Reflections on Leadership

Ann Marie Stock, Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs, shares below some insights on leadership, whether it be with or without a title. As Student Leadership Development concludes #NoTitleNeeded November, we would like to remind students that just because November is over, doesn’t mean the conversation should end. The importance of leadership and nonpositional leadership is overarching and continues to present itself in many facets of work and life.

Reflections on Leadership

The mention of “leadership” may fill our senses with:

  • The sound of a speech amplified by a microphone
  • The sight of long lists of awards and appearances and important job titles
  • The feel of a handshake with some famous person

What does leadership sound like, look like, feel like at W&M?

It need not sound loud, or involve a microphone. In fact, there might not be any sound, for it could be the act of listening—attentively—as my students have done while filming interviews and conversing with our Cuban collaborators.

It need not look CV-worthy. In fact, most often it doesn’t even get noticed—a gesture of affirmation, an offer to assist—as my students demonstrate when they take risks together to learn new skills in media-making or work with materials in an unfamiliar language.

It need not feel like that celebrity handshake. It’s a different kind of touch that matters—one emanating from gratitude and solidarity.  It’s being touched by the overtures of others—as when we were honored with the privilege of being the first U.S. university group to visit a media organization in Cuba, and it’s touching back—as with our parting gesture of singing for our hosts the Alma Mater.

Our Vision Statement asserts that: “People come to W&M wanting to change the world. And together we do.” How do we go about that?

We move away from the mic—and listen;

We stop looking at titles and awards and see instead opportunities to support and affirm;

We seek to touch not the hand of “important” people, but rather the lives of those around us.

That’s how we lead, and that’s how we change the world.

-Ann Marie Stock