Lead365 Follow-Up: Re-Explore, Re-Engage, Re-Evolve

About two weeks ago, more than three hundred student leaders converged in Orlando, Florida for the Lead365 conference. There were student leaders from the Virgin Islands, from Mexico, from South Dakota, from Delaware, from New York… from almost anywhere you can imagine! For three days together we learned life’s lessons, created connections, and made memories. And just like that, the conference was over. We hopped on our planes, trains, and busses back to our hometowns.

Have you heard from anyone since?

No, your own classmates do not count. I want to know if you have spoken with anyone from a different school than your own. We were supposed to stop networking and start connecting, weren’t we? So why haven’t we contacted any of our new friends?

Our issue might lie in our interpretation of “Explore. Engage. Evolve.” Some of us may have been led to believe that the process is linear.

We explored opportunities for leadership growth and choose to attend Lead365.

We engaged with an amazing staff to learn invaluable skill sets.

We evolved our programs back at campus by utilizing our new growth and skill sets to make new, and probably necessary, changes.

And then we stopped.

But why have we stopped? The process was never intended to be linear, it was intended to be a never-ending cycle. We need to go back to the beginning.

We need to re-Explore. What does your program do well? What does your program need to work on? It seems like every school has a leadership program nowadays. Do you think that one of your new connections from the conference may have a similar problem? Maybe you can work it out together. Do you think that one of your new connections may actually have a strength where you have a weakness? Maybe he can tell you what he does so that you can adapt your own program to be more successful.

At Lead365, Marlon Smith challenged us to keep our arms raised for three straight minutes. It was hard on our own. But when we heard the feel-good vibe of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” over the speaker system, it suddenly was not as challenging anymore. We could hold each other up. Together, we can achieve more than any of us can achieve alone.

And that is why it is so necessary for us to re-Engage. Make the first move. Message your new friend from Baltimore. The conversation does not need to be long. Just let her know that you were thinking of her and was wondering how she was doing. It can be a small gesture with profound effects. You never know when you might have a problem that she’ll understand, and maintaining that friendship is the best way to ensure that help will always be there for you when you are in need.

But don’t just stop there, re-Evolve. Use the process to keep growing. The name of the conference is Lead365, not Lead3. So spend 365 days a year exploring, engaging, and evolving. Our greatest success lies not in what we learned in three days at a conference, but rather in teaching what we learned in the other 362.

Jordan Griffen is a Leadership Mentor at SUNY-Geneseo in Geneseo, NY. Should you wish to move from networking to connecting with him, you can find him on LinkedIn or Facebook!


Top Five: Encouraging Student Reflection Through Blogging

This fall, Lead365 is adding to its repertoire of conferences and leadership resources with a new Reflection Journal! Designed to guide you to reflect on each of Dr. Corey Seemiller’s Student Leadership Competencies, it is a wonderful mixture of thought-provoking quotes to get your wheels turning…and the open space to take your journey. Today’s Top Five from Ohio Dominican’s Becca Fick talks about how to prime your students for success in reflection.

IMAGE CREDIT: Ohio Dominican University

What sorts of experiences did you have as a student leader that led you to want to continue working with college students?

My student involvement was the one thing that kept me in school. I was a member of the summer orientation staff and a college 101 course assistant, on the dance team, and an officer in my sorority. I don’t mean to say that my academics weren’t important – I was a triple major and accepted into a few honors societies -but that I can directly trace my retention to my involvement on campus. Paying for a private school education as a first generation college student was incredibly challenging for me, but knowing I had a people who were counting on me pushed me to work hard over the summer to pay down my balance as much as possible. It also meant touch points over the summer – orientation sessions, dance camp, and leadership retreats – and commitments to uphold in the fall. I know how valuable campus involvement can be for students because I’ve seen first hand the role it played in my own growth, development, and retention.


