Leadership Blog Series: Ready to Lead

Written by Sharri Margraves, Director for HR Organization and Professional Development

How did you know you were ready to lead? What inspired you to take that first step? What is your mission as a leader? Who helped you see you could be a leader and who helped you along that path? I’m curious about the journey that brought you where you are now as a leader, and where you want to go in the future.

In my case, I didn’t think about any of this when I first started in a leadership role. My first job out of college was as an APSA level 10 supervisor at MSU, and I was just happy to have a position in my field. So, armed with my dietetics degree, off I went into “institutional food service” as a personnel supervisor. Thankfully, I was able to attend a six-week training program before being assigned to my permanent spot.

The joke was on me because I was sent to that training unit just a few days before the start of the fall semester. Let’s just say that I decided to immediately start looking for another job! In that first year, the colleague who made my job bearable quit, another experienced colleague was experiencing a personal crisis, and our supervisor was demeaning and unethical. Then, one day I came into work, and the supervisor’s office was cleaned out—something was about to change.

Senior leaders began coming to the unit daily, and an interim leader was assigned. I took on new job responsibilities and challenges. The climate we operated in was hectic and unsettling, but I found a groove. I encountered many challenges the first year but was seen by others as a leader. I certainly made mistakes and missteps all along the way (I still do), but I was given a chance and found people who cared and were willing to help me learn. My experience showed me the rewards of being kind and helpful to new people. I was also given the gift of recognizing lousy leadership and the impact it can have.

Throughout my career as a leader at MSU, I’ve made it a point to take on stretch assignments and do all I can to continue to grow—public speaking was particularly hard. I figured if I kept growing, I would be able to help others be successful too.

Here’s what I’ve learned: Encouraging and empowering others will help our needed leadership talent grow. Always be on the lookout for talent—hire people better than you and model positive leadership by refining their gifts and talents. Find others that need a chance and the grace to grow into the leaders we need, whether they are individual contributors or supervisors.

Leadership Resources from OPD

MSU offers and continues to develop resources to support leaders and managers at all stages of their professional journeys. HR’s Organization and Professional Development (OPD) launched the New Leader Development Series in January 2021, designed to give new leaders a survey of different topics related to both leading and supervising/management. More than 70 people will be making the connection with this fall’s cohort. Although this next series is full, consider the January 2023 cohort for you or members of your team.

OPD is also excited to announce a new leadership workshop and the return of a re-engineered course that’s been extremely helpful to MSU leaders: Strengths Based Leadership and Crucial Conversations for Accountability (previously titled Crucial Accountability), both available for registration in EBS for fall dates. Check out the recent HR post Learning and Development Resources for Supervisors for additional courses and other resources to help you grow and advance on your leadership path.

Are there resources not currently offered by MSU that you feel would be useful to your growth as a leader? What support would help you feel ready to lead? I’m interested in your story and what could make a difference in growing MSU’s leaders. Feel free to comment below or contact me directly at margrave@msu.edu.


Photo by Christina Morillo: https://www.pexels.com/photo/three-woman-having-a-meeting-1181626/

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