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Managing in Crisis, with Lynn Wooten

Managing in Crisis, with Lynn Wooten

We sit down with Lynn Wooten to discuss how to help your manager lead better, how she became President of Simmons University, and her new book, "The Prepared Leader."


0:00:00.1 Maricella Herrera: Hi, everyone. Before I get to the episode, I want to take a moment to address the United States Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe versus Wade on June 24th, which stripped away the right to have a safe and legal abortion. Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care including abortion, threatens the health and independence of all people, which we have already seen with abortion bans and restrictions in countries like Poland and Malta. This decision has dire consequences and could have harsh repercussions for other landmark decisions within the United States. I encourage our audience, American and otherwise, to learn more about what you can do to help at I encourage you to speak up, take care and spread the word.


0:00:45.9 Intro: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations With Women, Changing the Face of Business. And now your host, Maricella Herrera.


0:01:08.2 MH: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. I'm Maricella Herrera, the host of the Ellevate Podcast [chuckle] and the CEO of Ellevate Network. And today, I'm here with Christina Murphy, our Marketing Coordinator. Hi, Christina.

0:01:23.0 Christina Murphy: Hi. I'm so glad to be back.

0:01:25.8 MH: Thank you for taking some time from the busy, busy, busy time that we're having. 'Cause I know you guys have been working hard with some cool campaigns.

0:01:36.3 CM: Yeah. There's gonna be a lot of cool stuff down the pipeline, so we're really excited and working our tails off, but I'm happy to take a little while and talk with you on the podcast.

0:01:47.9 MH: Yeah, thank you. So, what have you been up to these last couple of weeks?

0:01:55.5 CM: So, I have been struggling to find something to watch that I'm really into, but to fill the time, I have put on that Jeffrey Dahmer show. [chuckle]

0:02:05.1 MH: My God, tell me everything.

0:02:08.1 CM: I knew you would love it.


0:02:11.2 CM: So, Evan Peters is playing him and he is... If you're not familiar, he's just like this... He always plays a spooky, spooky character. He is so talented. And I really didn't know too much about Jeffrey Dahmer, I think that was on purpose by design. So going into the show, I was unaware of what to expect, but it is really good acting and that always helps. But the content, the source material is pretty scary and I was eating a beef stew while watching...

0:02:47.0 MH: Oh no, no. Not with "Dahmer", no. [chuckle]

0:02:50.5 CM: And I had to turn it off. I had to change, 'cause it was too beefy, and it was just not okay. [chuckle]

0:03:00.2 MH: So, you know I love my serial killers, I am that basic. But I have not seen the show because Jeffrey Dahmer's one of the ones that I... He's one of the worst ones in my opinion.

0:03:13.0 CM: Yeah.

0:03:14.2 MH: One of the ones that freak me out the most. And so I've heard that show is very good, but like you said, good acting, but also it gets to you.

0:03:23.6 CM: Yes, I was feeling queasy.

0:03:25.7 MH: So, I feel like I need to be... I will watch it eventually. There's only one, I think true-crime thing that I haven't watched and I will never watch, which is "Don't F**K with Cats", and that's because I cannot...

0:03:37.5 CM: Oh God. Yeah.

0:03:39.1 MH: Yeah, I cannot see any harms to animals, I'm fine with other stuff, especially not cats, but other than that, I will definitely take a peep on "Dahmer". Instead of that though, I also watched another Netflix's true-crime thing. It's called "Sins Of My Mother", or "The Sins Of Our Mother", it's something like that.

0:04:06.0 CM: I've heard of that one.

0:04:07.2 MH: So it's a three-part series, and it's... I started watching it just because it said... True-crime about this woman and her family, and I was just like, "Eh, let's put it on." Well, it turned out it was the case of Lori Vallow, which I don't know if you know it, but it's from the last couple of years. It's something I was following through the pandemic on my podcasts. It's a wild, wild ride.

0:04:39.6 CM: Wow.

0:04:41.6 MH: Highly recommend. It's very sad, but also it's got a cult side to it, it's got murder, it's got abduction, it's got a little bit of everything.

0:04:55.6 CM: I saw that they are, I think on Lifetime releasing a movie, which feels too soon because it just happened last summer, but there's a story about Gabby Petito, a movie about her.

0:05:07.7 MH: Really?

0:05:08.4 CM: Yeah, and there's a blond actress playing her, and there's a man playing her boyfriend, and it just seems like...

0:05:16.3 MH: Yeah, I know.

0:05:17.3 CM: Too soon.

0:05:18.6 MH: I would agree with that, too soon. Too...

0:05:21.2 CM: I think a lot of people called it though, they're like, "Lifetime will be on this in about a year," and they were right.

0:05:29.6 MH: Yeah, I was surprised with this one. Because like I said, I was following the case on my podcasts, and then to see it up there. And I wish there was some actual resolution. There was, like we know what happened, but I don't think the court case has come... Criminal trial has come. So it's kind of... Yeah. Anything nice that is not murder related? [laughter]

0:06:00.3 CM: Anything nice? I am not much of a video game person but I did purchase a Nintendo Switch.

0:06:09.9 MH: That's exciting.

0:06:10.9 CM: And I have been playing Animal Crossing, which I'm sure our producer, Megan is excited about.


0:06:17.9 MH: Well, I'm sure she's dying to say something.


0:06:20.9 MH: Which, I can give you the floor, Megan, 'cause I have to admit, I don't even know what that is.

