Lecture looks at leadership advice

Carol Sawyer, professor of organizational leadership, speaks about transformational leadership Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room. Sawyer listed qualities she believes make a good leader such as being focused, driven and passionate. She also spoke about how she was mentored for 30 years by Warren Bennis, an author and leadership scholar. / photo by Meghan Attaway

Jennifer Jackson
Staff Writer

The President’s Dining Room was packed with around 50 faculty members and students Tuesday to support Carol Sawyer, professor of organizational leadership, as she presented her first and last lecture before retirement after 22 years at the University.

Titled “‘Only Connect’- Warren Bennis’ 30 Years of Mentoring: The Stories,” Sawyer shared her memories of the late Bennis, an author and leadership scholar, and the valuable lessons he taught her.

“A mentor is collegial, very inquisitive, and interactive,” Sawyer said. “Warren writes how important it is for us to be first-class noticers to pay attention to what is going on around us.”

Sawyer shared a quote from Bennis that stood out to her, “We have to know ourselves before we can lead.” This particular quote is important, according to Sawyer, because what we lead with is who we are as human beings.

Sawyer recalled her encounters with Bennis and how he gave everyone he encountered a particular look that made them know they were important and interesting.

“The difference between success or failure depends on whether we get a little encouragement and that encouragement doesn’t have to be something big,” Sawyer said. “As I know so well from a time when I was challenged, I received a one-word message from the beloved Bennis. It was ‘character’ and with that I knew I was a person of character and everything would be alright.”

After being mentored by Bennis, Sawyer shared that she leads her life with integrity.

“I have in my office a wire sculpture that spells out the word ‘integrity,’” Sawyer said. “If Warren believed me to be a person of character I must always behave in ways that have integrity. We have to be authentic and be who we are.”

Matthew Witt, professor of public administration, introduced Sawyer by giving background on her professional career. He noted that she was supportive of him when he first came to the University.

“Her initiatives to bring notable scholars here is second to none on this campus,” Witt said. “It has been a remarkable influence on the MSLM program to have that sense of linkage and mentorship that she has been integral to cultivating with those leading scholars.”

Michael Sacoto, a winter 2015 graduate from the Master of Science in Leadership Management program, returned to campus to show his gratitude for Sawyer.

“The confidence that we’ve learned in her classroom and how to facilitate an actual focus group and how to implement everyone’s ideas has made me very successful,” Sacoto said. “She made everyone feel comfortable as if our ideas and creations were important.”

Sawyer inspires her mentees by staying in touch and listening to them and always treating them with respect.

“I’m blessed in terms of my colleagues,” Sawyer said. “The adjunct faculty here are superb.”

Jennifer Jackson can be reached at jennifer.jackson2@laverne.edu.

Meghan Attaway

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