From the Leadership: Jannet Walker-Ford on a Diverse Leadership

In less than two weeks, WTS International hosts our annual Signature Leadership Training in the nation’s capital. In mid-November, many of our members will meet again in Kansas City for the 2022 WTS Chapter Leadership Development. While programs like these are meant to support the year-round mission of WTS’ professional development, October is an ideal time to reflect on the impact of leaders, both in our careers and in the many other aspects of our lives.

Leadership can be a fuzzy concept. Most of us can point to examples of failure, but we can typically identify effective leaders in our lives.  What do these successful individuals have in common?

  1. Good leaders motivate and mobilize people toward a common vision.

In 2021, WTS rolled out our strategic plan for the next five years. In the plan, we established our core values – that we are collaborative, we are future-focused, we are professional, and we are inclusive. As we collectively build an organization that drives equity in all aspects of the transportation sector, we must not only utilize these guiding principles in planning and programming, but also to learn how to effectively share these values with others. How can we excite and welcome new voices and perspectives, as we ourselves continue to evolve?  

  1. Good leaders create cultural respect.

We are in a time of intense social and emotional growth. Because of our diverse nature, our members arrive to WTS with a variety of opinions and beliefs. We will not always agree. But the world moves ever-forward, and we embrace the opportunity to engage with all who want to be an effective champion of our mission and vision. Good leaders encourage an evolving culture and open themselves to new relationships with people of all genders, races, ages, abilities, expertise, learning styles, and more. We have a duty to bring awareness to unconscious bias in WTS, in our sector, and in our surrounding world. October is Global Diversity Month, which provides a meaningful moment to reflect on our full membership, our 67 amazing chapters, and the work of such groups as the WTS International’s ED&I Committee in modeling a new generation of leaders.  Your continued dedication is applauded, and WTS strives to remain transparent and honest in our work and with our members.

  1. Good leaders build consensus through participation.

WTS is ready to bring everyone to the table.  I encourage the entire WTS community to get involved – whether serving on WTS International Standing Committees, volunteering at our Annual Conference and other events, getting involved with chapter programming, fundraising for our amazing scholarships, or attending trainings – there are so many ways to utilize your time and talents to advance women who advance transportation.

  1. Good leaders model behavior.

Change in any organization starts at the top and requires leaders who are willing to take bold steps towards a new future that is not only more diverse, but also more inclusive.  The 2022-2024 WTS International and the WTS Foundation Board of Directors represent the most diverse boards in WTS history – in terms of race, ethnicity, transportation expertise, public agency and private organization representation, and even years of experience and age.  These assorted viewpoints have made for challenging but fascinating conversations and opened up new possibilities for consideration in programming and leadership training, events and student engagement. Chapter officers and committee leaders are the most important champions of this mission and vision, modeling the type of leadership we want to see in future members and in the transportation industry.

The latest research from consultant McKinsey reaffirms the strong business case for both gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in corporate leadership—and shows that this business case continues to strengthen. The most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.

  1. Good leaders challenge us to strive for excellence, accountability, and self-direction.

An old but important idiom says, “constant dripping of water wears away stone.” There is much to accomplish in our sector and in our association, but effective WTS leaders will challenge our members and peers to accomplish long-range goals without simply “checking boxes.”

It is vital for us to pace set. The best way to make substantial and permanent changeand ensure we aren’t making decisions in a vacuumis by proactively reaching out to the voiceless, making certain to do our due-diligence, and then forging the path forward. Sometimes, it’s a long game, but that long game means we are taking the time to focus on excellence.  I encourage you all to take a few moments of your time to complete the WTS 2022 Membership Survey, which will provide the staff and leadership with invaluable data and insight as we move forward – deliberately, and with accountability.

We will have moments where we are uncomfortable, but our presence matters more now than ever. WTS members continue to be the leaders in gender equity.

If you are not a member, I encourage you to learn more about WTS. This month, we are offering a discount for new members who want to join us in our journey to become the best leaders we can be, in both our professional, personal, and volunteer lives.

Thank you for your continued dedication to #OneWTS, where leadership development is always top of mind.

Jannet Walker-Ford Signature