0:06:27.1 CM: It's just a fun, open exploration game where you're a little character in a tiny little village, and like I said, I really don't do video games that well or that often, but I have been playing this at night and it's just so relaxing and the music is so soft and it really just puts me to sleep, which is why I play it, and it's just been really fun.


0:06:54.1 Megan: It's the best, Maricella. It is the most relaxing, soothing game you will ever play, 'cause I sometimes do it on my lunch breaks, where I just need a reset for the day. If I just need to breathe, I'll do it on my lunch break. Or I'll just do it at night 'cause you just build up your little village and you can go fishing and catch bugs and craft things for your village and your house, and you can give your villagers things and sometimes they'll move away, but you'll get new ones and they're all little animals, but you're a person. It's the best game ever. [chuckle] I've been playing Animal Crossing since the original one, and this one is the best one. They've done so many updates with it, so many clever things, you can find fossils and donate them to museum, which is not new, you could always do that, but I will cease this rant about Animal Crossing, but it's so good.


0:07:50.1 MH: Yeah, I'm not a video game person, I really am not. One of my early memories of... Well, not super early, 'cause I maybe was 8, 7, of my childhood is having gone to Disney World with my family, and for some reason, I think they had given me and my brother some money to buy our own thing and feel like we were making decisions, and he convinced me... This is why he's so good at business I think, he convinced me to give him my money so that we would pull it together and buy some sort of Nintendo, Atari, whatever it was back then, I'm dating myself, but yes, it was an old. And I was like, "Sure, it's an investment." I never use it.

0:08:46.2 CM: Yeah, I grew up playing video games just by proxy with my brothers, but I was never... I never did it on my own until... This is the first video game thing I've ever owned, and it's just like... It's so cute. [laughter]

0:09:02.3 MH: Well, that's cool, I haven't found anything that I'm... I guess I'm back to knitting, that's been my relaxing thing lately, but truth be told, my days are mostly comprised of working and running, and then sleeping and reading, so pretty chill life I'm having.

0:09:25.5 CM: Love it.

0:09:26.4 MH: Yeah, I'm not complaining at all, especially as the weather starting to get cool, it's nice.

0:09:32.9 CM: Oh yeah, this is my favorite time of year. Definitely.

0:09:37.8 MH: Well, so as I said last week, today we have an interview that I enjoyed so much. I wish I had hours to talk to our guest today, Lynn Wooten, who is the first Black president of Simmons University and the co-author of "The Prepared Leader". She wrote this book on crisis management with Erika James, who is another academic and they're friends from a long time, so they've done a lot of research together and Lynn's research, not just in this book, is also quite fantastic. She's done tons of work on leadership and on leading from wherever you are and diversity, equity and inclusion. She is so smart and so fun to talk to. You can see I'm gonna be fangirling through the interview and it was quite the honor to have the chance to talk to her, so I can't wait to share this with everyone else. So let's go to my conversation with Lynn.


0:11:06.9 MH: I'm very excited to be here today with Lynn Wooten, the President of Simmons University. Hi Lynn, how are you?

0:11:13.5 Lynn Wooten: Good, how are you? It's a great day here in Boston.

0:11:16.3 MH: It's a good day in New York, it's sunny. This morning, however, it was starting to get chilly, I walked out for my morning run and thought, "Oh, no, starting to get cold." [chuckle] So Lynn, we usually like to start these very open-ended, so I'd love to hear a little bit about you, some of your personal background and how you got to where you are today. I should mention that you are a history maker since you are Wooten's first Black president.

0:11:54.1 LW: Yes.

0:11:54.5 MH: So congratulations.

0:11:54.9 LW: So I am President of Simmons University, the first African American President, the first woman of color. Simmons is here in Boston, it was founded by John Simmons almost 125 years ago with the simple mission that women should be educated to have economic empowerment. And that speaks a lot to who I am and what I've done with my life work, grew up in Philadelphia, I actually thought I wanted to be a home economics major, but my family persuaded me to major in business, and from there, went on to not only major in business, but spent most of my career, the majority of my career as a business school professor, as a business school administrator in academia, but studying tough questions, how do you lead in crisis, how do you create women-friendly organizations, what are the best paths for leadership for women and people from under-represented backgrounds? So that's been one trajectory of my life work. Another trajectory of my life work has been taking my research skills and my teaching skills to answer difficult societal questions such as what's the role of organizational culture in solving things such as health disparities or how do you create more diverse and inclusive philanthropy. Married with two children, and I can say that marriage and motherhood have also taught me a lot about leadership and are a part of my identity.

0:13:16.9 LW: And the other thing I think that makes me unique to your audience and what I'll talk about today is my new book coming out, "Prepared Leadership", that I wrote it with a friend who I also think as a sister and one person who wrote about us, called friendors.

0:13:29.2 MH: Yeah, I love that.

0:13:29.8 LW: We are friends...


0:13:31.2 LW: Yeah, we're like mentors and friends, and we've been friends since our 20s in grad school and written a dozen of articles and two books together, and have had similar career trajectories. Every time she makes a career move, I make a career movement, in fact, it's kind of scary. Our children are five days apart, her oldest and my youngest. When she took the Wharton dean job, it was a week after I took the presidency at Simmons, and so it's really been great to have two women supporting each other in their careers.

0:14:02.5 MH: I almost wanna stand up and applaud 'cause it's true, we need more of that, we need more women supporting each other, and I believe we do. I mean, that's what we are predicated on.

