Central Penn College - Talkin’ Leadership with President Linda Fedrizzi-Williams

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January 3, 2019 Talkin’ Leadership with President Linda Fedrizzi-Williams

In a recent interview, Dr. Linda Fedrizzi-Williams, president of Central Penn College, shares her thoughts on the opportunities and challenges faced by women in leadership positions.

What leadership traits have served you well? And on the flip side, what have you learned that tends to hold women leaders back?

LFW: When opportunities present themselves, you have to learn to say “yes.” Many women leaders, including myself, suffer from something called, “Imposter Syndrome.” We tell ourselves we’re not ready for the next promotion… because we believe we don’t know enough yet or we’re not quite qualified. For my dissertation, I interviewed women college presidents and this is one thing they all said they struggled with at some point in their careers. Many of them had passed on opportunities, which they now realized they should have pursued.

Having good mentors and a strong support structure are extremely important. I’ve been fortunate in that regard. At SUNY Orange, I had a number of mentors who encouraged me to pursue assignments… who placed me on committees… who nurtured and encouraged me to take the next step.

As a leader, you have to be comfortable getting out of your comfort zone. That’s the only way you can advance.

What are the greatest challenges women in leadership experience? Are more challenges external or internal?

LFW: Work/life integration is one of the biggest challenges faced by women. Even now––in the second decade of the 21st century––the majority of women are still the primary caregivers for children, even when they work outside the home. And women still perform the majority of the housework and cooking, even when they have a full-time job.

As a leader, you have to prioritize what’s really important. Maybe that means using a delivery service for groceries or a cleaning service for your house. Maybe that means relying on your spouse and your support system to help with the kids, if you need to be at an event or stay late to complete a project. That can also mean leaving work to attend your child’s soccer game or dance recital.

Notice I used the term “work-life integration” and not “work-life balance.” “Balance” implies that work and life will somehow equal out, which is all but an impossibility if you’re in a leadership role. “Work-life integration” is a more realistic goal and better reflects the overlapping roles between work, family and home.

What valuable career lesson or lessons would you like to share with others?

LFW: Be a lifelong learner. There’s always more to learn. That can mean earning another degree, taking a course or going to a seminar. We live in a time of rapid technological change, so you need to be open to learning new ways of interacting, accessing information and communicating your message.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

LFW: Don’t let other people veto your dreams. There will always be naysayers, and sometimes those naysayers, unfortunately, are your friends and family. If you believe in yourself and believe in what you want to do, pursue your dreams with gusto. Build a support network of positive, like-minded people. You need to surround yourself with people who will build you up, not hold you back. As you embark on your career journey, you will at times experience doubts and fears. That’s only natural. Having the right mentors and supporters in your corner can help you overcome the obstacles and hasten your success.

Be a mentor and resource to others. Just as you have benefited from advice and encouragement from your network, provide that same level of support to others. There is nothing better than giving back to others.