By: Emma Smith
The second interviewee in the Women in Power Series is Dr. Katherine Fell, President of the University of Findlay since 2010. She is also a wife and mother to six children. She spoke about the importance of staying grounded in your beliefs as a leader.
What does leadership mean to you, and what’s your leadership style?
Leadership is primarily a responsibility more than a privilege. It is something that needs to be taken very seriously. My style is to collaborate first, deliberate on a decision and then decide. Then be honest about whether that decision has worked well or not. This is a cycle. Good leadership requires that you listen and know the people you are leading and that you build their own leadership skills. This cannot be just about you, the leader.
What quality do you think makes a great leader?
There are many qualities that make a leader, I think first you have to have certain principles by which you lead and that are nonnegotiable. Being honest, being informed, being compassionate and caring and willing to make tough decisions when need are all qualities of a good leader. There are many many others though. I think that you need a good combination of humility and confidence.
How do you balance your career, personal life and passions? Is there such a thing as balance?
There is a balance over the course of let’s say a work year but in any given day, there might not be balance. Over the course of time, with experience I have learned to balance my emotional and spiritual needs, physical fitness, my time with my husband and family and friends and my work. As president of an university, there is very little time when you can be allowed to be inaccessible, but I have surrounded myself with a great team of leaders, so I don’t feel that my responsibilities at the university intrude on me so much that I can’t remain healthy, in all forms.
What are the ways you implement self-care?
I am an early riser anyway, so I start with prayer and scripture reading which is what works for me and is really important to me. This centers me and reminds me that we are serving not only the people around us but that we have an eternal purpose and plan. I find this very exciting. That doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen but there is a purpose to learning to live through those.
What advice do you have for women looking to grow either in their own business or within the company they work for?
To do a great job. To not be too sensitive but also to stand up for yourself when needed. When I was young in my career, there were fewer opportunities for women, but there were definitely opportunities; far more for me then let’s say my mother’s generation. I am very grateful for that. There were differences in the ways that my supervisors, who were all men, dealt with the men and women in their department. I think for many years I was the only female professor in the English Department where I began. I became good friends with everyone in the department. I loved teaching there and I loved everyone there. I learned to ignore what needed to be ignored and address what needed to be addressed. I tried to win people over, if possible, by appealing to the best of their nature and bring out the best in mine. None of us are perfect. It worked well for me. That being said, there were a couple of times where there were real issues around the male, female difference but I worked through them and learned from them.
Do women in your profession have a hard time getting promoted and why do you think so?
Historically yes. Currently not so much. There are more women leaders in higher education than there were twenty years ago and perhaps even ten. When I came to the presidency here, I think 25% of university presidents were women, that number may have increased some. Here at the University of Findlay, I am very happy to say that about half of our employees are women and I think that we do a good job of making sure that they have equal opportunities to men to advance in their profession. It is just natural to our culture.