0:14:11.8 LW: Yeah, we're a communal culture.

0:14:14.6 MH: Right.

0:14:14.7 LW: We thrive in relationships and high quality connection, and it has been wonderful to have someone that's a friend and someone that's a sister, but someone that every step... When she was assistant professor, I was. And when she became a dean, I became a dean, so it's been a wonderful friendship.

0:14:32.3 MH: I love it, I love it so much. It's always good to have that. So tell me about the... I don't know where to start to be honest. Did you always know you wanted to go into academia?

0:14:46.6 LW: I did. I was just one of those nerdy, geeky kids, right? I was the teacher, if you would come in my neighborhood, growing up in Philadelphia, I had the chalkboard out, and I was teaching people.

0:14:58.0 MH: I love it.

0:15:00.0 LW: In college, the sorority that I belong to, and very traditional for African American sororities, you're given a line name or a nickname. Well, one of my names was the professor.


0:15:09.5 LW: All of my work study jobs were tutoring in college, TA, tutoring, research, so I'm just one of those people that I always knew I wanted to be a professor, but I'm unique in that my research really does bridge theory and practice, so I'm not a scientist in a lab or anything like that, I think a lot about real world problems, I work with companies and non-profit organizations and school districts to make my research better for the world. And also I care about students, I love teaching and being around students. I'm just coming from the presidential picnic an hour ago, hung out with students and played Connect Four and had cotton candy.

0:15:45.3 MH: Ooh, yum.


0:15:47.3 LW: Yeah.

0:15:47.8 MH: So, was it the helping other people that drew you to it, or teaching, I guess?

0:15:58.8 LW: I think there are two things that drew me to it. I love teaching, but even more than teaching, I love learning, I will always be a student. If I had time, I would get another degree. I like being in class, I like acquiring knowledge and then I like sharing that knowledge to help other people be better, or organizations or teams.

0:16:20.7 MH: I've only admitted this once to one person, and I'm gonna admit it to you and probably to the thousands of people who listen to this, if I could, I would have been a student for the rest of my life.

0:16:35.2 LW: So you're just like me, there's something fun about acquiring knowledge, of units, being in the classroom, it's energizing.

0:16:42.9 MH: I love learning, and I've been looking at... I've been reading a lot. I think we're gonna have so much to talk about 'cause I'm a nerd on organizational culture and leadership, that's what I'm fascinated with. And I've been reading a lot about how the skill that people need right now, or the most in-demand skill for any job is just learning ability, that...

0:17:09.0 LW: Yeah, it's learning ability, and that we call it learning agility, too. You think about our generations, many of us are going to live to 100, and so therefore, we're probably gonna work 50 or 60 years. And so we constantly have to prepare ourselves for that next job, that next role that we're going have, learn that new skill, that new competency, that new way of work. Who would have ever thought that I would have to learn how to lead a university in the middle of a pandemic? That was a new skill set for me.

0:17:38.7 MH: How did that go?


0:17:41.3 LW: I took the job a month before the pandemic hit.


0:17:45.0 MH: Right, I didn't... And they were talking about a pandemic overseas, they were talking about the Seattle thing, but I was like, "Oh," at a typical attitude of an American, right, "It's not gonna come here." And then I'm at Cornell, my previous job, I was a Dean at Cornell, I was wrapping up my deanship at Cornell and starting my presidency at Simmons and had to reimagine and rethink how we deliver education. And so it was an industry disruptor. For decades, my colleagues and I was saying, "We can never create online learning environments where people can thrive and be engaged," and the pandemic forced our hand to rethink, to learn a new skill set just as you're saying, and we did it well, and we came out and people learned. We engaged.

0:18:34.3 MH: What do you think was the most important part of keeping people engaged in that online scenario?

0:18:39.9 LW: I think the most important part were you needed to think about how you delivered education, so it couldn't be the two-hour traditional lecture of someone just sitting here looking at you. It had to be engaging, we had to divide and conquer and segment lectures. It had to be inclusive environments, it had to be visually stimulating. So pedagogy and how we delivered learning change, but it also had to be how we think about relationships. And even beyond the classroom, I do a lot with physicians and telemed, they're at the same way, they had to think about... They were saying, "We can never do telemed, people will never do it." Well, how many people even wanna go to the doctors anymore? So, the interaction with people change the using technology and the protocols, just the way we deliver things in a service, and education and medicine are two that I think really did well on the pandemic for reinventing themselves.

0:19:34.6 MH: They had to. And they're so...

0:19:36.0 LW: They had to. Right.

0:19:38.8 MH: Yeah, it must have been... Honestly, hats off to you 'cause it must have been just a whirlwind of things to consider, decisions to make, uncertainty everywhere, which is... No surprise you wrote a book on crisis leadership.

0:20:03.7 LW: Yeah, it was a whirlwind of decisions to make, and it was a new skill set. In my industry, my fellow presidents say, if you look at the last three years and how just leading the C-suite of a university has changed. Before it was about academic administration, what courses am I gonna offer? How do I support research? Thinking about all those type of things, but now, not only am I thinking about that, but I have to be the Chief Public Health Officer.

0:20:30.7 LW: I didn't know anything about COVID testing before, or how many hand sanitizers you needed to order for a university, or social distancing or de-densifying the campus. Likewise, we went through a social reckoning and having to elevate diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice in the midst of George Floyd and all the other things that happened in the middle of the pandemic. So my whole job changed. I spent 25 years in the academy training to be a university president, and then on the job in real time, I had to acquire a new skill set. And so our book that we have coming out, "Prepared Leadership", really talks about how do you get through a crisis and be more resilient than before, digging deep into...

