Campus News

Lead@3 speakers offer insights on leadership

Three women share their journeys as leaders

As part of the Office of Institutional Diversity’s Lead@3 speaker series, three women shared three insights on leadership at sessions starting at 3 p.m. throughout the spring 2024 semester.

Three speakers are invited each semester to give a talk on women’s leadership in higher education and beyond. Michelle Cook, vice president for student affairs; Lee Zell, president of the UGA Alumni Association; and Anna Stenport, dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; all spoke on their individual journeys and lessons they learned along the way.

Cook stressed the value of authenticity in leadership, saying that it’s not simply a jacket that one puts on. Leaders need to stay on mission and on purpose but be open to twists and turns.

“In so many ways, leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality,” Cook said in her Feb. 21 talk.

Cook also said it’s important for leaders to value dissent and should welcome questions and feedback. She added that leaders should be able to “own it” and articulate their decisions at any given moment. Some lessons she’s taken from her faith and family include giving more than receiving, acknowledging that everyone has value, and building a strong work ethic.

Zell, who spoke on March 20, said that leadership is not a muscle one can stretch, but rather a collection of attributes. She pointed out that there is a difference between being a leader and being in a leadership position.

For Zell, the most important aspect of leadership is relationships. Zell is now a national account executive with WBD Sports, the sports marketing and broadcast arm of Warner Bros. Discovery, and has been with the company through four mergers and 25 years. She still takes simple steps, like asking someone to lunch or having a full candy dish on her desk, to foster relationships and build knowledge.

“Everybody is worth knowing, and everybody is worth talking to,” Zell said. “Your relationship with others is really what is going to define if you’re able to move forward with whatever project or problem you’re trying to solve.”

In her April 10 talk, Stenport spoke on her foundations, what learning leadership looks like, and her vision for Franklin College.

Stenport grew up in Sweden and still leans on that culture, particularly the fika, or a coffee and cake break where Swedes intentionally connect with others. To that end, leaders should be people- and future-oriented, focus on what’s working, and approach situations with appreciative inquiry. Building a space of collaboration and engagement with other fields can lead to lasting partnerships.

“I came to see the need for higher education to be in a constant, evolving process,” Stenport said. “We are such an important contributor to positive societal transformation, to democracy, to moving our society and communities forward, but we cannot rest on laurels.”