How did your undergraduate background in journalism and applied writing inform how you choose to work with students each day? Storytelling and clear, concise communication. I have a deep and sincere appreciation for people’s stories and perspectives that I credit to my background in journalism. Though I don’t write feature stories on all of the students who come through my office, I certainly could. Applied Writing is about communicating clearly in a way that an audience can understand. Between emails, presentations, meetings, and 1-1 interactions, this it the writing jargon version of using language to “meet them where they are.”  While I find writing and reflecting both natural and rewarding, it is also important to realize that this is not the case for everyone and multiple forms of reflection should be considered.

While I find writing and reflecting both natural and rewarding, it is also important to realize that this is not the case for everyone and multiple forms of reflection should be considered.

There is a heightened call to create opportunities for college students to reflect on their experiences- why do you think that is? The job market is more competitive than ever and it’s not enough to have a college degree anymore. Couple this with the increased regulations and call for higher education to prove our value and you have an environment ripe for providing rich experiences. As the field of Leadership Development continues to grow, we will see more emphasis in this area as well. It is not enough for a student to participate in an experience; the learning and development that signal change and growth happen when students engage in reflection and meaning making processes. Blogging is a sort of hybrid of journaling and small group discussions, tools already readily used by educators. Whether you are using Kolb’s Learning Styles or Bloom’s Taxonomy, research shows the value of including reflection in the learning and meaning-making process.


Now I want to get to our Top Five, in which you pose five points or tips for those looking to create a more contemplative and reflective experience for students through blogging. How do we get this going for our students?

Point/Tip One:  Blogs are not essays or journals.

Blogging requires a different level of thinking and writing than a personal journal, or even one shared with a teacher. Blogging makes your thoughts 3 dimensional. It takes them from being 1) in your head to 2) in front of a teacher or professor, and into 3) a space for discussion, interaction, and feedback. There is a different level of thoughtfulness when your writing may be read by someone else, by strangers even. That’s not to suggest that you should over think blogging either, or trap yourself in analysis paralysis – it’s not that serious.

If college is about finding yourself, blogging is about finding your voice.  Unlike writing a paper or answering a question on a midterm, blogging asks you to write like you think. This runs contrary to the writing skills students have learned through formal education. Students learn to write the answers teachers are looking for, the answers that will pass a standardized test, the answers that are right. This is the greatest reward – and the greatest challenge – of blogging for students and teachers alike.

Point/Tip Two:  Make it easy.

Especially for beginning bloggers and those who may not know where to start, give them prompts or a structure to work within.

What? So What? Now What?

I like using these three questions to create reflection prompts for students. Whether you are giving students a prompt for reflection or asking them to create their own, this format is easily adapted and easy to remember.

  • What? Explain the thing you did or experienced. (ex Service project, leadership workshop, study abroad trip, internship)
  • So What? What happened because of this experience? (experience new culture, new meeting management skills, learned to use excel, relationships, etc)
  • Now What? As a result of this experience, how have you changed or grown? What will you do with this new information?

Point/Tip Three:  Don’t limit it to writing.

Playing with the format can address multiple learning styles and intelligences. Writing comes naturally for some students, while creating a video blog or a photo essay may be easier for others. For example, when discussing and processing identity, visual aids can be incredibly helpful in helping a student tell their story.

An assignment might look like this: Take pictures of what your culture values. Define your culture. What do you value? Where do your values come from?

Point/Tip Four:  The Internet is forever.

Sites like WordPress rank high in search engine results and can be a benefit to students when creating and curating an online presence. There are plenty of resources available about personal branding and career development, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include this reminder in a top 5 list.

Point/Tip Five:  Model the Way

The best way to be familiar with a tool is to use it. In this case, it’s also an excellent way to model expectations and engage in the learning process with students. If we aren’t willing to do the things we talk about and advocate, they (students) know. The power you have to influence students is unfathomable. Start somewhere. Believe in it, even if its imperfect (and it will be). Give yourself (and your students) the grace to try it.


If you had to distill all of this into one suggestion for professionals seeking to create an environment that fosters and encourages a blogging spirit, what would you suggest?

If you want to help students develop their identity, give them a place to develop their voice. If you want students to be meaningful contributors to society, give them something bigger to be a part of. They’re ready for it.



reflections journal cover
Look for more details about purchasing your own Lead365 Reflections journal!