0:21:16.2 LW: Kind of like I say, I like to joke, Erika my coauthor likes to say, a quarter a century of work that we've done, she doesn't like me to tell us our age. But interestingly, this is work that we started as assistant professors when we were studying discrimination lawsuits. And we were looking at how organizations led crisis that were really these big discrimination lawsuits, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and that research, we created a whole database and started to look at various crises. We looked at natural disasters, we looked at product defects, we looked at HR crises, all different types of crises, we looked at SARS and global crises and cyber security and supply chain crises and said, "Wait a second here, we think there's a better way for people to lead. They need to understand... "

0:22:08.0 LW: First of wall, both you and I have an MBA, how much of your class time did you spend learning how to manage a crisis?

0:22:16.1 MH: Zero.

0:22:17.3 LW: Zero, right? And most people say maybe 10%, and the average is zero.

0:22:22.6 MH: I'm trying to think, maybe in one of my more management-y classes, but since I was a banker, most of my classes were...

0:22:32.5 LW: You were a banker, right.

0:22:32.9 MH: Very, very much like M&A or things like that.


0:22:40.1 LW: So, we start very basic with... And when we think about our days from teaching MBAs and undergraduate business school students, everyone needs to understand what are the phases of a crisis before you can even talk about how you lead them. Early warning and signal dissection. I talk about the pandemic again. We started seeing signals a couple of months before the pandemic hit, or if you let Bill Gates tell it, years before, so that's the first phase. We then talk about, leaders need to understand, okay, if I'm starting to see these signals, now, how do I prepare for the crisis or how do I even prevent it? 'Cause some prices are preventable, and then some are not. And so once that crisis hits, we talk about in our book, how do you contain damage? How do you contain the damage, and then how do you get in recovery mode, which I think we're starting to get to now in what I call this pandemic era. How do we come back? How do we reinvent ourselves? How do we re-strategize? But the favorite part of the research that I do with Dean James is, we talk about real crisis leaders are always learning. They're taking that crisis, they're reflecting, they're learning, and they're thinking about how the crisis is an opportunity to make their leadership practice better, the team better and their organizations better.

0:24:00.0 MH: What do you think leaders, particularly in business, have learned from the pandemic? I guess you're saying that leaders who really lead through this crisis are always learning, and I've been thinking a lot about this. So, I'm asking you with something in mind, but I wanna see what you think.

0:24:20.6 LW: I definitely wanna hear your wisdom.

0:24:23.6 MH: I don't know if I'm very wise, but I have my opinions. I'm very opinionated.

0:24:29.4 LW: Which I definitely wanna hear. What have we learned from the crisis? We learn that we can thrive with industry disruptors, that something can hit us like this pandemic era, and that organizations can reinvent theirselves. And so that's one of the things we learn. We learn the importance of humanity, and we see it in that there's a new way to work. Many organizations are never gonna go back to five days a week of working, 40 hours. That we can be innovative, that we can be creative in the workforce. But we also learned, sadly to say, I've been studying women all of my career, that women still take a lot of the burden of crisis, the shecession. How many women had to leave the workforce because of caring responsibilities and they just couldn't handle it?

0:25:18.0 LW: People estimate that probably when you look at workforce, the downward trend about one fourth of those are women who say, "I'm just tired of work, it gets too much the juggle." We learn that real time matters, that we have to do things in real time and be flexible and agile. And I think we learned that community matters, even though those communities had to be virtual in the workplace. But what do you think we learned?

0:25:45.0 MH: I agree with you on a lot of these, some I hadn't thought about. But I do agree with you on the women are screwed part of it, to put it that way, but it's true. We made so much backwards motion in the progress we had, and it's sad but millions of women had to leave the workforce because they couldn't... The burden of both care and house and everything, and also because honestly, since we're paid less, what's the benefit? So that, I think we learned. I was hopeful a couple of weeks ago, or a month ago or something, I was hopeful, I was actually, after taping one of these podcasts, I went out, I was so excited, and this was with a chief people officer from one of our corporate partners, and I was so excited.

0:26:45.0 MH: And I'm like, "Yes, this is what companies have learned from the last few years, is that people are people and should be treated as people." And do you know what, I still believe that. I still believe that that is true for some places that like you said, we've learned about humanity, we've learned about the importance of community, we've learned to accept... I think there's a big, big, big acceptance of mental health that wasn't there before, but I'm afraid that it's not gonna last.

0:27:24.0 LW: Yeah, that's what my colleagues are saying. A lot of them who also study organizations and who are wise like you, they don't think things are gonna last. They think we're gonna go back to the status quo.

0:27:36.2 MH: What do you think?

0:27:36.7 LW: Forgetting the importance of humanity in the workforce, not respecting under-representative groups, under-resourced groups, marginalized groups, mental health, and changing the way we do things. Going back to the women's issue. My children are older now, I have a 20 and a 27-year-old, but I have a group of girlfriends that I chat with almost daily, we're saying we're so glad we didn't have kids during pandemic that we had to homeschool, 'cause we don't know what we would have done. But on the flip side of my generation, many of my friends have left the workforce because of elder care, they have parents who are aging, we're a society that neglects elders, just like mental health.

