Applauding Alumni: Brian Pilarski, MSM '07

Applauding Alumni: Brian Pilarski, MSM ‘07

Brian PilarskiBrian Pilarski is an independent insurance broker for Brown and Brown Insurance. He has a passion for education. He completed his BSBA at Central Michigan University, graduating cum laude. His education at CMU was partially funded by National Collegiate Board of Trustees academic scholarship.  While working, he completed his Master of Science in Management from Walsh College. Brian is a partner for the Cornerstone Charter Schools where he donates his time, resources, and energy to further their mission. He also held the position of president for the Walsh College Alumni Association for two consecutive terms: the first and only president to do so in the association’s history.  He continues his commitment to higher education by sitting on the Walsh College Foundation Board as the youngest director of the board in March of 2013. He gives back by raising funds for scholarships with his work on the Foundation Leadership Dinner, which has already exceeded its goal of $125K and raised $168K. Brian has been recognized by Walsh College with the Association of Fundraising Professionals distinguished volunteer award.

Interview with Brian:

Professionally, what are your goals for the next five years?

“I am committed to improving myself in all aspects of my life; it’s very humbling to recognize there is so much I can do to be a better professional and participant in all areas of my life.  Within my profession, I have specific plans to improve technically through industry education programs and look to become a better resource for my clients, team, and the overall organization.   I am starting to implement a strategy to lead part of our company’s Midwest growth strategy and look forward to  achieving great results over the next few years.  I will also continue to actively engage with and surround myself with other successful people to learn from their experiences and advices.  Finally, mentoring others and sharing my struggles and successes is something I look forward to doing more over the next five years (and beyond).”

You are involved with many boards and committees. What is the most difficult part of being involved? What are the benefits?

“I have served on a few boards and several committees in the past. Today I am a Walsh College Foundation Board Director, also serving on the Leadership Awards Committee for the Foundation Board.  Serving on a board or committee should start with ensuring the board’s or the organization’s mission fits your personal beliefs and interests.  With the alignment of the goals, the “work” of the board isn’t so much “work” because it fits your personal vision and belief system. The work is very rewarding. The most difficult part of being involved is committing time needed to be a successful board member.  Serving on the board allows someone to enjoy many benefits -- networking and meeting great, like-minded people who share your passion for the same causes.  However, if you cannot commit the time, a board position will not provide any benefits and could hinder your reputation to the other board members committing the time to carry out the work.”

What characteristics do you think every great leader should have? Why?

“I have seen leaders carry themselves in many ways and they don’t share a common external trait.  Internally, I think great leaders have a few key characteristics that combine with their differences to produce a unique talent for helping others.  First, I think a leader must know him or her self, truly understand their strengths and weaknesses, and have the emotional intelligence to be comfortable within themselves.  -- Know yourself. Know the limits you have and bring others into your organization that will help you build a team that can carry out the mission or vision.

A level of humility is also a quality I believe is possessed by great leaders.  Most successful leaders are the most humble professionals you will interact with on a daily basis.

Bold, or a risk taker to some degree, is another trait of a leader.  With any set of people, it is very hard to think outside of the common mindset.  Great leaders know when to push the limits of thinking or bring out the best of others to push past perceived deficiencies. 

Flexibility is another important trait of leadership. I have seen great leaders adapt flexibility but stay committed to the end goal in mind.  

I believe transparency in communication is another characteristic possessed by great leaders. Leaders are true to themselves, true to their stakeholders.  If you have nothing to hide, hide nothing. Do what you say you will do and say what you did.

Alignment of purpose and resources-- All great leaders develop a sense of purpose and have a unique understanding of what skills are necessary to achieve it.  The alignment of resources involves a good leader recognizing those resources around you that can make a good leader even better.

Advisors- I also believe a great leader has a great set of advisors to help work through opportunities and struggles.  A good network of others will help as a sounding board for their ideas and thoughts. By vetting these thoughts or ideas to others who can “honestly” tell them what this would mean to others, the organization or the affected parties, is valuable to a leader.”

What advice would you give a new alum or current student?

“My advice is to continue working on achieving your goals and dreams. Small, incremental steps toward a bigger goal are the secret to achieving all you want in life.  A journey of 1000 miles starts with one step.

I also would like to remind them the sky is truly the limit, think BIG.  The only limit you have is the limit you place on yourself regardless if others say that is not possible. YOU make it possible every day to DO something about it. Act on your words. Live by your words.  Are your actions meeting your words or commitments? If you make a mistake, admit it, evaluate it, and move forward from it.

Continue to educate yourself throughout life and remain committed to the passion that makes you happy.  Support others and do you as say, say as you do. Be bold but respect the situation and have a good sounding board. Pay it forward to those who need encouragement and support. Your life is a treasure share that treasure with others who can benefit from your experience. Continue to stay involved with Walsh and others.  The Walsh community is one of many successful leader groups in the local area which has the shared experience of graduating from Walsh.  Use the time and shared experience to continue to build new relationships and look for ways to give back to Walsh. It is critical to move it toward the future and bring more value to the Walsh degree you achieved.”

Please join Walsh College in applauding Brian Pilarski in his continued success by adding your comments below.

To nominate an alumnus to applaud, contact Duc Abrahamson, Alumni & Student Relations Officer, at (248) 823-1298.

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