Read365: Krista Prince Reviews Leading Imperfectly

As our more frequent readers already know, we at Lead365 believe that reading is a fundamental piece of the leadership development process. Today, UNC-Chapel Hill’s Krista Prince reviews a leadership book that’s new to the scene- popular college speaker James Robilotta’s Leading Imperfectly.

Thank you, Krista! IMAGE CREDIT: UNC Chapel Hill



In his new book Leading Imperfectly, James Robilotta models the way; he transparently, accessibly, and humorously shares his story in an effort to encourage readers to lead authentically.  He assures readers that “your story is good enough,” and can be a starting place for leadership: “connecting with others, empowering them to be their best authentic selves, and working together toward a common goal” (p. 152 & p. 106).  James’ emphasis on learning and relating through leadership, and his analysis of power in leadership, proved particularly poignant for me in considering how to lead authentically if imperfectly.

Relating and Communicating

James explores the importance of relationships for leadership, and makes critical points about the interpersonal nature of leadership. The ideas about communication that resonated with me most include: sharing why and not just that I love someone, showing a curiosity about others, being appreciative of the time others (e.g. students) give, considering how I make others feel, asking if something bigger might be influencing behavior, spending time investing despite being “busy,” and listening actively.  It’s my hope that engaging some of these recommendations more intentionally when working with students might foster a stronger sense of vulnerability that strengthens our communication and thereby our relationships.

We’ve all worked with, or even been, overcommitted students with far too much on our metaphorical plates. As an advisor, I find that helping students realize the implications of their over-commitment can be a delicate balance: helping students realize the ways that their over-commitment has been detrimental to the caliber of their work or well-being, while simultaneously focusing on their strengths and achievements. Robilotta’s personal story of a past supervisor’s “pie” activity at the conclusion of which she asked: “’is it fair that each of these commitments only gets a small percentage of your energy and time?’” stood out as a powerful way to frame these challenging, but necessary conversations (p.86).  This particular example serves as just one of many that professional advisors and supervisors may find applicable in their own work of helping students learn through leading.


Learning and Leading

Robilotta’s emphasis on the “learning, teaching, and growing that happens along the way” is congruent with my own approach to leadership development (p. 36).  His reminder that perfection is incongruent with this approach gave me pause to consider how I might be more authentic in my work with students and colleagues.  I am left considering how competence and imperfection are not as incompatible as they may seem, and how my own vulnerability might support others in developing through leadership experiences.

Robilotta asserts that “having a title means you’ve earned a responsibility to share your knowledge with others” (p.117). This line in particular struck me because I find that often in Student Affairs, we spend so much time on tasks and administration that we often forget the importance of education. I too agree that we have a responsibility to share our knowledge, in its many forms, with others: experiential knowledge (mistakes & successes), resources, literature, best practices, and so forth. As leaders, it’s important that we commit to continual knowledge-seeking and sharing.  It’s also critical that we interrogate our own learning and leading in an effort to relate more equitably with people.


Power and Leadership

As a student affairs professional, I spend a lot of time reflecting on notions of “fit” in hiring practices and the construct of “professionalism” as incongruous with our commitment to inclusion.  James is perhaps the first author who I have seen discuss the construct of professionalism as problematic, even patriarchal: “being professional means curbing your emotions to remain as even-keeled as possible” (p.110).  He acknowledges how he can use the privilege he has to push back against the “tradition of professionalism” and norms that hold people back.  While this section could be developed into a book itself, it provides a starting place for those leading recruitment and hiring or for those with the power to set expectations around “professionalism” (dress codes for example) to ponder and perhaps even disrupt the dominant discourses that inhibit authenticity.

Another area where Robilotta (2015) explores power was through communication.  He reminds us that healthy conversations require an equal playing ground, and I found his comments around reprimanding emails to be particularly important. He elaborates that such messages take the power away from the recipient and are therefore unhealthy modes for communicating.  Even when we aim to have an equal playing ground, titles and positions can sometimes mean that this is not the reality, and leaders must intentionally consider the very real implications of their positions for interpersonal interactions.