0:28:19.6 MH: Yeah, we're actually... I've been talking a lot with one of our strategic advisors, and she's brought that up several times about how there's an elder care crisis and there's no one talking about it.

0:28:32.3 LW: Dean James Erika is talking about that at a conference in a couple of weeks, we're not preparing for the aging workforce. We don't prepare for people to be able to work until their 70s and 80s, we haven't thought about that. We don't have good assistant living and nursing home cares or independent living for seniors, yet we're living longer. This is another example of a crisis that we didn't prepare for, yet if you look at the data, we knew it was coming, it just... It makes me angry.

0:29:00.2 MH: Yeah. But I don't know. I was reading about monkeypox and all these things in the world and, are we prepared for a crisis ever? [laughter] Sorry, I don't mean to...

[overlapping conversation]

0:29:16.0 LW: No, I just took a sigh here. I think that we're never prepared for a crisis because we talk about, yeah, it is hard to prepare for a crisis, but what can we learn from previous crises? We know crises are unusual events, they're rare occurrences, they are things that take you and they cause shock. They're ambiguous. Let's take the monkeypox example. In some ways, it's very different from COVID, but what have we learned from COVID, what have we learned from the AIDS crisis, and how are we bringing it into our healthcare systems, organizational life and our everyday? So I think preparing for crisis because they're unusual, each crisis is different, are challenging, but we have to be better as a society of going back to our past and thinking what we learn and then playing that learn forward. So we do know now how to present diseases, we know how to communicate, we know how to get people vaccinated, we know how public health messages, we know on university campus what are best practices, we know in healthcare and public spaces. So, I wanna be optimistic here and say, yeah, we can't necessarily prepare for them, but we can learn from our history and our leadership skill set to be better equipped to manage them.

0:30:36.2 MH: Yeah, one of my favorite quotes, and this I guess, comes from having lived through a war, "Whoever doesn't know their history is bound to repeat it", so learning from that is I think the key, as you were saying.

0:30:53.9 LW: Right, and even with the pandemic, my first convocation fees, we have a big nursing program at Simmons so my first convocations, which I talked about how Simmons led and managed the nursing students, the flu epidemic that happened in the 1800s. So we've had this history about pandemics, but we talk in the book about sometimes we forget, so we deal with the crisis and then we wanna move on, and we neglect all the learning and the system changes that we need. And as you say, you're starting to worry that we might be going back to normal, so it's this panic-neglect cycle that we don't want people to get into.

0:31:36.5 MH: Yeah, my worry of going back to normal, which I've been thinking a lot about this lately. I think that we're going through a moment, and it comes from the pandemic probably, and like you mentioned, the murder of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor and the social awakening that happened then, I think we're having a moment where trust is so inexistent, it's so curved. Trust in the government, trust in businesses, trust in each other in many ways. I think this phenomenon of quit quitting and you tell me what you think, and I know you are very interested in organizational culture and our paths for under-represented people, but I think it's all coming back to this lack of trust.

0:32:35.6 LW: It is coming back to the lack of trust, and the best leaders during this most recent pandemic era, did two things well, they were in the business of trust building and they were transparent. And you look at the quiet quit and people no longer have trust, whether it be a trust failure for government, the organizations they work in or their community. And so the question that I've been asking is, what is it gonna take to rebuild trust? First, we have to communicate and be clear about where the world's going. Second, we have to feel that we care about people. A lot of times when I'm asking people, why are they leaving their jobs, they say they feel like no one cares about them. There's not that caringness, I'm just another worker. And then being realistic and transparent about lots of things at the micro-level, HR policies, at the more macro level, the strategy of the organization or the country, and then finally, I think, is that we have to work across differences. Part of the reason why I think we're seeing such a distrust now is we've become a divided society, and we haven't learned how to work across differences and think about what's those things that we have in common that we all care about to advance the world.

0:34:01.5 MH: You're giving me hope. Do you think, as you said, employees want to be cared for and between that and some of the research that I've seen from Future Forum and other places, a lot of it we've talked about in our summit, which you would be an excellent speaker for.

0:34:22.1 LW: Sign me up.

0:34:23.9 MH: [chuckle] I will. Something that we talk about in our summit is, people wanna be treated as grownups, which goes back to they want companies to trust them and they want companies to care for them. Do you think... I had a whole debate. I'm using this as therapy, but I had a whole debate with some of my very close friends from business school about this because they don't believe that is possible in any large company.

0:34:55.7 LW: Oh, God.

0:34:57.2 MH: Sorry, this is how I... Birthday dinner and that's how I...

0:35:05.6 LW: Let me tell you. The name of our book is "Prepared Leadership", and we started with triple bottom line, this is why I'm going back to it. Triple bottom line, what you learn in business school says every great leader should think about profits or whatever it is, a non-profit, the profit equation is different, they should think about the planet, which is a whole nother podcast about the planet, and they should think about people.

0:35:27.2 LW: And Erica James and I argue that the fourth P is prepared leadership, but let's go back to people for a second, and this big quit that we should have been prepared for. Yeah, they feel that people don't care. They're not cared for, but I believe in large organizations maybe that you can create a culture of caring, but it takes the managers to do it. There's no way in a large organization that I can care for individually, all 15,000 people let's say, associated with your organization. But I can one by one make sure that my direct reports are caring for their direct reports and that this cascades down. And so this caring culture has to begin at the C-suite, it has to be a priority, and it has to be a component of prepared leadership. And then to build this trust, what it takes is almost a caring psychological contract that when you come work in my organization, this is what you're getting beyond the pay, I care about your career development and your well-being. And on the flip side, you care about the organization's well-being and showing up to be your best self, so the contract goes two ways. The other component about trust we talk about is communication, which I just said, and you need competent leaders. Some of the people who are quitting, I talk...

