The University Record, October 22, 1997
By Kerry Colligan
"A leader is like salt," said Monica S. Johnson, program coordinator in human resources and affirmative action. "Most things we prepare need seasoning."
Johnson spoke Oct. 17 at the M-Quality EXPO panel discussion "Leading from Where You Are." The panel included U-M employeesÑnone of whom are managers or supervisorsÑidentified as leaders by their peers.
Panel members emphasized the importance of making a personal connection to one's job on both a small and large scale, of maintaining a positive attitude, of networking, and of believing in oneself. Leadership is less a skill set than it is an attitud e or approach, they said.
Penny Tully, program associate in Housing-Conference Management Services, told audience members she carries the mission and vision statement of the University in her briefcase. Part of leadership and empowering people, she said, means evaluating "wha t am I doing to move myself and my co-workers toward achieving the goals in the statement."
"I find it helpful to continue trying to connect to the University. These connections help establish who I am and have to do with my role in the institution, not just on a task-by-task basis, but in how I am representing higher education as a whole."
That connection requires that employees be made aware that their input is valuable and being considered, said Bill Wilcox, coordinator for Building Services. Exchanging ideas prevents a hostile work culture from forming. Yet, according to Bruce Dona ld, pest management specialist in Building Services, even in the worst of situations it is important to remember that "you don't always have to go in the front door."
"Sometimes you'll be told to 'rethink' your approach. You have to figure out another way to achieve your goals. That is where persistence has real value; just swallow your pride and keep going."
Attitude, said audience member Leslie Smith, is the difference. "There are leadership positions and there is leadership. In order to demonstrate leadership in your position, you have to hear what is not spoken." However, hearing is not enough, said Wilcox. "Leadership is facilitating. If you see something that needs to be done, get the people who need to know involved. It's a matter of sharing information."
The EXPO, held Oct. 16--17, included several conference sessions addressing leadership and more than 30 exhibits by University units.