M-LEAD, an integrative leadership education collective, launched a Leadership Lens series on LinkedIn where they interview students from across campus to hear their leadership insights, highlight that leadership is more than a position, and reinforce the notion that anyone can be a leader.

MLEAD interview with Becky Woolf

What is the best advice you’ve received or the best lesson you’ve learned in the past year?

The best leadership advice I have ever received came from a mentor figure of mine almost five years ago. He told me that leadership is successful when we’re training ourselves out of our roles–teaching the life lessons we’ve learned to others, and sponsoring the growth and success of others. This has stuck with me since, and I can really see how I grow as a leader by supporting the people around myself.

 What makes a leader great?

A great leader is not someone who knows everything, but someone who has the desire and openness to learn and grow–they are willing and eager to hear feedback, are open to challenges and new ideas, and actively seek out opportunities to check themselves. The best leaders I know are able to translate shared values and interests into actionable change, and they do so by continuously challenging themselves, the people around them, and institutions.

What would you say to someone who doesn’t think they can lead or doesn’t think of themselves as a leader?

Anyone at all can be a leader. Leadership really is just stepping up, and that can be everything from mediating a hard conversation between your roommates, taking the lead on a class project, to running a student organization. You don’t need to be the best at anything in order to step up–besides, leadership isn’t something we’re inherently born with, it’s a skill that we learn and practice like any other.

With great power comes great responsibility. What do you do to build and maintain trust while also holding people accountable?

Deliberately building in feedback sessions is a great leadership strategy as this allows health partnerships where team members can reflect on what works, what didn’t, and why. Make a space for people to bring up concerns and ideas–this builds a foundation of valuing everyone’s voice, and trust comes from being and feeling heard. Along with that is social connection, because trust and success come much easier when you have got strong personal relationships with the people you’re working with.

What is the motivation behind your leadership?

Practically, I love problem-solving, and leadership provides me the space to address issues that I am passionate about. I’m definitely a person with a lot of privilege, and that privilege has dramatically altered my life in its longevity, ease, and in my ability to live it meaningfully. A lot of my motivation to lead comes from my desire to effect change and challenge the systems that gave me my privilege and oppress others’. What is on your mind right now related to leadership?

Becky Woolf is pursuing a dual degree in Public Health and Sociology of Health and Medicine. Her academic interests and involvements are motivated by her passion to work toward health equity by improving accessibility of high-quality healthcare. She is a lead Leadership Teaching Fellow at the Barger Leadership Institute where she leads a team of students who facilitate a leadership course for undergraduate students. Additionally, Becky is the Principal Investigator for health sciences research through the Department of Learning Health Sciences where she investigates how to make patient engagement in healthcare improvement organizations more equitable. Outside of university, Becky chairs ImproveCareNow’s national Patient Advisory Council in initiatives to improve healthcare for pediatric patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

About MLEAD. M-LEAD is a collective of leadership educators who connect students to opportunities that empower them to create change on campus and in their community. This mission is rooted in a vision that all University of Michigan students will have access to leadership education and opportunities that empower and prepare them to create positive, sustainable change on their campus and in their community.