Speaker Highlight: Ed Magee

Ed Magee recently spoke to Leadership Southern California for our Riverside County focus seminar. Ed Magee brings over 25 years of diverse work and life experience to his current role as Executive Vice President of Operations at Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC), one of the world’s leading musical instrument manufacturers, marketers and distributors.

We asked Ed to share more about his career and how he practices self-care for himself, empathy with his teams, and how he navigates leading in a VUCA world.

Tell us about your leadership journey. What is it that you love about your current work for Fender and how did you get there?

I am at my best when I’m part of a company, organization or brand with a purpose driven culture. My career trajectory has taken me from the U.S. Marines, to Harley-Davidson to Fender and one theme that I’ve reflected on is that I truly enjoy building things. Engaging, developing people and learning with teams at organizations who place equal value on employees, customers and stakeholders are the ones where I garner my drive as well as my most personal and professional satisfaction.

I’ll never forget the call that I got from the recruiter when he said that the organization interested in chatting with me was Fender. An iconic American brand, passionate customers and a product that is equal parts craftsmanship and manufacturing excellence felt like just the challenge I was waiting for. We don’t just make a manufactured object, we create a culture; musical instruments and tools for artists on their creative journeys. After 5+ years at the company, all of my expectations have been surpassed.

In our programs, we talk a lot about how we live in a VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous – world, and that has certainly been true for the past couple years. How do you choose to lead in these uncertain times? What keeps you going?

Jack White, an iconic American musician, artist and entrepreneur is naming his 2022 tour, the Supply Chain Issues Tour! When I reflect back upon the last two years of COVID-19 and our subsequent supply chain challenges, it’s FMIC’s investment in people development that both prepared the company and our employees for the series of FFTs (Fender First Times) that we experienced in 2020 and 2021. We started the process in 2017 with the launch of our Fender Leadership Academy that focuses on building leadership development, project management, problem solving and change management muscle. Developing a common language across all functions of the organization in these competencies helped all of our teams build stronger cross-functional connective tissue that became invaluable when we came face to face with multiple roadblocks.

One of the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned from our CEO Andy Mooney is that we need to develop a simple, unwavering principle that inspires, focuses and guides the entire organization. He has started every presentation since he’s arrived with a single world slide . . . GROWTH. Watching Fender internalize, organize and perform to the expectation that we are a growth company has been personally and professionally inspiring.

We are at the beginning of 2022. What advice would you give to leaders as we kick off the new year? Any tips for staying motivated, inspired, and organized this year?

Take care of your people and they will take care of you. This is such a fundamental concept from my time in the Marines and I’ve found to be true north star at every subsequent role I have held within operations and business. Thriving in a global pandemic tested this principle, but in truth made what might have been tough choices incredibly obvious as I reflect back upon the past two years. At every step, our leadership team worked hard to implement policies, practices and decisions that kept our employees safe, regardless of potential business impact. Every one of these decisions built organizational trust, inspired confidence and fundamentally demonstrated care for the men and women who create Fender’s incredible tools for artists.

I’m humbled by how we navigated every challenge thrown at us over the past two years of incredible growth at Fender. At the core of that humility is acknowledgement of the contributions of every member of the Fender Family who took care of each other and our customers around the globe.

So many leaders are experiencing burnout as the pandemic is ever-changing. How do you practice self-care as a leader? How do you look out for your mental health and the mental health of your teams?

Brene Brown was (and continues to be) my spirit animal through COVID and the social justice issues that the country worked to reconcile following the murder of George Floyd. I learned two valuable lessons. The first was personal. As an African-American executive who has worked hard to excel, I recognized that doing good was simply not good enough. My responsibility extended to our employees and my networks of friends to be an agent of change as well as a leader unafraid of tough conversations. I had to first educate myself on these topics and then be unafraid to wade into difficult spaces and demonstrate critical thinking and intellectual curiosity that helps to build bridges and bring teams together.

The second lesson was professional. The professional lesson was simply this, learn to listen with authentic curiosity and genuine empathy. Time is the one resource that leaders never get back. Being in the moment with employees as they deal with challenges in their personal and professional lives is some of the most valuable time that a leader has at his or her disposal. This is especially true in times like these when all of us are dealing with incredible change, loss, inequities and challenges that chip away at our collective sense of “we.”

You can hear more from Ed on the Soulbbatical podcast and you can learn more about Fender through this video.