UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Leadership perspectives: PNC's Laura Gamble


“Leading isn’t about setting rules or issuing edicts. It’s about coaching your employees and doing what you can to help them be successful,” says Laura Gamble (BSBA ’85), regional president for Greater Maryland at PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in Baltimore.

After leaving Bank of America in 2009 to launch her own advisory and consulting enterprises, Gamble returned to banking in April 2012 when she joined PNC. The move came at a time when the banking industry and its leadership and practices were being scrutinized by regulators and customers alike.

“I had no plans to go back into banking, but it was the opportunity to join PNC that got me interested,” Gamble says. PNC stayed above the fray during the banking crisis, thanks to stable leadership — four CEOS in 40 years — a local-market focus and moderate-risk profile. Together, these factors have positioned the bank to “come through the downturn in a strong way and still deliver for our customers.”

Leadership Style
Gamble leads with a coaching style that dovetails with her values that are based on:

  • Integrity. “Do what you say you’ll do, and be consistent about it,” she says. And confront tough issues honestly. Integrity fosters trust, empowering employees to communicate openly and take reasonable risks without fear of retribution.
  • Communication. Effective leaders talk and listen. “Communicate your vision and what you want people to do, but also seek feedback,” Gamble says. “I firmly believe the best ideas come from many perspectives.”
  • Fairness. “It’s never been my goal to be nice, but it has always been my goal to be fair,” she says. That feeds integrity and breeds loyalty.
  • Empathy.“Remember that employees are people, not widgets,” Gamble says. “Your organization’s made up of people, and your success is defined by the success of those people.” A focus on humanity — yours and theirs — engenders employees’ allegiance and commitment.

Leaders like Gamble blend these traits with vision. “While leaders are concerned with the individuals, they also have a greater perspective of the whole organization and a strategic view of what will keep it successful and healthy, too,” she says. UNC Kenan-Flagler’s focus on critical thinking and working as part of a team prepared her well for success in business. “I always want my teams to question what we are doing,” she says. “What do our customers want? Are we delivering it in the most efficient and effective way possible?”

Developing Leadership
Gamble’s not just a corporate leader. She volunteers with several organizations, including the Baltimore Community Foundation, the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance and the Sheppard Pratt Health System.

Volunteer leadership positions supported her career growth. “Long before I had a leadership role in a company, I was able to take leadership roles in volunteer opportunities — and the experience really translated,” she says.

Community work also is good for business. “If my community isn’t doing well, my business doesn’t stand much of a chance,” she says. “But if you have a lot of concerned, active people in the community, then you’ll have a great community that supports all kinds of people and businesses.”