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Want to Become a Better Leader? Villanova’s Athletics Leadership Summit is Here to Help

Courtesy of Villanova College of Professional Studies

Mark Jackson, the Vice President and Director of Athletics at Villanova University, has observed how effective leaders operate throughout his career. He’s been on coaching staffs with Super Bowl-winning coaches Pete Caroll and Bill Belichick, and applied lessons he learned from each of them to grow into a leader himself. 

“I’ve learned that you have to do the lonely work and establish your own leadership philosophy,” Jackson says. “In the past, I didn’t have the patience to develop my own leadership philosophy authentic to who I was and where I wanted to go.”

This self-discovery is the principle behind the school’s Athletics Leadership Summit on June 23 and June 24 at the The William B. Finneran Pavilion. Ideal for young professionals looking for a career in sports or those in sports looking to advance in their career, it’s a collaboration between Villanova athletics and the school’s College of Professional Studies

Villanova’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) is dedicated to providing ongoing education for adult learners, which made Jackson’s collaboration on the summit with CPS Dean, Christine Kelleher Palus, PhD, a natural fit.

“We’re hoping to cast a wide net and provide an avenue for anybody that’s interested,” Jackson says. “We want people to come away with the early stages of developing a leadership philosophy and help them ask the right questions to evaluate their skillsets.”

Here, Jackson and Dr. Palus offer their advice on what you can do to become a better leader within your organization and what you need to know about the upcoming summit this summer. 

Finding Your ‘Why’ with Villanova Athletics

Before you can assert yourself within your career, you have to do some self reflection. Why have you chosen your profession? What do you want out of it? What can you do to put yourself in a position to succeed? 

Villanova’s leadership summit is a non-credit professional education course that will help attendees answer these questions. Attendees best suited for the summit are those interested in pursuing or transitioning to a career in sports or simply anyone who hopes to gain more knowledge. 

“If you don’t know who you are, your strengths and skill set and aren’t true to yourself, you won’t have a chance,” Jackson says. “You have to do the self discovery and evaluation work to figure out your strengths and what you’re best suited for.” 

Over the course of two days, the summit will feature presentations from Jackson, former Villanova basketball coach and Naismith Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright as well as panel discussions with those who have established themselves within the profession like Chris Heck, President of Business Operations for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Villanova’s College of Professional Studies has also played a major part in programming. For a  school dedicated to the ongoing pursuit of learning, its involvement came naturally, especially since leadership is the school’s most popular major. 

“This program is focused on helping students learn and gain different knowledge about a profession and help create career pathways,” Dr. Palus says. “For us, it’s a natural fit to focus on professional excellence, lifelong learning and emphasizing to attendees that they always have more to learn in their professional life.”

Knowledge Is Power

Part of the work of self-reflection is recognizing we don’t have all the answers. Being willing to open yourself up to new ideas is one of the most effective ways to become a stronger leader.  

“Leadership is a journey that everyone is on in some way or another,” Dr. Palus says. “It’s something that requires continued growth and development and reflection. Knowledge is an important foundation for any kind of leadership development work.”

Courtesy of Villanova College of Professional Studies

Regardless of the career you’re in, you should strive to learn more and explore the resources that can help you do so. Plus, thinking about your strengths and weaknesses can help you better understand how you work.

“We should always be learning and teaching from one another,” Jackson says. “With this summit, we wanted to take advantage of the resources and foundation at Villanova.”

The Importance of Networking

Observing others and developing relationships in your field can help you become a better and more impassioned leader. It’s why networking is so important — often, who you know is as important as what you know. 

At its leadership summit, Villanova will have faculty on hand to help guide attendees through their own personal reflection and bounce ideas off one another. At the completion of the course, they’ll also receive a certificate to add to their resumes. They’ll also be asked to turn in academic work designed around the lessons they learn at the summit.  

Ultimately, if you build a strong community, you can surround yourself with people who make you and your organization better. Identifying how to set yourself up for success within these communities and taking a step back when necessary is what being a leader is all about.

“Leadership is a journey that requires a lot of individual work,” Dr. Palus says. “It’s not something that you can check a box and then you’re a leader. It’s going to grow and evolve and change over time and sink into who you are as a person. You have to really understand yourself completely and then determine how that interacts with whatever organization you’re leading.”

For more on Villanova’s Athletics Leadership summit and to sign up today, head here.