0:36:45.4 LW: My son is 27, so I talk a lot to his generation, they're quitting because one, I don't think they care we care about them. Two, they're quitting because they want a new way of work, and they think we all work too much, but they also don't think their leaders are competent. And so being able to be competent in your job, having the knowledge and the critical skill set to do it well and demonstrate that competence.

0:37:09.2 MH: What do you do if you... 'Cause yeah, when you don't think your leader is competent, you're completely disengaged, I've seen it in my life. And yeah, you can't really do anything except leave.

0:37:23.1 LW: Well, you can leave or you can say... It's almost the Michelle Obama quote, "When they go low, I go high".

0:37:29.6 MH: I go high.

0:37:30.1 LW: How can I help this person be more competent? Is there anything else I can do? Can I think of it as managing up? What can we do as a team?

0:37:38.3 MH: Yeah, the amount of times I tell my team, the people in our company, managing up is an art.

0:37:45.1 LW: It is an art.

0:37:45.8 MH: It's an art.

0:37:47.4 LW: And I don't mean kissing up, I mean truly managing up. Yes.

0:37:50.5 MH: Yes, managing up. Making your life easier by managing up.

0:37:57.4 LW: Making your life easier. Every new job that I start, I think about who my boss is and I say, "How can I support you in your role, and at the end of the fiscal year, what are the top three things I can do well that support your role and my role so the organization looks good?" And maybe we're getting a generation that we're not teaching them the skill set and the benefits of managing up.

0:38:22.5 MH: Yeah.

0:38:23.9 LW: And likewise, I invest in people. The people who report to me, my first role is not a boss, it's a coach, it's a mentor. It's a people developer.

0:38:36.9 MH: You're talking to my heart. I was laughing that I still have one-on-ones monthly with people who left my company.

0:38:44.2 LW: So do I. [laughter] Because that person is not getting it in other places.

0:38:52.3 MH: Right. And I've invested a lot of my time and energy and effort in helping them succeed because I think they're excellent. Why would I stop just because they don't work in the same place I do?

0:39:03.9 LW: Yeah, that's part of my professional calling. I'm glad to see you have the same calling.

0:39:08.8 MH: I think we're similar nerds, nerds of the same feather. So, you mentioned when we were talking at the beginning that you do some research on the best paths for leadership or best leadership paths for underrepresented backgrounds. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

0:39:26.9 LW: Yeah. So, a lot of the work that I have done has looked at the leadership trajectory, especially of women and people of color. And how do we build out the various skill sets? And when you think about the leadership trajectory, when I'm working with young women, women in their 20s or just starting their career, I'm coaching them about how to be the best individual contributor. And that requires you to think about, "Okay, what expertise do I bring to my role, what experiences, what education and what execution skills?" So, I actually call it the E's, and emotional intelligence, that's what I'm working with when you're first starting your career and you're that emergent leader. And everybody has great education, but you gotta think about your experience, your expertise, and can you get the job done, can you deliver? The next level people I work with is when you have to take that first leadership role of leading a team, and some people struggle with going from an individual contributor to leading a team. You have to be more visionary, you have to start to coach, you have to mentor, and you have to move really from the me to the we.

0:40:34.6 LW: Then move on to the next analogy is what I call the MOMs, when you become a manager of managers. And that's a whole scope and scale and complexity when you start to managing managers, because things have to really cascade down and you spend lots of time coaching. And I know you've probably done that in your own practice. And then this level of the C-suite skills when you really need kind of the crisis leadership, you need strategic leadership, you need to be innovative and at the same time have all the good things we learned in business school, the finance, the accounting and the operational skills. So, it's a lot. And you think about the journey that we've had. It's a whole lot in coaching, and so it's understanding each level. I take a strength-based approach, because I believe we're only our best self when we show up with our strengths and then know how to complement them, but I also... The people I work with, I challenge them to learn just as much from a bad boss or a bad assignment.

0:41:34.2 MH: Yes. I could talk to you for hours. I really could.

0:41:40.8 LW: I think we could go on and on.

0:41:41.1 MH: I don't say that to everyone. [chuckle] One last question, because as you were talking about those different stages, you did emphasize emotional intelligence, you said... What was it? The MOM.

0:41:56.3 LW: Yeah, the MOM, when you become a manager of managers.

0:41:58.0 MH: Managers, yeah. And because of research that also has come up specifically about crises, do you think women make better leaders when it comes to hard moments?

0:42:16.2 LW: The research shows that there have been a lot of editorials and articles that even talked about it during the pandemic, and so what does... Let me just say we lead differently and maybe we have better outcomes. So, what are the skill sets that we can do? I'm being politically correct here.

0:42:33.1 MH: You don't have to be.


0:42:35.5 LW: Don't have to? I have my husband and my son sitting on my shoulder arguing with me and they are the professor and the attorney. My husband, the professor, and my son, the attorney so they're really good at arguing. This is what I think, women are wired to multi-task. We are good at multi-tasking, our brains can think on the left and the right side, and in a crisis situation, you have to be creative, you have to be resourceful. You're balancing the tactical in the moment crisis with, how am I gonna get out of this crisis?

