If you Google what defines a leader, you’ll find a variety of definitions from being passionate and having confidence to inspiring others and making hard choices. While all are common attributes, there’s not a one-size-fits all leadership style.
Below, five directors describe their leadership styles, what motivates them to be a leader for their teams and the biggest lessons they’ve learned about being a leader in campus recreation.
Greg Corack — The associate director of Leadership and Programs for Campus Recreation and Wellness at East Carolina University
“My leadership style is educational. I strive to be a teacher to all those I lead, mostly by providing experiential lessons. I live by the old proverb, ‘Give a person a fish they can eat for a day. Teach a person to fish they can eat for a lifetime.’ In the end, the goal of any leader should be to get their employees ready to take on their next role, and by providing hands-on experience with my guidance I can ensure their success.”
Kim Scott — The director of Campus Recreation at Baylor University
“From my start in coaching, I have a bent toward authoritarian style. But, now that I have been in the director position for 20-plus years and hired dozens of professional staff and graduate students, I’m more of a transformational leader. I hire great people who have amazing skills, and my goal is to alleviate the administrative load so they can do what they do best. I coach them along the way to stay aligned to the mission and vision, but overall, I want to be known as a person who values everyone and develops leaders in the process.”
Jocelyn Hill — The director of Recreational Sports and Fitness at American University
“My style of leadership has morphed over the years. One is leading by example. There isn’t any part of my team’s duties I haven’t done. Another is servant leadership. My definition is leading with humility and grace. I have evolved my leadership style to adapt to the ever-changing landscape. Having been in this industry for many years and seeing several students and staff get younger and younger, I’ve realized I must adapt to how they learn.”
Matt Beck — The associate director of the Department of Wellness at Oklahoma State University
“My leadership style is a combination of various styles such as transformational leadership, strengths-based leadership and some aspects of situational leadership. The style I utilize most is transformational leadership, consisting of idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration.”
Marci Iverson — The assistant dean of Student Well-being for Recreation and Leadership at Viterbo University
“I would describe myself as a collaborative and supportive leader. It’s important to me to model the way, walk alongside the team and get involved, when appropriate. My team knows I am here for them, to support them, and they have autonomy to do what they believe is best. They know I am available to provide guidance when asked, and I am their biggest cheerleader. I advocate for my team, the students and the department.”
For Corack, past experiences with leaders motivate him to pass along knowledge to the next generation. “I remember what it was like to be a professional fresh out of graduate school and I want to help my employees avoid the same mistakes I made just as I was assisted,” said Corack. “The future of campus recreation isn’t in the career administrators, it’s in the graduate assistants and the young professionals.”
Scott recommends the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins in terms of leadership motivation. “He talks about the Hedgehog Theory — what should you be the very best in the world at? Being at Baylor, a Christian university, we should be the very best in the world at how we treat people,” said Scott. “This motivates me to be a good leader, listen with an open mind and humility, and to model a professional will to do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.”
EXTRA CREDIT: Three questions for the campus rec professional from “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.
For Hill, motivation lies in watching people grow within themselves. “If they take at least one part of the many life lessons I have tried to convey and use it to better themselves, I feel like I have accomplished something,” she said.
Similarly, seeing his team achieve goals and execute projects is highly motivating for Beck. “Especially to see the tangible impact of the result and the growth of the individuals on the team,” he added. “Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Vision without action is just a daydream, but vision with action can change the world.’ Seeing vision come to reality keeps me going.”
Iverson shared there are many motivations for her to be a leader. “First, it’s the people and the connection to all — I enjoy witnessing and helping individuals reach their fullest potential,” she said. “Secondly, supporting the individual and collective health and well-being of the entire campus community is a huge motivator for me. I know the better we care for and support all employees, the better we model the way and support our students.”
“If you always rely on your all-stars, your team will never win a title,” said Corack. “More often than not, if you give people a chance, they will surprise you with great results. As leaders we have to ‘spread the wealth’ and give everyone the opportunity to be a shining star.”
Scott shared her biggest lesson learned is two-pronged. “First, to truly coach, teach, develop and empower younger staff, I need to set the vision, outline the parameters, give a rough estimate of the timeline and not get stuck on how I would do it,” said Scott. “If I hire well, this process will intrinsically motivate them and make them a good team player. Second, striving to undergird holistic lifestyles by learning to integrate the physical activity alongside the mental, emotional, relational and spiritual areas of wellness makes campus recreation the essence of resilience and true well-being.”
Elaborating on her motivations to be a leader, Hill added her biggest lessons include:
- Understanding younger staff learn differently.
- It’s important to adapt to make sure they have the tools to be successful.
“It’s not easy doing this because you think your way of doings things is always right,” she said. “You forget you can learn from them. If I am not compromising my core values, then I know I can adapt and still accomplish my goals as a leader.”
EXTRA CREDIT: Roundtables are another way to continue to grow. Here’s how these director’s have benefitted from this format.
Beck concluded his biggest lesson as a leader has been time is an extremely valuable resource for any team. “It’s essential to not waste the time of your team,” he said. “Leaders need to execute effective meetings and not have meetings for the sake of having meetings — they should have purpose and lead to action. I also ask my team to protect their own time by blocking off their schedule for things they need. And when it’s time for people to go home, they should be fully present at home, doing what they need to fill their cup.”
Lastly, Iverson added learning to say no has been one of her biggest lessons. “I’ve learned there are times when it’s important to say no as the impact of saying yes would be detrimental to the team and/or the department, as well as possibly negatively impacting my personal well-being,” she said. “Saying no can allow me to bring my best self every day to be present and support the team.”
I really enjoyed this article. Years ago I looked up “followership” and “leadership” on Amazon and Google. I was thoroughly disappointed in the lack of thought that seems to be put toward the idea of “following” – how do I follow, who, and why would I. I would say that every leader needs to know how to follow. Even the President of most organizations has to follow a board of directors. Additionally, as a person who was always told to develop my leadership, it eventually became an overused muscle and actually began to cause some problems for me because I wasn’t used to following. Peace!