The Evolution of a Leader

Secrets to Success with Wanda Lyle

Following Beth Chase’s presentation on the traits of effective leaders, Council Fellows class of 2024 had the opportunity to hear from global executive and risk management expert Wanda C. Lyle, who recently concluded a term as interim President and CEO of the Center for Nonprofit Management. A formerly retired, self-proclaimed “rewired” professional with 41 years of experience in financial services and extensive time served on state and local boards, Lyle is a 2024 Nashville Business Journal Woman of Influence who spoke with the cohort about her evolution as a leader. 

Walking Fellows through the geography and timeline of her 29-year career with Merrill Lynch and subsequent turn at UBS, Lyle depicted a career path shaped time and again by her willingness to take the plunge and go where she was needed most. As one of very few women leaders in an industry dominated by men, Lyle spoke to the importance of courage and the value of confidence. 

“I’m a big advocate for what I call ‘corporate courage’,” said Lyle. “Courage to take the leap, courage to deliver the bad news, courage to do the hard things and not pass the buck along to someone else.” 

Lyle’s courage served her well as she relocated her family five times over the years to advance in her roles and service to Merrill Lynch. Courage also served Lyle well in her advocacy for sound and ethical decision making—most notably in her refusal to approve the once-trending CDOs, or collateralized debt obligations, for distribution to the firm’s private clients, extending the simple reasoning to colleagues that “I can’t explain this to my mother, and that’s who the private client is.” Thanks to Lyle’s financial acumen and leadership with integrity, Merrill Lynch did not distribute to clients the product that ultimately caused the financial crisis of 2008.  

Eventually, Lyle was recruited to UBS from Merrill Lynch to build out the firm’s Nashville expansion, effectively recruiting for over 1,000 positions in just 18 months. Lyle ultimately went on to become President of UBS Business Solutions for the U.S., serving concurrently as the company’s Global Head of supply chain risk and controls. She briefly retired in summer of 2021 before agreeing to take on the Center for Nonprofit Management’s interim CEO role in February 2023—an experience she describes as one of “those opportunities you know you just have to go for.” 

Asked to share some of her greatest lessons learned at the helm, Lyle quickly illustrated that one secret to her success lies in her humility. Another secret to success? The courage to adopt a hands-off leadership style. 

“One of the most valuable things I learned as a manager was to let people make mistakes at my expense,” said Lyle. “I really believe in giving credit and giving people the opportunity to rise up, and so I’d tell my team members, ‘You take the bows and I’ll take the beatings.’ I’m also a firm believer in leading people and managing process. If you tell people what you’re trying to accomplish and then lead them through the process of doing it—rather than managing their efforts to do it—your teams will take you where you want to go.”

About Council Fellows

Building on Nashville’s legacy as the Healthcare City, the Council Fellows program connects the healthcare industry’s brightest minds, most influential leaders and top drivers of change. Each year, the highly competitive program convenes a cohort of 30 top executive leaders for a curriculum specifically designed to build new perspectives and generate new ideas for addressing the industry’s most pressing challenges. This prestigious cohort-based program is shaping the future of healthcare.

Applications for Council Fellows open in the fall and a new class is seated in December for the following year’s cohort. If you’re interested in learning more about the Council Fellows program, sign up here to receive ongoing updates. For more information, contact