Joanne Light On Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent…

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Joanne Light On Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent Times

The leader with empathy uses setbacks and accountability as an opportunity to learn and get back on track or change track. I did this repeatedly with any employee who bullied or was bullied by another team member.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Joanne H Light.

Joanne Light is a Parent Empowerment Coach, mother and grandmother, and retired College administrator and counselor. She earned her doctorate in education and counseling from Boston University and chose to further her expertise through a life coaching certification and a certification in training in Emotional Intelligence. Her coaching practice currently focuses on the challenges and strategies parents need to navigate their parenting journey. Through research and personal experience Joanne continues to pursue her passion for heart-centered coaching and for contributing to raise the next generation. Her appearances on radio shows, podcasts and summits have enabled her to share with a diverse audience. Her contribution to the compilation book “No Problem Parenting: Raising your Kiddos with More Confidence and Less Fear” is now an Amazon best-seller.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My passion has always been to give back. I began with High School teaching ( I love those teenagers) and moved on to a community college campus where I held many positions with increasing responsibility ending with a vice president cabinet position. At retirement I became an entrepreneur. This is a difficult gig but one requiring many of the same effective leadership qualities I had gained — empathy, self-awareness, values driven , resilience and communication.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One embarrassing error was the day I was preparing to lead my first enrollment management team meeting as chair person. I arrived at the wrong campus and, of course, thought no one had opted to attend or thought it important. There was no time to correct the situation once I discovered my mistake. Though I always viewed myself as a detailed person, from that time forward I obsessively checked meeting locations!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Honestly way back to my high school experience, I had a Latin teacher who taught me two things — a love of languages and a habit of perseverance, both of which have served me well in my journey. Later after completing my doctoral dissertation and starting a family, a colleague and friend Cheryl Finkelstein encouraged my jumping into a career path and providing me opportunity

Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your organization started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

The College at which I was employed for 32 years had several different presidents. It was only when strategic planning became a priority did mission become clear for students and staff. The mission and vision sought to provide educational opportunity to a diverse student population and to create programming that supported student success, faculty engagement and community involvement. We then became more purpose driven.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times??

There was an economic turndown in 2008 when unemployment soared. That actually was a boon for community college enrollment. However, the pressure to enroll, register and provide financial aid and services to a rapidly growing population was intense. My team was not equipped to provide all that was needed.

I had to engage all staff to brainstorm, make decisions and find funding. This required collaboration on a large scale. A positive attitude and collaboration need to emanate from the leader. Tending to everyone’s physical and emotional needs became critical. This was a powerful; leadership lesson.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

I really never considered giving up until I decided it was time to retire. I was reasonably healthy and felt it was time for a new challenge. I also found leadership at the College lacking at that time. It didn’t seem necessary personally to battle that deficiency, but drive has never been my issue. In fact at times less drive would have afforded me more enjoyment in my years of working. Helping students sustained my drive but there are some regrets in time spent.

I’m an author and I believe that books have the power to change lives. Do you have a book in your life that impacted you and inspired you to be an effective leader? Can you share a story?

I am a huge fan of fiction and reading is a favorite activity. But Bene Brown’s nonfiction Dare To Lead was a meaningful reading experience. She dispels the values of power, status and title. Anyone who takes responsibility and sees potential in people can take on a leadership role.

During turbulent times I found that encouraging staff with my curiosity and openness brought more satisfaction and ideas to the table. I had a fairly new hire who as brave in their thinking and who asked excellent questions. This individual moved on to several leadership roles. It was my pleasure to see her rise.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

An effective leader during difficult times or really at any time must intentionally choose actions that align with their and their organization’s’ values. They should focus on what is within their control and frankly this includes their own self -care and promote it among their staff.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

The leader who takes responsibility for their actions and exudes confidence in their team will weather tough times constructively. “Getting into the weeds “and working side by side with a team is helpful as is acknowledging their emotions without judgment.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Team — I found honesty and direct communication prevented potential resentment. Clear communication is the best path in addition to addressing their questions and concerns.

Customers — Our customers were the students. As with staff I found direct explanation less painful for them to accept the result of their inquiry. I trained staff to do the same. However, with students we always tried to provide alternative actions and empathy for the situation they were in.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Making time for creating a foundation of strong relationships is critical. Relationship building is as important as completing tasks.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Emotional intelligence in the members at all levels of the organization will ease the challenges of turbulent times. Resilience is an outcome of having emotional intelligence and necessary to persist against the winds of constantly changing environments.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

One of the most common errors I have seen is leadership that is grounded in ego and power. Such leaders do not include staff in important work and decisions. Their goals may only align with profit or personal gain or status.

Another error I have seen is leadership doing very little to avoid turnover and burnout. Employees will burnout when their stress and resources are unbalanced. This is not healthy for any business or organization.

In both these cases training and providing an environment of trust will minimize some of the damage to the organization when change is imminent or happening.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

Business leaders should promote their own and their team’s emotional intelligence. EI allows for :

a.) strong relationships

b..) ability to understand emotions — your own and your staff’s. This means being triggered doesn’t lead to reaction but rather considered response.

c.) curiosity that leads to complex problem solving

d.) self-awareness and social influence. The team will feel appreciated and be inclined to emulate the behavior.

e.) resilience and stress tolerance

f.) The leader with empathy uses setbacks and accountability as an opportunity to learn and get back on track or change track. I did this repeatedly with any employee who bullied or was bullied by another team member.

g.) With practice the leader can lead the group without judgment and encourage leadership within the team.

h.)Emotionally intelligent leaders are clear about their intentions and model curiosity. They ask open ended questions and encourage authentic dialogue. They also know when negativity is sucking time, they choose to promote creative thinking. I always allowed for gripe time but it had an end time after which we strategized how to get beyond.

i.)A leader who is truly self-aware can empower their team to feel valued. EI leaders provide a safe place for staff to grow and thrive — not just survive. They set the tone for their organization. During my time at the College, I invited managers to meet and discuss issues. I always used principles of EI to help them solve department problems. It was so rewarding when a manager (usually male) confronted with discussing emotions would quip “I didn’t know what I didn’t know”.

j.) Emotionally intelligent business leaders recognize that change is and needs to be constant. They can focus their energy and that of their team to come up with solutions, not just exhibit worry and fear. Their ability to practice calm and their thoughtful interactions make others feel seen and heard.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou, an American memoirist and poet.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”

How can our readers further follow your work?

My website is

My email is

You can reach me on LinkedIn:

Yu can find more information about me on my Linktree site:

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Joanne Light On Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.