Copy the Leader: Ryan Edmonds
Jayhawks in leadership positions are everywhere you look, including through the Jayhawk Career Network. KU Alumni, in partnership with SumnerOne, is highlighting Jayhawk leaders who are models for others in their industries with our “Copy the Leader” program.
Ryan Edmonds (he/they) is the Assistant Director of Student Programs at the KU Alumni Association. We sat down with Ryan to learn what leadership means to him.
What do you do in your work?
I have the privilege to serve as the Assistant Director of Student Programs here at the KU Alumni Association. Alongside our Director, I provide strategy, advisement, and support to our Student Alumni Network (SAN) as well as our Student Alumni Endowment Board (SAEB) whom are our student leaders that lead our programmatic efforts for SAN. My mission is to continue developing the Student Alumni Network as the key alumni-connecting organization for all KU students.
I also get to support creating our Homecoming experience for the Jayhawk community, especially through advising our Homecoming Steering Committee. This committee is student-led and functions to serve as the official student representation for the student experience for KU’s Homecoming each year.
Outside of my formal responsibilities with the Association, I take pride in being a Safe Zone facilitator with KU’s Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity. I have been facilitating Safe Zone since my first semester at the University of Kansas in 2021. It is critical to have a variety of staff representation as facilitators so that our Jayhawk community recognizes the shared expectation to support our queer and trans communities whether student, staff, or faculty.
My background has touched several functional areas within higher education from undergraduate research, academic support and intervention, student organizations and leadership development, first-year seminars, new student orientation, and transition programs.
What are the qualities of a good leader?
A good leader understands how to utilize their active listening skills to balance three key responsibilities: advocate, advise, and assist. We are all content experts within our own experiences and skills, we all are leaders in varying capacities. Regardless if you are working alongside students, full-time staff, or external stakeholders, all leaders will utilize the different hats they wear to know how to show up best in a given moment.
For example, there will be situations where your peers are relying on your input to help advise a project or situation that they need to continue their progression. However, those same peers will also benefit from you being directly involved assisting with that project.
How do you practice leadership at your job?
I practice leadership primarily through advocating for our Student Alumni Endowment Board’s initiatives as well as collaborating with campus partners to create programs that are in the best interest of our student populations. It is my responsibility to be a connector for their ideas and goals to our other stakeholders that are invested in their programs. When we promote our programs as “student-led” or “student-focused” we must continuously lead with their interests as they are the content experts on their needs. I can provide strategic advice and administrative support to carry out their dreams, but to be a leader to them is to propel them to achieve their goals.
What makes a team or group successful?
Something that I learned from KU’s Aspiring Leaders Program I was involved in – a successful and effective team is a combination of 5 things (trust, dependability, clear structure, meaningfulness, and impact of work). It is more important for how the team functions rather than who is directly involved. All team members will have their respective objectives to fulfill and it is important to ensure all levels of objectives have the capability to be successful (rather than 1 factor of a team being successful).
How can leaders in your industry help their organizations adapt to change?
Higher education is always going to change, this is a well-known fact. Whether it is staff turnover, new legislation, or new student/staff/faculty needs, we all have to be open to changes and academic year-to-academic year adaptation. From my experience, there has to be a balance of forward-thinking vs immediate managing. We can only be proactive to a certain degree with anticipating new obstacles, but we also have to recognize the immediate concerns and needs of the populations we serve as the obstacles they face are still present day-to-day.
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