University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan spoke at The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce Women’s Leadership Luncheon June 19 at The Holiday Inn in Virginia Beach.
Sullivan’s speech to more than 250 attendees was entitled “Principles of Effective Leadership” as she spoke about varying topics related to leadership. She began her talk with two stories about having a larger purpose and tied them into leadership by stating how to create a powerful sense of mission with an organization. Sullivan cited the Chamber’s mission statement, describing it as nice and simple, while noting that it gives its members a sense of individual purpose and shared ambition.
“A good mission statement is like a compass: it keeps everyone on your team pointed in the right direction,” said Sullivan. “It helps if you can see your mission in the context of its larger purpose beyond the day-to-day drudgery.”
Another concept for effective leadership she cited was to know your priorities in which she talked about the commander’s intent within the military.
“Your priorities should flow naturally from your mission and values,” said Sullivan. She also mentioned the importance of knowing the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important.
“Every day we are forced to balance matters of urgency with matters of importance,” said Sullivan. “You cannot ignore urgent crises when they arise; you have to manage them, without losing sight of your important, long-term priorities. This is a delicate balance: we need to stay focused on important matters even as we are forced to contend with urgent matters that demand immediate attention.”
Sullivan then emphasized that leaders should be aware of their blind spots.
“You need to know what you don’t know, accept that you cannot possibly know everything about your team and your business, and encourage colleagues to help you fill in the gaps,” she said.
Sullivan said it was important to create a culture of leadership at every level of an organization. The culture of leadership should permeate the entire organization, so the front-line people are encouraged to contribute, she added.
“A good leader will challenge his team to think independently, speak up, and take action when action is needed, even if it means trying something new,” said Sullivan.