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.


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.

Truly Outrageous! Leadership Lessons from Jem and the Holograms

This October, a live-action version of the 80’s cartoon Jem and the Holograms will be hitting the big screen, and to prepare myself for the film I’ve been rewatching the cartoon (available to stream on Netflix now). For those unfamiliar, I’ll attempt to give a brief synopsis:

Jerrica Benton and her sister Kimber are the daughters of a long-suffering inventor, working on a top-secret computer project. When he passes away, the sisters discover what he was working on: a high-resolution hologram projecting computer called Synergy. Seeking to protect their family’s record label, Starlight Music, while also making enough money to support the orphans living at their Starlight House, the sisters and two other lifelong friends form Jem and the Holograms, with Jerrica taking on the alter ego, rockstar Jem.

If you’re interested in seeing more, the first episode is on YouTube in full.

In addition to being highly talented, Jem/Jerrica also showed tremendous leadership qualities- anyone interested in leadership could learn a great deal from “them.”

The team is the most important thing. I always found it interesting that the group was held together by a computer named “Synergy.” Although offers were constantly made to Jem to appear on her own, she always refused, insisting on staying a part of the group. Not all leaders are so gracious in this understanding of the team as a unit. By insisting that the Holograms remain a unit, she built the trust of her band members- the only others who knew that Jerrica and Jem were one and the same- and also was able to inspire the girls residing at Starlight House. She also ensured that she had the support that she needed when the obligations of living a double life caught up with her, as it did in a few episodes.

Let the spotlight shine elsewhere. Not every episode was about the Holograms, or even about their rivalries with the Misfits. Episodes, some of them “very special” (as was often the case in the 1980s) focused on the Holograms’ friends, and the orphans who lived with them in Starlight House. The show was stronger for this occasional look at other areas, as your organization could also be. And indeed, part of being a leader is being able to decide when attention should be deflected from you. Make sure to let your members, volunteers, and supporters (advisors, staff, etc.) take center stage once in a while- this is the sign of an inclusive and confident leader!

The Misfits, rivals to Jem and the Holograms. IMAGE CREDIT: Wikimedia

Focus on the work. The Holograms had a rival band, the Misfits, who always seemed to care more about making sure the Holograms didn’t succeed, than actually succeeding in their own right.  Even in the moments where they likely could have won handily, Jem encouraged the rest of the Holograms to take the high road, never disrupting the work of the other group- and in some cases actually being active in helping them through difficult times. It can be easy to look to your rivals to drive your work; the best leaders avoid that temptation, put on blinders, and focus on what it will take to elevate themselves naturally.

Know the difference between authentic and transparent. Jem may seem like an odd role model when it comes to authenticity. She is the alter ego of a music executive, and only a handful of people know who she really is. Even Jerrica’s own boyfriend, Rio, doesn’t know about her double life!

But Jerrica/Jem does something important in this double life she leads- she is selective about what information she shares with the world. She never outright lies, and she is never inauthentic. She simply compartmentalizes what elements of each personality she shows to the world. In an era where it’s easy (and in some cases, profitable and entertaining) to overshare, Jerrica/Jem is a wonderful example of restraint, even if by necessity. Be honest, be forthright…but know that this doesn’t always mean being a fully open book.

Have you watched Jem and the Holograms? What other lessons have you learned from it (and not just from the Very Special Episodes?)

Akyanna’s Leadership Spotlight: Leading Like Leslie

If I were to compare my time as President of OUTspoken (my alma mater’s LGBTQA+ organization), I would compare it to Leslie Knope’s time as Deputy Director of the Pawnee Department of Parks and Recreation. If you’re familiar with the show Parks and Recreation, you will find that Leslie Knope is very passionate about her job. She loves everything to do with the Parks and Rec department and she clearly enjoys her job. I envisioned myself to be the Leslie Knope of OUTspoken for a few reasons.

The first reason is that that it was an organization with a mission that I was very enthusiastic about. I wanted to be a resource for education for the LGBTQA+ community. Even though Leslie held the position of Deputy Director, she was very much the spokesperson for the whole department. People knew that she would fight for the town of Pawnee and its parks. I liked to think that in my time as Secretary of OUTspoken during my Sophomore year, I was viewed as the same way.

Towards the end of the series, Leslie gets promoted to chair of a branch of the National Parks service, pretty much the pinnacle position you could get being in the Parks Department. When I moved from secretary to president at the end of my Sophomore year, I felt that I had reached a point where I could truly make a difference.

Like Leslie Knope, I was passionate about one thing and decided to immerse myself as much as I could in it. I worked with my executive board to reach out different people in other organizations and in other departments around campus to get the OUTspoken’s name out there. Leslie Knope did everything in her power to make sure the citizens of Pawnee knew that the Parks and Rec department cared and wanted to make the town parks better for the children of Pawnee.