I hope you will take the time to read James’ book and consider what leading imperfectly means for you.  His personal examples will surely provide you new insights from which to interrogate your own authentic leadership, and I hope it will provide you with the courage needed to be vulnerable in your relationships and leadership too.

Lead365 Conversations: Christian Cho on the Startup Mindset

Today’s Lead365 Conversation features Christian Cho, higher education critic and blogger, and his take on the startup mindset and how to support student entrepreneurialism. we had a long conversation with Christian, but we want to share our favorite part- discussion of how startups are a product of the generation that’s rising to power, their values, and what it’s doing for the world of work. He also shares a book recommendation that can help you start to cultivate your own startup mindset.

Share your thoughts and further questions in the comments, and thank you to Christian for taking some time to chat with us!

Meet Our Sponsors: e2c Services

As we continue the journey toward our fall conference in Orlando, we want to give you the opportunity to meet some of the people that help us make it happen. Today, Gary brings us the story of e2c Services.

It’s every college senior’s major question when entering their final year of school: “What am I going to do after I walk across the stage in the fall?” Many college graduates graduate and do not have a job; this is true for a great many who are out in the world today. Some might question the lack of preparation in higher education for that. But career service organizations like E2Cservices are changing that fear, and turning it into a possibility.

Career_fairThe model that they adopt and have college students follow is what shows their success. Dave Pearce and Dawn Brunn’s story is unique. They were co-workers at the same company and one day had a conversation about how much they learned; they wanted to bring that knowledge back to college students for others ultimate success.  Dave Pearce is founder of E2Cservices, while Brunn holds a masters degree in Adult Education and is a Certified Professional Coach.  Their networking model developed as they reached out to different students, organizations, colleges and other groups- from there the word spreads about E2C.

E2C believes that universities can get their faculty active within their community, particularly in business. Students should get opportunities to get out of the classroom and do internships. E2C says, statistics shows students who have had a internship during a period of their educational career have a greater chance at obtaining a job at that organization, than their peers who do not take advantage of this opportunity. E2C has had great success- each student they take on as a client receives the same coaching and the same number of interviews with the organizations they want. A quick example: one of the trainings that E2C conducts is called Strengths Training; through this one of E2C’s clients discovered he wanted to go to school for his Civil Engineering degree. Now he is working in his dream field, and has an internship at a Engineering Firm.

E2C feels that Lead365 is a great conference opportunity and partner, because both organizations have the same audience and core values. E2Cservices welcomes everyone to attend their session (to be held at the start of Day 2); they will present networking ideas, resume building, LinkedIn profiles, and do’s and don’ts on Social Media. Join them at Lead365.

Top Five: Encouraging Student Entrepreneurship

This fall, the Lead365 Conference will be adding two sessions on student entrepreneurship to the lineup- check out our schedule for more details on this session. To prepare you for the idea of learning about entrepreneurial leadership, we talked to Northeastern University’s Lauren Landry about the value she sees in that sort of thinking and how you can encourage it in student leaders on your own campus.

Lauren Landry, NU Experiential and entrepreneurship mentor
Lauren Landry, NU Experiential and entrepreneurship mentor

What sorts of experiences did you have as student leaders that led you to want to continue working with college students?

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to work for the school’s first lifestyle magazine, initially as a writer and eventually as the managing editor. What made the experience so meaningful is that it became the place students could come to discover whether publishing was the right fit for them, and in what capacity. Did they start as a writer, but fall in love with design or sales? Or did they think they wanted to be an editor, but realized they’d miss writing their own stories?

The magazine served as a creative outlet for so many. It was also a place run on peer editing, meaning students were pushing each other to be better. Our goal was to create the same quality you could find on newsstands and, because of that, it took a lot of work. Students made the choice to spend their time outside of the classroom on the magazine, and that desire to be the best was inspirational. It’s easy to miss that collaborative environment and youthful energy, which is why I was thrilled to cover campus innovation for BostInno.

Given your background as a journalism student, where did the interest in student startup culture start for you, and what opportunities did you take to build it?

