivation.
5Be authentic – I’m much more open now than I was earlier in my career in sharing my story, the struggles, the success, and allowing myself the vulnerability to share personal stories that highlight who I am and what I stand for. It also means we shouldn’t let our emotions get the best of us – don’t take things personally!
Insightful advise by a visionary leader who fosters transformational change.
Three Characteristics of Transformational Change
RSM – Tell us about transformational change and the ways in which you foster and support it. How can it help boost Latina leadership in the workplace?
IM – Change is hard and transformational change can be even more so because it is complex and impacts your entire ecosystem. Three characteristics of transformational leadership that have guided and inspired me to lead transformational efforts are:
1 Use my influence to create and communicate a vision for change. Painting a picture for the future – the art of what’s possible. Sharing passion and positivity brings others along. Inspiring team members by role modeling the way and through motivation. Additionally, communicating and listening. Empathy is critically important in engaging a team and paying attention to understand what their concerns are.
2Focus on human capital. Talent is the key to foster and support big change efforts. Many of my roles were newly created roles to embark on new strategies and I had to build teams along the way. Building top performing teams means allowing team members to contribute and express creativity, which ultimately leads to innovation and commitment.
3Generate and celebrate wins. Playing the long game but celebrating milestones along the way that keeps everyone connected and inspired to do more.
Supporting transformational change in any capacity requires the use of influence and motivation, effective communications and leveraging one’s network. These skills are invaluable to professionals including Latinas.
RSM – Can you tell us about your work with the Girl Scouts? As someone who didn’t have that experience, who were the mentors that proved to be key while growing up?
IM – My work with the Girl Scouts has had a profound impact on me and my family because while I am a Director on the national Board I am also actively involved with my daughter’s troop (I was not a girl scout myself.) The movement is truly inspiring because it provides a platform for girls to actively participate, contribute and excel. A good example is the Girl Scout Cookie program, where the girls learn many skills by running their cookie business. They take care of goal setting, money management, interpersonal skills, and my favorite, accepting rejection. I observed this firsthand when my daughter Bella set a goal of 100 boxes her first year, but she ended up selling over 900 boxes through a series of activities that consumed many of her weekends and allowed her to make new friends in our neighborhood (her favorite part!).
Growing up under difficult circumstances, I was lucky to have a strong female mentor in my life—my mother. Because of her teachings, I knew I wanted to pave new paths for myself and the Latinx community. Though I did not meet my father until I was seventeen, he proved pivotal in my life as well, inspiring me to enter the business world. Through my work in real estate, and later in private wealth management, I saw firsthand the huge gap that exists between diverse communities and the world of finance. As a result, I have focused my skills and career on helping women become financially literate and empowered.
Women-owned Businesses and Fostering Latinx Growth
RSM – How can organizations support Latinas and ensure that more leadership positions will be accessible to them?
IM – We need to modernize our thinking on talent, development, and inclusion. It starts with attracting a diverse pipeline of qualified talent, including Latinas, and ensuring slates for roles are further refined to include specific diverse candidates. Also, a consistent interview process to eliminate any bias. Finally, access to stretch assignments and roles. Culturally, Latinas may not be as vocal or willing to raise their hand and therefore may not get noticed. As managers we need to lean in and encourage them to use their voice, raise their hand, and go for the bigger roles. Finally, let’s help deter women from exiting the workforce. The McKinsey study, Women in the Workplace 2020, highlighted that senior women are 1.5 times more likely than senior-level men to think about downshifting their role or leaving the workforce because of COVID-19. Almost three in four cite burnout as a main reason.
RSM – What is your company doing to help more women-owned businesses access the much-needed capital for growth?
IM – According to the National Women’s Business Council, there are 1.4 million Latina owned businesses representing nearly 35% of all Hispanic firms in the U.S.
Women, Black, and Hispanic people in leading positions face significant challenges building strong networks and accessing capital. Morgan Stanley launched the Multicultural Innovation Lab, an accelerator targeting multicultural and women-led early-stage technology focused startups. This program provides capital investment, mentorship, and access to companies which can help innovative startups get to the next level. Morgan Stanley realizes that Latino consumer wallet growth will outpace millennials and baby boomers by 2020, driving future consumer trends in new directions. As a Latina, I am thrilled to see this level of commitment in an area where we can have a tremendous impact in supporting women of color, including Latinas, take their small businesses to new heights.
Latinas are natural collaborators. Our cultural norms foster inclusive engagement which provides a strategic advantage in business. Leverage it!