0:43:08.7 LW: And think strategically about the future. And women develop that skill set from how we're wired. We are caring, so we're thinking about the people side and building trust, the communication side, the caring side. We like to communicate, we like to talk, we like to think about messaging, and then this notion of, I think we're agile. And so when you look at... One of the favorite example, I'll do two examples that I like, I like how the New Zealand president led during the crisis, and if you follow her, she was very authentic. One day during the pandemic, in her message, she not only talked about their COVID policies, but she talked about how the Easter bunny was going to have to make virtual deliveries or something.

0:43:51.8 MH: I remember that.

0:43:53.5 LW: Yes, so we're authentic. I'm talking about my kids here on this podcast, and I'll talk about my mother and those type of things. So women are more vulnerable and they can show up and be their best self. But looking at a leader of who in the crisis was agile and thoughtful and strategic is Mary Barra from General Motors. She changed the plant quickly when she knew... Shut down cars and started making PPE and mask and then oxygen tanks, and all the things we needed for the pandemic. But at the same time, she strategically, she was thinking about the future of General Motors and the electric car. So those are just two examples of women who stood up and showed out and used their prepared leader skills for the crisis.

0:44:39.6 MH: Yeah, we're good. Well, Lynn, I don't wanna take more of your time and we still have to go to our lightning round questions, is there anything else that I didn't ask you that you would want me to ask or that you wanna make sure that goes into the podcast?

0:44:56.7 LW: The other thing you can... Hopefully, people will read the book and also go to our website,, we talk about the glass cliff. And I don't know if any of your podcast people talk about the glass cliff, but there's a stream of research that says women and minorities get these C-suite jobs and the organization's always in crisis. And so to your podcast listeners, your next job or your current assignment, think about what are the crisis situations that might be coming on the horizon, and what can you do to prevent yourself from being on the glass cliff, or leading successfully while you lead on the glass cliff.

0:45:32.4 MH: Yeah, the glass cliff is a big thing, and I think there's a lot to talk about that, too. A lot. Could do a whole other episode just on the glass cliff.

0:45:42.4 LW: Right, so we have a tool on our website that's free, they can download and it talks about glass cliff assignments. But this is something when I'm coaching women in particular, that I'm saying, looking at that assignment, being more strategic, thinking about you're probably going to have a crisis, so how do you thrive while you're on that glass cliff?

0:46:03.3 MH: I'll look at that. Like I said, I just took this job a couple of months ago, so, very timely. Well, Lynn, a couple of questions for you. Lightning round.

0:46:15.7 LW: Okay.

0:46:16.6 MH: Introvert or extrovert?

0:46:19.9 LW: My husband says I am an extrovert introvert. I'm an only child, I love to be alone, I like to read books. But I also like... I'm curious, so I like to learn from other people and meet people, but an introvert by nature.

0:46:32.4 MH: Okay, dream dinner guest.

0:46:37.1 LW: Oh, dream dinner guest. That's a good one. And I used to ask this on the first day of class, I was just telling one of my professors. I always used to think about a, let's see, a dead and a live one. So, I want to say, Madam CJ Walker, who was the first Black female millionaire and how she made her money and did that from haircare products. And I'm curious what Melinda Gates is thinking about these days.

0:47:01.3 MH: Oh, those are good.

0:47:04.6 LW: Yeah.

0:47:04.7 MH: Those are good.

0:47:05.4 LW: And how she wants to lead her foundation in the next big societal issues for women.

0:47:09.5 MH: Yeah. Favorite recent read.

0:47:13.6 LW: Oh, favorite recent read. Okay, I gotta pull up my phone from my Kindle. I love to read all different types of books, chick flicks, leadership books, nutrition books, all different types of books. I'm the professor once again, I'm the nerd. So what have I read? "Fun Beach". I'm in the Boston area, so everybody does the beaches. The fun one that I read over the summer was "Hotel Nantucket", that was a fun one. Yep, and so that... What else am I reading right now? What else am I really... I'm looking on my Kindle here to see what else I have read recently from my library that I'm thinking about, 'cause I've been so busy reading books. You helped me talk about I'm a Mark Bittman fan, so I've been following "Vegan Before 6:00", that's a big one.

0:48:04.6 LW: And then on the leadership side, and one of the books I read is by Dr. Ruth Gotian, she talks about "The Success Factor". And she studies leaders and she writes about Erika in her books, she's the one that wrote about our friendship and different formulas about how people have achieved success, so "The Success Factor".

0:48:21.9 MH: The Success... I'm gonna check that one out. I'm a big reader, too. So, love this. One more. Favorite day of the week.

0:48:36.5 LW: Sunday.

0:48:37.8 MH: That's a surprising one. I don't think I've ever had anyone say Sunday.

0:48:43.3 LW: So Sunday is my favorite day of the week for a variety of reasons. It's the day of the week where people take time to reflect, to meditate, it may be the day for your faith-based community. It's my favorite day for family dinners and gatherings, just to come together. I love to take naps, so I always get a good nap on Sunday. And then going back again, when I'm coaching leaders, Sunday is the day I spend looking at my calendar and strategizing a plan for the week. I always take Sunday evening to look at my calendar and to plan for the week.

0:49:17.6 MH: Love it. And finally, what's one question or thought you'd want to leave with our listeners?

0:49:26.2 LW: A question or thought is the thought of that all of us are leaders, and every day we have to show up to be our best self. Some days are crises, some days are not, but using our strengths will help us get through every day.

