What I Learned in the Online Leadership Excellence Certificate Program

In a recent blog post, Dana Henry, Director of Organizational Development & Learning Solutions at the UMass Donahue Institute, shared her top ten tips for being an effective leader with organizational change.

As an update to her original list of tips, we wanted to get the point of view from one of the students, Som Seng, who recently completed the Leadership Excellence Certificate Program – sharing her first-hand experience and perspective to what makes an effective leader based on what she learned in the leadership program.

1. Be Self-Aware: Have a high degree of self-awareness when it comes to your strengths and potential personal derailers.

Som’s Perspective: I think this is the most important step of all. Knowing your leadership style, and not just your strengths, but your potential derailers can help you become a more effective leader. The Hogan assessment and coaching session helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses as a leader. It pushed me to be honest with myself and together with my coaches, we worked on a plan to help me grow as a leader. 

2. New Opportunities: Always be on the lookout for undiscovered opportunities in innovation to drive meaningful change within your organization.

Som’s Perspective: I couldn’t agree more with this tip. Module 2, “Driving Innovation,” helped me look at every situation as an opportunity to improve; you just need to keep an eye out for it. It’s a mental shift to be able to see problems differently. It’s an opportunity to be better. Instead of dwelling on the problems and why they are happening, I’ve started to think of them as an opportunity for me to innovate and improve the organization. 

3. Be Empathetic: See opportunities for change by empathizing with others and understanding their concerns.

Som’s Perspective: This is my MO. People are my passion and I strive to always put myself in others’ shoes to better understand and help my team. I truly believe happy people equate to a happy organization. Through the online leadership program, especially with the leadership profile module, I’ve learned that this is my superpower. The Hogan assessment and coaching sessions were critical in helping me discover my superpower and how to harness it to continue making a difference in my organization.

4. Be Prepared: Build a solid business case for your change initiative by weighing the benefits versus the costs.

Som’s Perspective: I can’t stress this enough…preparation is always key. I not only prepare for important business cases, but for all my meetings, and for everything that I do. When you go into a meeting/project with goals and objectives, it will only help you move your meetings and projects forward.

What does this mean? Know your audience and always come up with a win/win solution. Research is key in creating the solution. Data backs up the research. So, the formula is: Audience, Research, Data, and Solution.

LEx Module 3 on Leading change solidified this strategy and provided additional tools to help me strengthen my level of preparation.

5. Be Collaborative: Involve key stakeholders in developing a shared vision for the proposed change versus only providing your own vision.

Som’s Perspective: The Kotter change model helped me understand this very important step. This goes with the above tip. It’s the part about knowing your audience and pulling them in at the beginning so they feel like they are a part of the change – helping them feel more invested in it. The important word here is - CARE. When people care about the shared vision it changes everything.  

6. Be Communicative: Communicate your vision for change with key stakeholders to help garner true commitment within the organization rather than compliance.

Som’s Perspective: So how do you get people to care? It’s simple…it’s listening to what matters to them rather than telling people what you want them to do. 

Module 4 on “Gaining Commitment” helped me understand how individuals’ transition during change and the need to meet people where they are versus where you think they should be. Very simple and extremely important.

7. Overcome Barriers: When it comes to change, there are two types of barriers at different levels within the organization you will typically encounter: organizational (obstacles) and individual (objections.)

Som’s Perspective: This module, “Overcoming Barriers,” was really good for me because now that I understand the difference between obstacles and objections, I can come up with better solutions to overcome the barriers. 

8. Change Takes Time: Understand that each individual’s transition through change is unique and personal – knowing that some may take longer to accept the change than others.

Som’s Perspective: This was a big one for me personally as I have been a bit impatient with myself with this transformational change that I’ve been going through over the past few years. I can’t stress enough about being kind to yourself during times of change. Module 4, “Transition Management,” not only helped me recognize this for myself but for others as well - that change is hard on everyone.

9. Focus on the Benefits: Gain commitment for change within the organization by helping your others understand what is and is not ending – focusing on the benefits and positives of the change.

Som’s Perspective: This is also my MO. The reason for change is for positive benefits for the whole organization. The LEx program was designed around this understanding.

10. Cultural Change: Long-term success of organizational change improves when it’s integrated into the organization's culture. As a leader, you must help to define and demonstrate new behavioral norms for the organization to support the change.

Som’s Perspective: This is a very important tip and I try to lead by example all the time by always putting people first… I see the difference in my team – their motivation and ability to stay positive during times of change. I remind myself and my team that we can’t change the environment, but we can change the way we respond to things. As for the organization’s culture, I do have a hard time with how you can make true impact on a very old culture. But I understand it is an ongoing process. The leadership program, besides offering tools to help with “Culture Change,” stresses that organizational change is a continuous process of improvement. Not something that happens overnight.


Interested in learning more? Click here to request more information about the Leadership Excellence Certificate. The next session will begin September 16, 2021. Non-profit and government employees will receive a 20% tuition discount.