Blog (filtered)

Being a leader takes practice. We’re excited to share our latest experiments and lessons learned.

Diane Ober
Friday, October 28, 2016

What does growing trees have to do with growing leaders?

I really like this photo of myself taken earlier this year when I was planting 600 saplings at my brother’s house. When I first saw this picture I thought, “This is also what I do at UVA!” Some might find that connection puzzling since I’m not on the landscaping crews who keep our Grounds beautiful. At the same time, it works because the mission of the Center for Leadership Excellence is to “grow” each and every one of us to be the leaders that we have the potential to be.

Seeing myself as a nurserywoman planting seeds or saplings is compatible with a style or theory of leadership that is known as “servant leadership” as defined by Robert K. Greenleaf. From my perspective, this style provides a quintessential guide for how to grow leaders. Here is a very brief description of servant leadership:

  1. The servant leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.
  2. A servant leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong.
  3. The servant leader shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.


Here’s a more granular analogy of implementing this style!

Planting Trees

Growing leaders

I want to have trees on my land

UVA employee is conscious that he/she wants to develop professionally or personally and is willing to engage

Healthy saplings and the space where they can grow

A team (the CLE) plans for professional growth and a promising staff ready to grow

People are needed to plant the saplings and must have good soil, water, sun, and care

People needed (the CLE) to offer great classes, workshops and services that appeal to many needs/circumstances of employees and teams

Trees grow and provide shade, fruit, oxygen, beauty, and so much more

Employees take classes, workshop, use services, and are able to share power, develop their (and others’) talents and skills, and so much more

Everyone benefits (with maintenance needed)

Everyone benefits (with maintenance needed)

I love that my role as a servant leader at the CLE allows me to facilitate the process of growing other leaders.

Do you want to grow? How will that happen? Can we help?


Recently some of our CLE team participated in the UHR Wellness and Benefits fair at Newcomb Hall where we encouraged attendees to enter a raffle by taking a selfie portraying themselves as a leader! The prize was a free online assessment that we use in many of our classes to help understand personality and working styles.

The winner of the DiSC assessment is RUTH DILLON (pictured below on left). She IS a leader!


Click Here to see more from our Leadership Photo Booth!

Theran Fisher
Friday, September 9, 2016

One of my favorite aspects of my work with the Center for Leadership Excellence is helping others explore their personalities. Our personalities are our outward facing selves, the way in which our values, fears, and ego drivers manifest themselves in our day-to-day actions and preferences. Since leadership is rooted in self-awareness, learning about our personality is often a fun and easy way to begin developing our own leadership style.

Perhaps the most widely known – and misunderstood – aspect of our personalities is introversion and extroversion. The common misconception is that those with a preference for introversion are shy and don’t like to socialize, while those who prefer extroversion are outgoing and talkative. In reality, introversion and extroversion describe two things: how we prefer to engage with the world and how we recharge our psychological batteries. Those with a preference for introversion prefer to engage with the world through thoughts and ideas and recharge by processing information quietly in their own heads. Folks who prefer extroversion tend to engage with the world through action and recharge by engaging with others through either an activity or socializing. An over simplification would be to say that introverts think to speak, and extroverts speak to think.

I happen to have a very strong preference for introversion, yet my job requires me to spend a great deal of time speaking in front of others (i.e. extroverting), whether it be facilitating a class, leading a meeting, or guiding a conversation. I enjoy extroverting, and think I am pretty good at it, but as an introvert, it is mentally tiring. After a long day of facilitating, I need time to be alone and recharge.

Gaining a better understanding of what introversion and extroversion really mean and how different people express their preference can be hugely beneficial to your team. You can gain a better understanding of why people behave the way they do, what you can do to support them, and how to appropriately challenge them to either introvert or extrovert when needed.