0:49:40.8 MH: I love that. That's a really important message. I 100% agree. Well, thank you, Lynn. This was great. This was lovely.

0:49:51.4 LW: Thank you for the opportunity and I look forward to hearing from your viewers on social media and sharing the podcast with my constituents.


0:50:06.9 MH: Damn it, I wanna talk to her again. [chuckle] I feel like I have a few things I still need to go back and ask.

0:50:15.0 CM: That was an awesome interview. I will have to re-listen to that because she was just so cool.

0:50:21.8 MH: Yeah, she's fantastic. I really want her to be one of our speakers at Mobilize Women this year or next year, I guess, 2023. I have to reach out to her. She's really great. If you wanna meet other great people, please join us for one of our roundtables, we have a couple coming up. Like you know, we usually have the one for executives, one for rising leaders, one for entrepreneurs. Executives, we meet at 1:00 PM Eastern on Tuesdays, and we're gonna talk about getting on an advisory board. Rising leaders get together on Thursdays at noon, and they'll be talking building confidence to reach your full potential, something we always need a little bit more of, I will say. And our entrepreneurs meet on Thursdays at 4:00 PM. We'll have a virtual networking session, which will be lots of fun, you're gonna get to know some other entrepreneurs in the Ellevate community, so please join us for one, two, or all three of these.

0:51:29.1 CM: I will certainly be at the rising leaders roundtable as usual. This topic is... It's really important, no matter how confident you think you might be, it's always important to check in on that and see how you can really get more confident or like this says, reach your full potential, because I think we all struggle with that.

0:51:51.3 MH: I would agree with you, and here's the thing with confidence. The way I see it is, it's not a constant, we all go through crises of confidence. We can feel very confident on one day and stumble the next, and it's totally normal. So it's always good to get a little boost.

0:52:11.6 CM: Definitely.

0:52:14.5 MH: I might join that one too, actually. And speaking about confidence, some really great confident women who are making history and we are going to celebrate them because they're amazing, they're doing great things, making change, creating pathways for others, and actually, I believe, giving confidence to others, because if you can see it, you can be it.

0:52:47.9 CM: Oh, yeah.

0:52:49.3 MH: So, do you wanna start us off on our history makers?

0:52:51.6 CM: I would be honored. Dawn Wright became the first Black person to explore earth's deepest point.

0:53:00.1 MH: Oh my God, that is so cool.

0:53:00.8 CM: Yeah, that's insane.

0:53:04.0 MH: It reminds me of Marvel, yesterday I was watching "Thor: Love and Thunder".

0:53:09.2 CM: Oh, I haven't seen that one yet. I have to...

0:53:10.5 MH: You haven't? It's fun.

0:53:12.8 CM: I love Marvel but I have to watch that one.

0:53:15.3 MH: It's very fun. It's directed by Taika Waititi and I think he's fantastic.

0:53:22.5 CM: Love him.

0:53:24.0 MH: Anyway, going back to history makers, Sahar Al Rumaih became Kuwait's first woman deputy central bank governor.

0:53:32.3 CM: Kelsey Flannery became the first woman to pilot an F-35 fighter jet for the US Air National Guard.

0:53:40.9 MH: Belle Mariano became the first Filipino woman to win Outstanding Asian star at the Seoul International Drama Awards.

0:53:48.5 CM: Wow, I'm getting all these adventurous women. Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti became the first European woman ISS commander.

0:54:00.0 MH: Wow. Taylor Hale became the first Black woman to win "Big Brother". Seriously? A, is "Big Brother" still on?

0:54:10.5 Megan: It is still on... It's in like season 28 or something. Don't quote me on that, but it is still on.

0:54:16.1 CM: And the first Black woman just won, oh.

0:54:19.5 MH: There's so many wrong things in that sentence, so many. But anyway, congrats to Taylor. I love celebrating these new people who are making history, if you have anything you wanna celebrate, please let us know. We're here to root for you and cheer for you. Just email us, or reach out to us. Slip into our DMs on any of our social channels, and we'll make sure to give you a huge shout out.

0:54:53.3 CM: Oh yeah, and I just wanna plug, in our Wednesday newsletters, we do do a featured member of the week, and this is people who submit through a form, something they are proud of, something they did at work, anything. And we'll give you a shout out in the Wednesday newsletter, which goes to so many people, so check that out.

0:55:14.4 MH: Absolutely, and it's a great way to build your brand, but also to get that confidence. Again, fill that confidence also from the people who are around you. Next time we're gonna be talking to Kalpa Gupta. Kalpa is actually a long-time Ellevate member. She's involved with our entrepreneur group, so if you go to the entrepreneur roundtables, you might see her there. She is fantastic. She has quite the story. We will put a little bit of a trigger warning in this one because Kalpa is a survivor of sexual abuse and her purpose is to transform people's relationship with self and break down the cycle of intergenerational trauma. She works with leaders, executives or business owners who have experienced sexual abuse as a child, to shift their identity stuck in shame, blame and guilt to feeling fully integrated and whole. We have a great conversation both about her story, both about supporting other people who are going through these situations and how to come into our own power. So, I really hope you can join us for Kalpa's episode next week.


0:56:36.0 Outro: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out, subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes, give us five stars and share your review. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter @EllevateNtwk, that's Ellevate Network. And become a member, you can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller, she rocks, and to our voice-over artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much and join us next week.