OU Extended Campus staff members Jennifer Mayes and Will Jacobs recently completed their appointment to the 2018-2019 OU Leadership Council.
The Leadership Council is an annual leadership development program designed to engage high-performing, high-potential, mid-level or director-level university leaders on the Norman campus. Individuals chosen for the Leadership Council maintain a high level of responsibility for university programs and people, show a strong commitment to their own professional development and are personally motivated to improve their teams.
The eight-month program was designed to help Mayes, Jacobs and their fellow participants enhance their leadership skills by forming close relationships with other campus leaders and volunteering in the community, while preparing them to meet new challenges as campus leaders.
“One thing that really stuck out to me during this program is how much leadership styles can vary from person to person,” said Mayes, coordinator of partnerships and program development for OU Extended Campus. “Although I knew that already, it was interesting to see it with the variety of leaders in our leadership group.”
During the program, participants read and discussed the book, The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. They took leadership inventories of themselves and asked their managers, peers and direct reports to also score them on a variety of leadership behaviors.
“My own leadership style was already quite apparent to me,” Mayes said, “but it was interesting to see that others also identified the same characteristics I did.”
One of the biggest takeaways for Jacobs, registrar and director of admissions, registration, records and VA operations for OU Extended Campus and OU Outreach, was the importance of being authentic and self-aware in how one approaches being a leader.
“Do not present a fake public leadership persona,” he said. “If you are an introvert, then be an introvert. If you’re an extrovert, then be an extrovert.
“As a Transformational leader, I aspire to encourage and motivate my team members while they take their leadership journey. I found that I enjoy being a part of and witnessing the professional growth of others.“
The program gave Mayes and Jacobs an opportunity to work on practices where their behaviors ranked lower than others, with self-reflection playing a key role in understanding how to recognize their weaknesses and potential for growth.
“Each participant was paired up with an accountability partner—also known as our ‘accountabilibuddy’—whose strengths were the opposite of our own,” Mayes said. “This gave us the opportunity to learn from one another and work on ways to shore up our weaknesses. Learning from one another was beneficial, especially when done in a relaxed format.”
Jacobs said his approach to leading his team changed when he realized simply asking them to take on a task wasn’t guaranteed to get them to become invested in it.
“Buy-in from my team members is critical if we are to successfully take on a task,” he said. “I’ve learned that giving them ownership in the process of completing the task is the key. Once they are engaged and invested in the task, they will become almost fixated on producing, which will lead to a very positive outcome.”
Mayes said the growth she experienced throughout the program has left her more confident in her abilities as a leader.
“I approach situations a bit differently,” she said. “I always knew the importance of maintaining relationships. In my attempts to be non-intrusive in people’s personal lives, I discovered it was having a negative effect by coming off as disinterested in them as an individual.
“After having some very candid conversations, I identified a few very simple, yet meaningful, ways to continue improving and developing my relationships with others. Not only were they applicable in my professional life, but I could use the same methods in my personal life, as well.”
Jacobs found a new strength in his method of leadership by incorporating the counsel and ideas of other leaders from throughout campus.
“My peers are a community of new and seasoned individuals who are willing to provide their perspective to a scenario and offer valuable input,” he said. “I’ve learned that sometimes you cannot do it on your own, and that’s okay.”
Mayes and Jacobs both enjoyed participating in every aspect of the Leadership Council.
“I would strongly encourage anyone that is truly interested in developing themselves and enhancing their leadership skills to apply for this program,” Mayes said. “Not only did I learn a lot about myself, I now have this shared experience with a network of leaders across campus.”
According to Jacobs, participating in the Leadership Council has the ability to fundamentally change the outlook of those who are open to learning how to become better leaders.
“I would encourage all novice, as well as seasoned leaders, to participate in this experience,” he said, “as it is truly transformational.”
For more information about what the Leadership Council has to offer, visit the OU Leadership Council page on the Human Resources website. The application deadline for the 2019-2020 Leadership Council is June 13.