Faculty Spotlight: Dana Henry Shares 30 Years of Leadership and Career Advice

Similar to how a chef dedicates their life to perfecting the art of cooking, Dana has spent the past 30 years of her career learning and fine-tuning her skills – developing leadership-focused programs for working professionals looking to acquire the knowledge and tools needed to be effective leaders.  

Since joining the UMass Donahue Institute (UMDI) as the Director of Organizational Development & Learning Solutions, Dana’s mission is to advance the development of organizational leaders and managers while also supporting competency-based learning.

Dana is now making this mission a reality by launching a 100% online Leadership Excellence Certificate Program this Fall. Building on a foundation of best practices learned over three decades, Dana shares four pieces of advice to be an effective leader:

UMass Online: What is your most important piece of advice for being an effective leader?

Dana: Listen more.

As leaders, we’ve been taught to think we need to have all of the answers and to “be out front leading.” We can lead more effectively by listening more and talking less. This will also allow us to incorporate other people’s viewpoints and ideas to come up with better solutions.

UMass Online: Can you share a time during your career when you personally faced a leadership hurdle? How did you overcome it? 

Dana: Two times during my year career I’ve inherited small teams, consisting of three people, that eventually grew into larger teams. Unfortunately, when I inherited both teams, they had been left leaderless, demotivated, and disheartened.

I realized that I could only change these feelings over time, and it would take time for my new team members to trust me. I knew I had to take it slow, not implement too much change in the beginning, and build personal relationships with each individual before I could help to reform them into a meaningful, impactful team.

UMass Online: Can you share a common misconception people have when it comes to being an effective leader?

Dana: The number one mistake I see leaders make is jumping right to the solution of a change dilemma/initiative.

As leaders, we tend to think our role is to sell the solution. In the meantime, most individuals within the organization are not clear about what the problem is you are trying to solve in the first place and how it will impact them. Gain commitment to change within the organization by helping others understand what is and is not ending – focusing on the benefits and positives of the change.

You can build a better business case – weighing the benefits versus the costs, so that you can clarify the problem you’re trying to solve and why it is a top priority versus focusing on the solution.

UMass Online: When it comes to professional development, what advice would you give to someone looking to advance in their career?

Dana: Look at gaining relevant experience and competencies versus titles. As the workforce continues to become more competitive, employers are going to become increasingly more interested in hiring people with the right credentials and experience.

Look for opportunities to refresh and/or upskill through certificates, workshops, and courses. Online learning offers working professionals the flexibility and autonomy to pursue online classes without having to sacrifice their careers. As long as you are determined and motivated, there are many professional development opportunities to take advantage of to help you advance in your career.

If you found these tips helpful, check out this recent blog post, "10 Tips to be an Effective Leader with Organizational Change."

Interested in learning more? Click here to request more information about the Leadership Excellence Certificate. The next session begins this Fall on September 15, 2021.