Christian Women in Leadership: Gloria Nelund
Gloria Nelund has been blessed with a life characterized by great success is business and constant, faithful service to her Lord with her God-given talents and abilities. Read on…
What does it look like to be a woman in a leadership role? How does Christian faith impact leadership? And what happens when you put the two together?
To find out, we caught up with Chairman & CEO of TriLinc Global, an impact investing firm that she founded three years after her “retirement” from a 26-year career on Wall Street in the global asset management business. While she doesn’t hold a formal degree, she did study Elementary Education at the University of Dayton and graduated from an Executive Program at the University of Virginia, Darden School. Gloria is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on “Letting God Lead.”
We asked her a few questions about her job and her views on Christian leadership:
What’s the favorite part of your job?
Solving problems and helping people.
How would you define Christian leadership?
Being called by God to a position of influence and then using that influence to do what you were called to do in the best way possible, and through it all, showing God’s love to others through your relationships and interactions with them.
How do you bring your Christian values into your work?
It’s how I live my life. From 2005 – 2007, I was on what I call my “wilderness journey.” During that journey, I had time to dive deep into Bible study and really reflect on my business life. And one of the things I realized is that my Christian values are what actually defined how I worked my whole life. Literally, all the things that made me successful, all my “lessons learned,” the things I would give talks about, all had their root in the Bible. Every single one of them. So, my Christian values are reflected in everything I do.
The other “aha” I had is that there is a difference between “evangelizing” in the workplace and living out your Christian values at work. Every day, I strive to live a life that honors God. Sometimes that includes sharing my faith with someone God has put on my heart and sometimes it is just working hard, solving problems and helping people.
Looking back, is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?
Absolutely. In 2005, at the age of 44, following a very successful 26-year career on Wall Street, I retired because I really felt there must be some other purpose for my life. I was ready to take on the world—I was on a mission to find my purpose and finally live out my “calling.” And, for the next three years I worked hard to discover that purpose. I joined several women’s Bible studies, participated in Half Time training/discovery, taught a bible study, read everything I could find about finding your purpose and even took the Master’s Program for Women. I call it my “wilderness journey” because I really felt that I was lost in the wilderness. I was frustrated that God wasn’t using me for some great purpose.
And then, one day, as I was quietly listening to the Lord (instead of complaining), He told me to invite a close friend to Bible study, which ultimately led her to accepting Jesus as her Lord and Savior. In the months that followed, I started wondering if that was actually my purpose in life. Finally, I felt like God was asking me, “What if that was your only purpose for being here, to be there at just the moment she needed an invitation to Bible study. Will that be ok with you?” I’ll be honest, I struggled with it for a while, and it wasn’t until I was truly ok with it, where I could honestly say “my life was definitely worth my friend coming to know Jesus,” that God began to show me a bigger purpose for my life.
The Lord began to demonstrate to me that business was my calling. All along my job had been my mission field and over a period of about three months, I randomly began to hear from former colleagues and business associates whose lives I had touched in my career, that I never knew were watching me. I was never an evangelist but I’ve also never hidden my faith. If someone asked, I was more than delighted to talk about it, but, most of the time, it was just how I lived my life and conducted business. And even though at the time I didn’t know it mattered, I feel very blessed to learn that it did.
How does working in a religious or secular setting change the way you lead as a Christian?
It really doesn’t. I live out my faith in my life every day in every setting. Early in my career, I adopted three principles that I would follow all of my life: I would work really hard; I would solve problems; and I would help people. The first meant that when I finished an assignment I would look for another one. I was always asking for more to do. It was much later in my career when I realized that not everybody did that! In the second one, I found that I enjoyed making processes efficient, finding a better way to do something. And in the third area, I found joy in making other people successful.
Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership?
“And whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23
What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace?
Daily time with God and in the Word. In the hectic pace of business, it is easy to get caught up in the trappings around you: to lose perspective. I find that I need to take time each day to get centered, to gain a larger perspective, and to reconnect with purpose and goals that are bigger than me. Many people think they are too busy to do this, but I have found it essential.
What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?
I love answering this question because it is not what anyone would expect me to say, but, my best advice is to find a really great husband. I could never have done all that I’ve done without a really great husband—one who has supported me, encourages my walk with the Lord, who takes care of everything at home, and proves incredible emotional support. I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now, but I have to say it’s what I know allowed me to be stable and just continue doing what I did.
Gloria Nelund spent 30 years on Wall Street as one of the most successful and visible executives in the international investment management industry. After retiring from Deutsche Bank as CEO of their $50 billion North America Private Wealth Management division, she co-founded TriLinc Global; an investment firm dedicated to launching and managing innovative impact investment funds that will exponentially increase private capital participation to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. For more from Gloria, check out her article, Business as a Calling.