Alumni

Copy the Leader: Andrea Norris
Andrea Geubelle Norris, d’14, is the Director of the K Club at Kansas Athletics. She is a three-time NCAA champion in the triple jump and long jump.

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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.

Andrea Geubelle Norris, d’14, is the Director of the K Club at Kansas Athletics. She is a three-time NCAA champion in the triple jump and long jump events and a member of KU’s 2013 women’s outdoor national championship team. She also competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We sat down with Andrea to learn what leadership means to her.

What do you do in your work?

I oversee our Kansas Athletics former student athlete, manager, trainer and head coach association, which is called K Club. I also work to provide engagement opportunities, such as reunions, hall of fames, and mentoring and career growth opportunities.

What are the qualities of a good leader?

To me, a good leader is someone who has those around them always at the front of their mind. To have the ability to build your team so they are motivated to put forth their best effort. To create a space where failure is not a fear. They can try new things or share new ideas. Good leaders surround themselves with people who challenge them to be their best and not people who are there to just say, “Yes.”

 

A leader builds up their team, taps into their strengths, develops them and helps them in their weaknesses. This gives your team growth opportunities and the time to share where they would like to grow.

 

Accountability and clear communication in your leader is important, and I want a team that feels comfortable sharing if I fall short. I also believe a good leader needs to be able to hold their team accountable and communicate immediately if someone is not meeting that standard.

How do you practice leadership at your job?

In my leadership opportunities, I strive to be clear in expectations and goals. I am a firm believer that everyone need to be on the same page and have clear understandings of what is expected of them. When it comes to accountability, I am a leader that tries to lead by example. I know that is not always being the first to speak but sometimes just listening. I always try to show up with my best every day, but I understand that sometimes looks different and hope that builds trust in my team and with myself.

 

I want to learn about those around me and empower them in their strengths. I surround myself with people who are trustworthy and have integrity, so we don’t waste time on goals and tasks. I lead with vulnerability, being open and honest with my team. I hope they feel comfortable to be real and vulnerable with me. This comes from the trust I hope to build and empathy I have for those around me.

What makes a team or group successful?

Collaboration, communication and trust — to have a team that shows up and is open to new ideas and change. I like to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable because that is where we grow. If we can communicate during the good and also when things are hard, I think we can achieve great things. If we feel we are in a space where we can share ideas and build off of each other, we can reach our common goal.

 

Change is always hard, but if you are surrounded by people you trust and feel safe sharing your thoughts, you can begin to tap into each other’s strengths and lift each other up in their weaknesses. That is what makes a team great: working together to achieve a goal bigger than themselves.

How have you adapted to the changes brought by the pandemic in your work?

With good leadership, precise expectations, communication and trust. I think we saw those strive during the pandemic. You may have just had to pivot on the means by which you were doing that. Checking in became key and not assuming everyone was OK. Open and clear communication has become even more important as things are forever and quickly changing.

 

I think we also learned empathy was key in leadership. Being able to pivot and do what was best for your team and knowing that may change. Another key was listening and taking action where you felt was best and knowing it may look and feel different than two years ago.

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