3 Lessons: Self-Study

Susan Bertrand learned that a good leader looks inward before reaching out.

Susan Bertrand
Assistant Executive Director
Illinois Association of School Business Officials
DeKalb, Illinois

Fix the person you know you can fix.

"That's you. The only person who can effect change in an organization is the person who is willing to grow and change themselves. Even so, you can extract the change you want from people by being a good leader. I am still learning how to understand my strengths and weaknesses, how they are perceived by others, and then how to better communicate with others based on who they are and what their needs are."

Be an active listener.

"In 2008, I participated in a program to improve my (admittedly very raw) leadership skills. I participated in 360-degree feedback surveys and other personality inventories. Some of that feedback was hard to hear—I learned that I could be a bit demanding, even domineering. But I also learned that I have empathy and creativity to a high degree—the soft skills that make for a good leader. I just needed to learn perspective and how to listen. I still work on that every day."

Know when it's time to change course.

"Since my current executive director and I took over four years ago, we shifted our focus, and that didn't sit well with everybody: Five of our 11 staff moved on. That wasn't easy, and I questioned myself many times. But ultimately I had confidence in my instincts; leaders can read situations much as a talented athlete can read a court or field."