by Ellen Davis
I work for a president who is almost 20 years younger than me. We live in two different worlds – she loves to text and chat, while emails (my preferred form of communication) sometimes go unread.
But I have learned so much from her. I wanted to share just a few examples of her approach to leadership because I think there are lessons to be learned from these that we can apply in our own roles as leaders.
Her first year at the college, my president bought a table at a popular Christmas luncheon/fashion show that benefits a local charity. Rather than inviting trustees or donors to join her at the table, she invited a group of classified staff members. At the event, she bought everyone $25 worth of raffle tickets to put in jars for prizes. It was a truly unexpected and gracious gesture.
I especially love to watch the way my president runs meetings (and now, Zoom calls). On important topics of discussion, she always calls on everyone to give their opinion. This ensures that people who might be afraid to speak up get included. After everyone speaks, she always says something like “thank you for that” or “good point” so everyone feels their suggestions are valued.
I recently had an incident in which a vice president was not happy with how long it took to build a website for a special event (no one ever understands why it takes so long to build websites unless they have done them themselves). The vice president’s approach to the situation was to send a constant stream of frantic emails. My president’s approach to the situation? She got in touch with me (by chat, of course) and offered to help. There was nothing she could have done to get the website up any faster, but the gesture itself meant a lot to me.
I don’t know where she learned her leadership skills, but all I can say is that I am very grateful to have the president I have. Another lesson I have learned from her is that age is not necessarily a determinant of good leadership.
Ellen Davis is director of marketing and media relations at Temple College in Temple, Texas. She has more than 30 years experience in various aspects of college marketing, including publications, media relations, social media and website development.