The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced March 17, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person May 10.
Next is Chief Growth Officer finalist in the Public Company category Sergio Ostria, chief growth officer at ICF. Here, he talks about integrating several of the company’s functions, the importance of taking action to make things happen, leading with empathy and vulnerability and more.
What are you most proud of having been a part of your current organization?
Leading the integration of marketing, business development and innovation to more intentionally mature ICF’s growth engine and help deliver on the record sales of 2021 and 2022. This has required new ways of working that are driving client-centricity and a growth mindset across the enterprise ⏤ not for the sake of growth itself, but also to ensure that through our client work we can expand our impact and deliver on our purpose. From when I joined ICF in 1999 and built and led numerous of our businesses along the way, to the growth and innovation role I now have, we have been able to effectively balance growth with our purpose-driven culture. I am very proud of having been a contributor to that.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
As I often say to others, “Don’t wait for things to happen to you, make things happen.” I have found that being proactive and an agent for positive change is a key ingredient to being successful at the executive level. Constantly pushing yourself to stretch outside of your comfort zone can lead to highly rewarding professional experiences. In some ways, that’s how organizations grow ⏤ by taking calculated risks and accepting the harder challenges.
What has made you successful in your current role?
Having a strong vision and strategy for change. I’m reminded of when my daughters were younger, and they would ask me before a long road trip: “Where are we going? How are we getting there? And are we there yet?” Clearly sharing goals, and the map for getting there, is essential for teams to feel confident in moving forward and helps their success.
I also strive to lead with empathy and vulnerability to help unlock my team’s full potential. Moreover, diversity in all definitions is a strength ⏤ diversity of capabilities, perspectives, backgrounds, experiences, etc. But reaping the benefits of diversity requires leaders who intentionally build a culture of collaboration. I use empathy and vulnerability to empower a diverse range of voices, teach conflict resolution, and celebrate progressive ideas.
And finally, ICF has amazing people. I have been honored to work alongside some of the best and brightest in the business who have supported me and taught me new things at every step.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
If you grow your people, you grow your business. I have always taken a proactive approach to coaching and mentoring my colleagues and am proud to say that several of ICF’s highest level and most successful business leaders, including Mark Lee, Anne Choate and Jen Welham (three of the five ICF Group Leaders), were led and mentored by me through formative stages in their careers.
I take pride in knowing that I am playing a role in cultivating the current and future generation of ICF leaders. And I am grateful to each of them for sharing their experiences with me and enriching my own perspective on leadership. Cultivating the future leaders of ICF is the best legacy that I can leave behind for the company.