Women in Leadership Lessons (WiLL) hosted their flagship panel event on leadership on Wednesday, April 6 which was open to students and faculty from Organizational Studies, Barger Leadership Institute, and the broader University of Michigan community. The panel, Leaders and Best of Ann Arbor, consisted of leaders from around Ann Arbor representing Zingerman’s, the Ann Arbor YMCA, and U-M’s Center for Positive Organizations. Panelists included: Suneeti Agrawal (MBA candidate in Ross School of Business and President of Michigan Business Women at Ross), C. J. Azubuine (MBA candidate at Ross School of Business), Abbey Davis (Teen and Volunteer Director at the Ann Arbor YMCA), Betsy Erwin (Education Lead at the Ross Center for Positive Organizations), and Jennifer Hayman (Marketing Director: Service Network at Zingerman’s).
Panelists represented a range of ages and life experiences and were able to share their unique insights on leadership from this broad range of experience. The panel included a set of moderated questions covering such topics as the difference between leading and managing, strategies in negotiation, and finding work-life balance in one’s career. The panel was followed by a Q&A with audience members which sparked more insight-filled discussion around topics such as navigating gender in the workplace.
This panel provided opportunities for learning for both WiLL members and members of the braoder University of Michigan community. Panelists shared a number of key insights such as the importance of being intentional about stepping up for things and always raise our hands for things as a way to set ourselves apart within our organization. They encouraged us to create supportive work environments for ourselves and others, advising that we be approachable and empower and support our colleagues whenever possible. Abbey Davis suggested that as leaders we see ourselves as mentors not just as managers and that we are fulfilling our role as leaders only if we are ensuring that the people we lead our developing through their contact with us. These panelists also provided valuable insights into current hot topics such as negotiations and work-life balance. Their advice for negotiating involved seeing a negotiation as an opportunity for advocacy. If humility or shyness makes advocating for yourself difficult, one recommendation was to imagine you are advocating for another person: objectively analyze and quantify your achievements, research the situation of people with comparable experience in your industry, and negotiate as if you were working on behalf of someone else. Their advice for work-life balance was to make time for what is necessary for you to find balance in your life. Suneeti Agrawal gave the example of a time when she coordinated her schedule with her boss to ensure she would have time to take a one hour yoga class during the week because she knew this was a necessary part of her life that would ensure she produced quality work the rest of the week. These insights on leadership were vastly helpful in preparing our audience (of mostly undergraduates) for life after college. Audience members came away wanting to learn even more from these panelists, asking whether next year’s panel could be longer and include even more direct audience questions with panelists. As we reflect on this panel, we will definitely make some changes about how we approach and lead situations. This panel put a strong emphasis on making sure that the people we lead are developed and supported. As we head into the workforce, we hope to engage with this challenge and to ensure that we a) find leaders who are intentional about ensuring we have opportunities for development and b) make sure that we, in turn, give back to the people we lead.