KSU Deans Talk Leadership for Women's History Month

KENNESAW, Ga. (Mar 20, 2018) — Women’s History Month is celebrated each March to honor and commemorate the contributions of women in contemporary society. Women have shaped history by leading positive change to achieve women’s suffrage and better workplace practices such as fair hiring and equal pay.

Kennesaw State University is a prime example of somewhere that women make a difference every day. Women hold key positions in a variety of areas including at the dean level.

To honor Women’s History Month, some of our deans – Rita Bailey of the Honors College, Barbara Calhoun of the College of Continuing and Professional Education, Lynn Disbrow of University College, and Kathy Schwaig of the Coles College of Business – reflect on what leadership means to them. 

KSU Women Deans

What are the strengths of a good leader?

“An overarching strategy is essential to good leadership. Good leaders listen, are empathetic, and decisive.” – Kathy Schwaig

“A good leader listens carefully to, works alongside, is accountable to, and respects those they are chosen to lead. Through these actions, a good leader is able to uncover and develop the gifts their team members possess and use time and opportunities to help a team member harness those gifts toward the greater good.” – Lynn Disbrow

“Good leadership involves more than being someone who has good ideas. Good leaders see the big picture and work side by side with their colleagues to motivate and encourage persistence through whatever setbacks occur to achieve long-term goals. Good leaders care about those they work with and try to help them develop, grow, and achieve their own success while they’re contributing to the success of the unit. Good leaders cultivate a growth mindset in themselves and others.” – Rita Bailey

“Some words that come to mind: Integrity, fairness, political savvy, caring, intelligent, flexible and confident.” – Barbara Calhoun

What is the biggest challenge facing women leaders?
“Social and cultural norms have created a different set of communication standards and expectations for women leaders. This means a woman must be aware enough to sense these unwritten rules in every situation and savvy enough to respond in strength without undercutting our opportunities to achieve our goals.”  – Lynn Disbrow

“I think the biggest challenges are actually the same for women and men. We live in an increasingly complex world. Leading through the complexity – staying on course amidst distractions and keeping the big picture in view – are the biggest challenges we all face.” – Kathy Schwaig

“Lack of faith in their own abilities. Following others’ advice instead of finding one’s own strength.” – Barbara Calhoun

“I’ve found it challenging to know how to navigate conflicts between people who work in areas that I supervise and support. On one hand, I care very much about the people that I work with and want to be empathetic to their needs, but on the other hand, it isn’t fair to others to ignore or allow behaviors or actions that can lead to problems serving the needs of our students. I always try to answer the question, ‘What is best for our students?’” – Rita Bailey

What advice would you give your younger self – or other women – today?

“Be true to yourself. Be strategic and missional. In that context, you can trust your instincts. But, never be afraid to admit that you might be wrong. The essential element is strength coupled with humility.” – Kathy Schwaig

“To have confidence in your gifts and abilities; to stand strong in who you are and in what you believe; to instill confidence in those around you; and to remember that accountability and authenticity are noticed and valued by others.” – Lynn Disbrow

“Don't let fear of failure keep you from taking a risk when you believe in the vision. Doing the right thing can be really hard, but not doing what you think is the right thing because of that worry is actually making a choice to fail. When I look back on my own career, I’m most proud of the difficult decisions that I’ve made and the initiatives I’ve led that have had a positive impact on students and their lives and goals. Leadership can be really hard, but the struggle is worth it.” – Rita Bailey

“I was very lucky to have mentors who helped me navigate through all the information I have needed to be successful in terms of the politics, the personalities and the various environments I have worked in. My advice is find strong mentors who are persons of integrity, honor and intellect.” – Barbara Calhoun

– Photos by Lauren Kress, David Caselli, and College of Continuing and Professional Education

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