Admittedly, prior to taking my job at BostInno, I was a stranger to student startup culture. That said, I, like so many others, was unknowingly plugged into it all along. I was constantly logging on to Facebook, regularly sharing documents via Dropbox, or visiting SoWa on Sundays just for Roxy’s Grilled Cheese. When doing these things, I never thought, “These companies got their start in Boston-area dorm rooms.”

My position at BostInno granted me the opportunity to remind people of that. Even better, I got to put a spotlight on the dozens of other young entrepreneurs trying to make our world a better place, whether through the convenience of on-demand services or the democratization of education.

My initial goal was to simply educate readers on a growing culture I was surprised to know so little about—particularly as a former Boston college student. We launched the Campus Innovation Guide in mid-2012 to highlight the incredible work being done city-wide, as well as provide aspiring student entrepreneurs with the resources necessary to get their ideas off the ground. As luck has it, some of the stories populating that Guide happened to spark the interest of investors and customers, which proved to be a huge win for students and motivated me to wake up every morning.

Over time, I realized my role went far beyond sharing stories—it was making connections. I spent many inspiring nights sitting around tables with student leaders from around Greater Boston brainstorming and collaborating. When I met an entrepreneur I knew could benefit from the expertise of another, I would introduce the two, regardless of the schools they were studying at.

Achieving a vibrant startup community is impossible if everyone is operating in silos. A lot of progress has been made—student-run firms like Rough Draft Ventures and the Dorm Room Fund are great examples of that. More could always be done, however, to encourage students to break out of their campus bubbles.

As I’m sure you’ve seen, many institutions aren’t always ready to support entrepreneurship, instead preferring to steer students toward more traditional paths like corporate work, graduate school, or service. Why do you think that is? [what fears are tied up in it, what skills need to be developed, etc.]

If an entrepreneur is stumped on a problem, they will do whatever necessary to figure it out—often on their own. I think that scares some schools; they fear irrelevance. If an aspiring entrepreneur can learn something without attending class, why should students bother taking on the average $30,000 in student loan debt? After all, we live in a world where students are being paid $100,000 to drop out.

That said, the best schools are making entrepreneurship a part of their fabric. I’m admittedly biased, because I currently work at Northeastern University, but the school’s Center for Entrepreneurship Education has done an amazing job connecting what students are learning inside the classroom to what they are building outside of it, using three simple words: “Educate,” “Incubate,” and “Launch.” They assist students at every point of their startup journey—from fleshing out that initial idea to bringing their concept to market.

More schools should be supporting student entrepreneurs and celebrating innovation.


Now I want to get to our Top Five, in which you pose five points or tips for those looking to create a more inclusive and fruitful leadership experience for students who want to create a lasting impact through building a company or solving a problem.

Point/Tip One: Give students the room to innovate.

There is no better time to start a company than in college, when students have a built-in safety net and don’t have to worry about how they will cover rent or additional living expenses. Acknowledge that and encourage entrepreneurship. It’s hard to believe that, at one point, students at Harvard were forbade from running businesses out of their dorm room. Ensure you are not killing the next Facebook by giving students the room to innovate.

Point/Tip Two:  Create a safe space for students to innovate.

Part of giving students the room to innovate requires they have a safe space to do so. This doesn’t require a state-of-the-art facility—it’s unrealistic to say every college or university can afford to create an Innovation Lab. That said, schools can provide a variety of resources dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship. Is there a spare classroom that could be turned into a makeshift co-working space, or faculty available to walk students through their business plan? Are you bringing outside speakers in, perhaps successful alumni, who can inspire students to take that leap or offer mentorship? There are a lot of little things colleges can do that make a big impact.

Point/Tip Three: Celebrate the wins through more than business plan competitions.
Business plan competitions are a great place to start—students should be recognized and monetarily rewarded for their hard work. But business plan competitions shouldn’t be the only way entrepreneurs are supported. Additional programming should be integrated throughout the academic year, whether that be hack nights, networking opportunities, or speaker series. Entrepreneurship doesn’t happen in a vacuum during the spring semester; your programming should reflect that.

Point/Tip Four: Help connect student entrepreneurs to the greater community.

