Learning to Instill Leadership as a Lifestyle

2/22/24 Pratt School of Engineering

Two Duke Engineering staff members reflect on their experience in the Duke Leadership Academy

Learning to Instill Leadership as a Lifestyle

When Philip Duhart was selected to take part in last year’s Duke Leadership Academy, a colleague confided that they hoped the experience would help him see himself as everyone else does. After 12 months of learning about others’ leadership paths, the challenges facing Duke employees across campus in similar roles, and his own strengths and weaknesses, it’s safe to say that the curriculum achieved much more than that.

“For me, I learned how to effectively lean into my strengths as a connector who can pull people to the table and help them to move forward on new ideas,” said Duhart, associate director of major gifts in Duke Engineering’s Development, Alumni Affairs & Corporate Relations Team. “It was a very empowering experience.”

Philip Duhart
Philip Duhart

The Duke Leadership Academy is a year-long professional development program that pulls together 25 staff members in positions of leadership from all across campus. Participants spend time learning from established leaders, learning about their own strengths and weaknesses through self and peer assessments, and creating a network of colleagues through pursuing a project that could benefit all of Duke.

For example, Duhart’s team of five worked to create a framework that managers could use to create space for their team to learn and develop new skills by implementing protected time for professional development and growth. Another team explored steps that could be taken to strengthen the relationship between the Duke Health System and the university.

I learned how to effectively lean into my strengths as a connector who can pull people to the table and help them to move forward on new ideas. It was a very empowering experience.

Philip Duhart Associate Director of Major Gifts

For Karis Boyd-Sinkler, director of diversity, equity, inclusion and community at Duke Engineering who also was part of last year’s DLA cohort, the project involved creating a series of steps that could increase access and resources for innovation at Duke. Since Duke is a beacon of innovation, the team reasoned, they hoped this roadmap could help Duke position itself in leading the way in harnessing synergistic innovation, which is vital to create and sustain an effective culture to stay at the forefront of science and discovery.

Karis Boyd-Sinkler
Karis Boyd-Sinkler

Despite the different team members and focus of her project, Boyd-Sinkler came away from the process with similar takeaways as Duhart.

“My biggest takeaway from the experience was connecting with my peers in the cohort who were going through similar experiences of being a leader,” Boyd-Sinkler said. “It was great to make friends across Duke and apply the information we learned in class not only professionally, but personally as well.”

Duhart’s day-to-day involves building relationships with alumni, volunteers and donors as well as organizing internal resources to create meaningful engagement and philanthropic investments in Pratt. Boyd-Sinkler works across Pratt and the rest of Duke to create a community where every individual can feel that they belong and reach their fullest potential in a welcoming and supportive environment.

It was great to make friends across Duke and apply the information we learned in class not only professionally, but personally as well.

Karis Boyd-Sinkler Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community

Both roles involve building strong relationships with various groups of people, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that they agree on how their experience will affect their daily jobs.

“My experience has made me find more ways to encourage others to be a leader,” Boyd-Sinkler said. “Instead of creating a more rigid view of leaders versus followers, trying to embrace the notion that being a leader is more than a title, but a lifestyle.”

“Leadership is a journey, and being stagnant is the alternative,” Duhart added. “No matter what the specific program is, I want to help build out the pathway to growth for others to follow, because investing in yourself is one of the most important things you can do.”

Professional Development at Duke

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