Valencia Leaders Share Insights on Becoming an Inspirational Leader

Centered on the idea that inspiration is best achieved when leaders see themselves as enablers of great performance, this article is the first in a series of five where Valencia supervisors will share how they are inspiring their teams and setting the stage for increased levels of employee engagement. The series is based on a five-step action plan outlined in the Talent Management magazine article “Are You an Inspirational Leader?

This month, Karen Reilly, dean of learning support for the West Campus, provides her perspective on Step One.

Step One: Harness the team’s passion and energy by embedding a strong burning imperative. A burning imperative is a dynamic mantra co-created by the leader and the team. More than just a pithy statement, it is sharply defined, intensely shared and purposely directive. It is the reason the team exists, and it should clearly articulate the group’s objectives, goals, strategies and the specific plans on how the imperative will be delivered. Every team member should understand it, and it must reference the organization’s larger mission, vision and values.

The learning support division is a new concept at Valencia, and Karen Reilly, dean of learning support for the West Campus, is new to the college. When she came onboard in July of this year, she had to find a way to create synergy among these once separate entities of learning support services to find a common purpose.

Karen explained that, “it must be clear how we fit not only together with each other but in the larger scheme of campus and college.” To accomplish this, Karen immediately set forth to establish a purpose statement and seek her team’s input on planning and goal setting for the division.

“Crafting a concrete purpose statement is important, but it is as much about the process of getting to it as the statement itself,” Karen explained. “These discussions lead to the discovery of common threads, create cohesion, promote collaboration and build consensus of the group’s role in the college.”

Her process has been to define learning support for West Campus and to craft an annual division-wide plan that includes actionable items to ensure the division’s purpose is met.

“Inevitably, each department in the division becomes reliant upon the other to meet the goals put forth,” Karen said. “New skills and talents are discovered among the collective of the team and are integrated into the strategies, which takes the initiatives from good to great.”

Karen recognizes that the planning process will always be in a state of evolution. Projects will change, new ideas and talent will come on board and her team will learn together how to best move through these changes and continue to develop.

“When people feel part of the process and solution, change is much more palatable. For me, these are ideal conditions for growth. Extending beyond the typical allows individuals to experience personal growth,” she added. “At the same time, you must do it in a way that doesn’t cause anxiety and undo stress. It is an interesting balance.”

Karen is looking forward to the ideas her team will bring forth as they continue to define learning support. “We are still learning about, and from, one another and I think many exciting things will emerge,” Karen said. “In the long term, the development and integration of a division-wide strategic plan will guide our work. This plan will enhance support mechanisms for all students, faculty and staff to assure learning and its assessment.”

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