For students in Boston, there are dozens of ways for students to plug into the greater startup scene. Help students discover those opportunities. Too often, we complain about a “brain drain”—students coming to school here, acquiring knowledge, and then leaving immediately after graduation. A way to prevent that is by helping young entrepreneurs build a network too valuable to leave. Companies in this area are committed to giving them a reason to want to call Boston home. Tell them about ventures in your area like Rough Draft Ventures and the Dorm Room Fund, introduce them to accelerators like Techstars and MassChallenge, or bring them with you to events like TUGG’s Tech Gives Back or the New England Venture Capital Association’s NEVY Awards. They will thank you for it.

Point/Tip Five: Build a strong, encouraging alumni network.

One of the best ways to inspire student entrepreneurs is by introducing them to someone who’s experienced what they have. Start building a strong alumni network early—one that’s able to support like-minded entrepreneurs post-graduation if your school might not have the resources to do so. Alumni want to get involved. A prime example of that is the Soaring Startup Circle, a summer accelerator program started by Boston College alumni for Boston College students. Encourage initiatives like this, and provide students with the confidence that their support won’t run out immediately after commencement.


If you had to distill all of this into one suggestion for professionals seeking to create a more inclusive environment for creating an environment where potential student startups and their founders can thrive, what would you suggest?

It’s simple: Celebrate entrepreneurship. Create an environment that encourages students to want to take that leap of faith. As President Obama said in July at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit:

Everywhere I go, across the United States and around the world, I hear from people, but especially young people, who are ready to start something of their own—to lift up people’s lives and shape their own destinies. And that’s entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship creates new jobs and new businesses, new ways to deliver basic services, new ways of seeing the world—it’s the spark of prosperity. It helps citizens stand up for their rights and push back against corruption.  Entrepreneurship offers a positive alternative to the ideologies of violence and division that can all too often fill the void when young people don’t see a future for themselves.  

Provide students that future.

Transformational Leadership in The November Project

Transformational Leadership has five behaviors: challenging the process, inspiring a shared vision, enabling others to act, modeling the way, and encouraging the heart. I don’t know if Bojan Mandaric and Brogan Graham knew about these behaviors when they started November Project (NP) but they use each one to lead. As I related each behavior to NP, it clicked in my brain why the movement has been so successful and why I felt so empowered after each and every workout.

Okay, let me back up- many of you are probably asking, “What in the world is November Project?” It’s a  free fitness community that started in Boston and has spread to 21 cities in the United States and Canada. For more context check out their website: http://november-project.com/

From day one November Project has been cultivating and inspiring a shared vision. The vision is simple: a free fitness community for all fitness levels. The workouts are fierce, fun, and inclusive. This vision is known and consistently repeated by leaders and members a like.

The leaders of November Projects are able to keep the workouts fun and fierce by challenging the process. They challenge the notion that hard workouts are all work and no play. I’ve jumped over trashcans and wheelbarrow-raced, all in the name of free fitness. Not every experiment is a success but the leaders know how to shake things up which makes members hungry for more free fitness weirdness.

And it is the members that the NP leaders are focused on. It’s not just about free fitness, it’s about a free fitness community. They enable others to act by fostering self-development with their focus on tracking times and celebrating improvement.

All November Project leaders have to be some of the fastest and fittest in the tribe. Not to be exclusionary, but so that they can lead by example. These workouts are tough and the best way to lead is to show everyone how it’s done. The leaders don’t just model the way at workouts either, they talk about their racing gains and show how their hard work is paying off.

The number one behavior seen at NP workouts is encouraging the heart. All workouts start with hugs and telling each other “I’m glad you’re here”. Leaders cheer on the fast members and are often seen jogging along with the slower ones or chatting with those who are struggling.There is just so much love pouring out from the community because of how much heart the leaders put into every workout.

Transformational leadership takes in the individual needs of followers and inspires them toward a particular purpose. That is exactly what November Project does and will continue to do. Give people who need a community a place to grow while becoming fitter, happier humans. It’s a style that empowers members to do their best, be their best, and support each other. And isn’t that what all leaders want from their followers?