Are You a Transformational Leader? Key Notes from the Dyson Symposium on Women in Leadership

Comments by Sandra Anderson, Development Sociology ’15:

One of the best things about attending the Second Annual Dyson Symposium on Women in Leadership was the sheer amount of women (and men!) there interested in helping each other become effective leaders and ultimately trailblazers in the fields that we intend to pursue. On the second day of the Dyson Symposium, Dr. Sherece West-Scantlebury, Ph.D., CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Arkansas, delivered the keynote speech focused on the factors that comprise a concept which I was not initially aware of: transformational leadership.


Dr. Sherece West-Scantlebury

Embrace the ways of a palm tree. One of the main premises of Dr. Scantlebury’s speech on transformational leadership is behaving like a palm tree—always rooted in our values yet flexible in our actions because no two situations are alike. Dr. Scantlebury also stressed the importance of knowing ourselves and discovering our leadership styles early on, because in doing so, we will in turn be able to find out what our missions are, yet still be adaptable enough to realize they will certainly evolve and develop over time.

Ubuntu. A philosophy that originates from Southern Africa, which Dr. Scantlebury describes as, “Are we our brother’s (or sister’s) keeper?” Ultimately, she asserts that we are because what one person does can affect us all, and as a result, it is important to let go of any ego to realize that our role in the world can impact and even transform others in the process.

Show up excellent. Another aspect of transformational leadership that Dr. Scantlebury highlighted was the importance of showing up excellent in all that we do. Not only should this be ingrained into who we are as individuals and as a community, but our credibility and relationships that we build are based on our excellence. Dr. Scantlebury makes sure, however, to differentiate between perfection (which is not realistic and often causes unnecessary stress) and excellence because not too many individuals understand the difference.

Integrity. Dr. Scantlebury defines integrity as “a set of principles, morals, and ethics that you hold yourself accountable to and, more importantly, you have others hold you accountable to as well”. A significant aspect of possessing integrity that is often overlooked is being consistent in our actions as leaders and displaying them at all times when interacting with others.

Grace. Grace, what Dr. Scantlebury described as “undeserved favor”, is a virtue that becomes refined with time. Dr. Scantlebury focused on using grace when dealing with others, whether fellow classmates, colleagues, or subordinates further into our careers to illustrate that this aspect of transformational leadership allows for differing opinions while working towards an organizational commonality while valuing, caring, and appreciating people for who they are and for what they can contribute.

Respite and Renewal. Dr. Scantlebury emphasized that knowing ourselves is also knowing when to step back, clear our minds, and be healthy (physically, emotionally, and mentally) in order to be the best leaders we can be. A component of respite and renewal is having an affirming support system with whom we can communicate any stresses that are bound to come in either our professional or personal lives.

Rejoice. Dr. Scantlebury ended her keynote speech focusing on how we have to be our own cheerleaders and encouragers, while recognizing the accomplishments of others because ultimately, if we don’t do this, who will?

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It was a fantastic experience hearing Dr. Sherece West-Scantlebury speak during the Dyson Symposium on Women in Leadership. I encourage anyone, male or female, to attend and experience this enlightening event for yourself!