As part of the Office of Institutional Diversity’s Lead@3 speaker series, three women were invited to give three insights on leadership at sessions starting at 3 p.m. throughout the spring 2023 semester.
The series focuses on women’s leadership in higher education and beyond, and three speakers are invited each semester. The spring 2023 speakers included Xernona Thomas, executive director of College Factory; Kathy Pharr, vice president for marketing and communications and chief of staff to the president; and Lisa Nolan, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine.
“This series has been successful because of the interaction and engagement of our participants,” said Michelle Cook, senior vice provost for diversity and inclusion and strategic university initiatives. “It’s an opportunity for women across campus to come together and hear from women in leadership.”
Thomas spoke on Feb. 14 and shared her journey working as a school social worker, then as a school administrator and eventually as Clarke County’s first woman superintendent of schools.
Specifically, Thomas mentioned three things that helped form her. First, never miss an opportunity to grow and learn. Second, be prepared for the broken glass. Women should celebrate shattering a glass ceiling but acknowledge the burden that comes with it. Third, know your value and then add taxes.
“As we move up and move throughout our careers in leadership and in different places of service or professionalism, we have to learn to advocate for ourselves,” Thomas said. “You have to know your value. You have to recognize who you are as a professional and then advertise it.”
Pharr, who spoke March 23, offered three pieces of advice for leaders. The first is to know who you are and stay grounded. Most leaders have stood on someone else’s shoulders, so it’s important to remember that and help others.
“Look around you, and if there aren’t others there, open the door and lend a hand that was lent to you,” Pharr said.
Second, she said to “be the duck” in times of stress. Keep calm on the outside, and keep going behind the scenes. By reframing challenges as a positive or an opportunity, you become stronger, tougher and wiser. Lastly, Pharr reiterated the importance of giving yourself some grace. Be supportive and talk to one another, but also understand that occasional breaks help mentally, physically and spiritually.
In her April 21 talk, Nolan suggested some practical tips for leaders. First, she said it’s important to learn from better and more successful leaders. Second, she shared advice she’s learned through “hard knocks.” For example, she shared the importance of building a shared vision of the future and preparing for succession by developing young leaders. Third, she stressed the importance of building revenue streams because it takes money to fulfill that shared vision. For Nolan, it’s the impact those funds can have that make them important.
“A leader needs time to think about their unit. You’ve got to dream about its future,” Nolan said. “Remember, leadership, like most of what we do in an academic environment, is a creative process.”