Being President of OUTspoken taught me so many things. It taught me how to communicate with other people; both people who were on the same level as me and people who were in positions higher than me. It taught me how to work with different people in different positions; some people who did their work well without any direction (ahem, Jerry) and some who needed a little more guidance with their job and what they needed to do (read: Tom Haverford). But regardless, being a part of OUTspoken was such a great part of my undergraduate career. Being my first leadership role, it gave me my first steps with getting more involved on campus. It will always be the example I give to other students who are having trouble fitting in on campus.

One quote from Leslie that I always enjoyed and I think people should keep in mind is: “I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself.” I think we should all be inspired by the work that we do and where we have started to where we are today.

Loss, Grief, & Stress – It Will Get Better!

As a leader, not to mention just as a human being, we are all going to experience loss throughout our lives. Loss can be anything from a favorite pen to a loved one passing away. My Dad passed away from lung cancer four years ago when I was 22 he was 44. The purpose of this post is to share some of the tools I have learned for dealing with loss, though I am by no means an expert.

Toolkit Item #1 – What You Are Feeling Is Real

Even though it may sound kind of obvious the sadness, anger, guilt, and fear we fill when we experience loss is important for us to examine so that we can heal. Unfortunately, one of the most common ways of dealing with grief is to not deal with it at all, which causes problems for us later. These feelings are real and it is important to express them in healthy ways. Just a few healthy ways include crying, laughing, writing, talking, and praying.

Toolkit Item #2 – Find Your Support System and Use It

Hopefully, at this point in your leadership development, you have a healthy support system around you to help you cope with problems. These are the people in your life that help you deal with issues at work, school, with significant others, and with friends. For some reason, after we have experienced a loss we tend to forget we have our support system ready to help us or we are not comfortable talking to them about our feelings surrounding the loss we have suffered. The same people you talk to about job and relationship issues are the same people who can lend an ear in times of loss and grief as well.

Another great support system to gain is to see a counselor (if you’re comfortable) for a period of time to help you deal with some of the thoughts and feelings surrounding loss. Dealing with grief is a big deal and having an objective person to help you can really be an asset. As leaders we do so much to help others. Counseling is a way to help yourself so that you, as a leader, can continue to help others.

Toolkit Item #3 – It Always Ends Up Better to Do Than Not to Do

Have you ever had the experience of wanting to be left alone when you are with a bunch of people or wanting to be around people when you are alone? This experience can be magnified quite a bit when we experience loss. There are certainly times when, even without a major loss, we just want to lay in bed and do absolutely nothing. I have always found though, especially after a loss, that I always felt better when I got out of bed and did something than when I just stayed at home.

Toolkit Item #4 – Make New Traditions

One of the hardest parts of dealing with a loss is no longer being able to do the same traditions because of the loss. Make new traditions to honor the old memories and make new ones with the people you care about. It isn’t inappropriate to say to people you care about, “we always used to do this, what can we do now together”. New traditions will allow you to have new enjoyable experiences while keeping memories alive.

Toolkit Item #5 – Make A Plan

Loss is going to change your priorities at least for the very short term if not for the long term. This is a great opportunity to reexamine what is currently on your plate and to be conscious in letting others know what you can and cannot continue doing. Most of the things that are going to be changed will be short term. For example, missing a few days of work, class, extra-curricular activities to take care of yourself. The planning part of this is extremely important because effective leaders work hard to plan so that even when small or large changes need to be made they can make others aware of it to ease transitions.

Lastly, not a tool but more of a truth: things are going to get better. Things will never get better fast enough and they will not be the same but they will get better.

If you have questions or would like some more tips/thoughts about dealing with loss please donot hesitate to contact me.

David Dodge

Mike’s Leadership Spotlight: Fighting Apathy as an Ambassador

Part of being a student leader is just that- a student leader. You’re a temporary fixture in an institution that survived before you got there and will last after you leave your schooling and head to the real world. The good news is, as a student leader, your presence can be immortalized on campus for years to come after you depart for the next chapter. Jack Welch once said, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you before a leader, success is about growing others.”

This is something I have taken to heart. The role that has the biggest impact on me being a student leader on campus has been being a student ambassador (tour guide). For me, this is the pinnacle of being a student leader; this is because I get to put Jack Welch’s words into something tangible. Showing prospective students around, hearing their stories and what drives them, whether it be student government, social justice or cultural understanding. I know if my school is a good fit for them and, if so, give them the opportunity to be a student leader by introducing them to current students and professors in those organizations, share their passions and get involved.


All the time we hear about apathy in new students when they come to university. As an ambassador for my institution, I get to be on the forefront of fighting that generalization and making a difference in the future of my school. This is why I think being a student ambassador is the most important leadership position I’ve held at my school. Not only will I be able to take pride in all the things that I have personally done to help make my school a better place, I will also get to take pride in the student leaders who I helped make that decision to come to our school and make a difference as a student leader. This is how I see myself leaving a permanent mark at my school and why being a student ambassador is by far the most rewarding opportunity that I have been a part of.

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:

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?