The Honors Star Lecture Series went straight for to top Tuesday, selecting Eastern Michigan University’s Provost Kim Schatzel, Ph.D., as their keynote speaker.
This year’s topic for the series is “Soar Higher: Pursuing a life well-lived.” Schatzel was the second speaker of six scheduled throughout the academic year. Her focus was “Leadership: Styles, Situations, and Self,” done before a packed Student Center Ballroom.
“You can’t proclaim yourself to be a leader, it has to be earned,” Schatzel said. “A sense of humor is a very, very important character trait to have. Humor is a good thing; it’s a trait for a leader to have and encourage within the folks that they work with.”
Schatzel was born and raised in New York City, a self-described “city mouse” raised around the streets and alleys playing with the children from many blocks around. This helped provide the lifelong skills of respecting differences and how to get along with others while working through varying degrees of challenges. She said her college experience, as with many students, was the first major adjustment in her comfort level.
“Do things that also make you feel a bit uncomfortable, it will stretch you and prepare you to be a better leader,” Schatzel said. “Take yourself out of your comfort zone.”
Schatzel addressed the possible guilt that some women in the workforce may face, stating it is up to each individual woman if she wants to have a career, a family or both. She advised that it is hard, but possible to do the best at both, if the woman so chooses.
The message seemed to reach many in the crowd.
“I think she is the coolest lady in the whole entire world,” EMU student Caitlin Keif said. “I want to be her when I grow up.”
Schatzel’s first job was as foreman for Ford Motor Co. making Pintos. On her first day her boss reinforced stereotypes common in industry at the time to her. He told her that it was “unnatural” that she wanted to be a foreman, and that she was “taking a job away from a man who needed it.” Four years later he was working for her.
“Never be a jerk. If you’re a boss or leader, you must always treat those you work with, with respect. Position means nothing,” Schatzel said.
According to Schatzel, two skills students should develop while at EMU are project management and critical thinking. These are the skillsets companies like Google are looking for in applicants.
“There’s an upside and a downside to any kind of leadership, and you need to find the balance and see what works for the people you are working with,” EMU student Christina Gee said. “She was incredibly informative.”
Schatzel quoted Peter F. Drucker to depict the difference between what a leader and a manger is, “Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right thing,” Schatzel said. “Be a reliable and competent manager in order to be a leader.”
According to Schatzel, it is critical for leaders to give direction, use communication and do not “shoot the messenger.” Bad news is something people need to feel comfortable bringing forward. Do not let your projects train derail at the end due to a lack of confidence in reporting problems, as the Challenger space shuttle tragedy and General Motors’ ignition switch malfunction did.
Students stayed after the speech asking questions about motivating others and self, the Provost’s role on campus, potential in coaching style, unethical business examples and how far is too far in following your ethics on a job.
“Leadership has to be earned…if you turn around and there’s nobody behind you, you’re not a leader,” Schatzel said. “People give that to somebody, they’re the ones that bestow that title and privilege…Work hard at being a leader and earn the respect of the people you work for because they’re the ones who make you a successful leader.”