Lessons on Leadership
My relationship with Deborah F. Stanley began through our husbands, who were both Oswego natives. We’d see each other out, we attended each other’s weddings, we lived in the same neighborhood, we had children at the same time and our daughters became best friends.
Deborah had just become president of the college when I decided to rejoin the workforce part-time after having my twin daughters. I was hired to run the Fall Classic, which was the main fundraiser for the college and was a precursor to our full-fledged major gifts and development program. Looking back, I realize how fortunate I was to have had a one-on-one professional relationship with Deborah early on in my career here. She has mentored me throughout my time at SUNY Oswego, and she has helped to shape me into the leader I have become.
Here are a few lessons on leadership I have learned from my 25 years working with President Stanley.
Never stop learning. President Stanley was constantly reading, and encouraging us to connect with colleagues to discuss best practices, attend workshops and conferences, know everything you can and become an expert in your area.
Trust your team. She empowered me and asked me for my opinion on anything related to alumni and development. She’d say, “You’re the expert. You tell me what you think the options are.” She’s the kind of leader who builds your confidence and your belief in yourself. Because she believes in you, you ultimately start believing in yourself, too. Support, mentor, encourage and trust your team.
Be ethical and transparent. She was always honest and clear in what her expectation was.
Make time to plan. She helped me realize the value of strategic planning. She’d ask, how can you reach your goals without a plan? She always started her planning from the place of what’s best for our students. That was the gold standard.
Focus on people. She was the first to call someone on her team who faced personal tragedy and to set aside work tasks to focus on the humanity of the moment. She values people and was so eager to understand our alumni and their perspectives. I loved watching and learning from those interactions.
Lead by example. She expected excellence, but not perfection. She never expected anything of you that she herself wasn’t doing. She always asked how she could help support me and my team in accomplishing our goals.
President Stanley has built a strong team that she’s really positioned to lead. She unleashed us to be the best we can be to help the next generation of leaders, too, and to perpetuate that type of commitment and passion for our students and for higher education. That’s her legacy. Her legacy is what she has empowered all of us to do and become.
I’ve learned leadership from the best, and I have a deep and abiding respect for Deborah F. Stanley as a leader, a role model, a friend and an all-around person.
~ Mary Gibbons Canale ’81
Vice President for Development and Alumni Engagement
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