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UC President Janet Napolitano on Leadership

Wendy Hanson
Janet Napolitano on Leadership

Photo: Davontae Foxx-Drew

In August 2019, I had the honor of speaking at the UC People Management Conference held at UCLA. My workshop was about coaching and career development conversations. These are two practices are essential to effective managers.

While I was there, I was so lucky to get to hear the Keynote with UC President Janet Napolitano. I was very inspired by hearing her thoughts on leadership, goals, and retention and career development.

Excerpts from the Q/A with UC President Janet Napolitano on August 9, 2019 at the UCLA People Management Conference.

On Leadership:

"I think you have to think of leadership in a different way than you think of management. So, you know, what you are managing, you got all of your kind of tasks with budget and personnel reviews etc. And you want to manage in a way that creates a good team environment. 

"Leadership is at a different level. Leadership to me means setting an overall vision for an organization and persuading the organization to follow that vision, to adopt that vision, to incorporate that vision. And so to be an effective leader, I think you need to be visionary, you need to be a good communicator, and a persistent communicator. And you got to have some energy, right? When you walk into the room, you should be a source of energy for people in the room, and you know that's what I aspire to give them.

"As leaders in the organization, you should be thinking not only about who could be your mentor, but who you can mentor."

On Goals:

"As big and complex as the University of California is, on any given day, there is the crisis issue or or there can be measles at UCLA, it can be a court case that didn't turn out so well, it can be protesters at the telescope which we are still working through. And so the challenge is to deal with the “crisis du jour”, but also keep the University moving toward some essential goals. And we've set some goals. We have set the goal of awarding 200,000 more degrees by 2030, above and beyond the million we already were planning. We've set a goal of eliminating the time to graduation gap for under-represented and lower-income students who right now at any of our campuses take longer to graduate which means it cost them more money, which means, you know, you've got issues of debt etc. So we want to close those gaps. And we have a goal of continuing to be a world leader in research and we have a goal of being net carbon neutral by 2025 and UCLA 100% renewable energy by 2025.

"I mean those are some big goals, and I hope you've heard them! We are going to get these things done, but you have to as a leader keep moving toward those big things even as you are dealing with the crisis issues. So that's the challenge."

On Retention and Career Development:

"We have worked at recruitment and let’s not waste it by not retaining good employees. And some of the things we've talked about today I think are designed to retain in part of the work of supervisors within the administrative structure of the university is to help us to retain talent. The other way we retain talent is career development. And right now, we have a variety of programs CORO by way of example, but I think we will need to continue to think of better ways where people now can join the university and can envision themselves spending the bulk of their careers here."

Episode Transcript
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