UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

Leading with laughter

UND’s vice president for Marketing & Communications says leaders should be authentic and foster a culture of caring

Meloney Linder, vice president for Marketing & Communications, outlines her vision for leadership as part of UND’s 18:83 Speaker Series. Photo by Adam Kurtz/UND Today.

What do a country music star and tech magnate have in common?

Authenticity and a penchant for taking calculated risks.

Those traits are essential for effective leadership, according to Meloney Linder, UND’s vice president for Marketing & Communications, who shared her approach to leadership in the latest 18:83 Speaker Series.

Each week, a campus or community leader delivers an address in front of the Memorial Union’s Social Stairs. They time their speech to hit about 18 minutes and 83 seconds, a number that coincides with the University’s founding year.

In her speech, Linder wove together life anecdotes and allusions to musicians, authors and business leaders who have inspired her leadership journey, with an overarching emphasis on the importance of projecting one’s true self.

“For me, leading your own way means being authentic — being authentic to who you are,” she said.

Among those who have influenced Linder is singer-songwriter Dolly Parton. Linder said Parton’s unabashed embrace of her often difficult upbringing in rural Tennessee and her versatility as a musician — with the ability to transcend genres — are traits that have inspired her.

“We all have our own strengths and experiences that shape our perspectives, and it’s important to embrace that,” Linder said. “When you embrace who you are and know what lights your soul on fire, you bring your best person forward.”

Linder added that it is equally important to recognize one’s weaknesses and “bring people in to complement you.”

Linder also referenced a commencement address delivered by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs on the importance of seizing opportunities and pursuing one’s dreams. She said that one quote in particular from the address stood out to her: “Your time is limited — don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

“Throughout my life, I’ve taken a lot of risks,” Linder said. “If there was an opportunity that presented itself to me and it got me really excited, I said yes. Not all of those opportunities turned out the way I thought they would, and that’s part of life.”

Despite the inherent ups and downs of life, Linder said, all the aforementioned experiences helped her grow, adding that “it was the times that I got hurt, or maybe failed, when I learned the most.”

Linder said another key foundation for effective leadership is the ability to be vulnerable with others, calling it a prerequisite for building meaningful relationships.

“It’s been my experience that when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with others, you give them permission to be vulnerable with you,” she said. “That, for me, has been the start of true trust and the foundation for real creativity and relationship-building to take place.”

Other traits Linder considers vital for leadership:

  • Feedback is a gift: Giving constructive feedback is a necessity for all leaders. Deliver it in a manner that is honest and intentional, she said, and treat it as a caring endeavor.
  • Culture eats strategy for breakfast: Every organization’s modus operandi is different. Leaders must learn how work gets done at the micro level and who the key players are to get their message across.
  • No one does it alone: Respect and honor the talents of your subordinates — nobody leads a team of one.

Linder concluded her speech by urging leaders to foster a caring and enjoyable work environment. Such an environment, she says, makes employees feel welcome and allows them to decompress from the difficulties of their jobs.

“I love to laugh,” she said. “We work so hard every day; life can just be really challenging. But if we are kind and we can laugh together — have a little levity in the situation — it just makes it better.”

The 18:83 Speaker Series continues Wednesday, April 3, with Maridee Shogren, dean of the College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines.

Attendees gather on the Memorial Union’s Social Stairs for Meloney Linder’s 18:83 Speaker Series address. Photo by Adam Kurtz/UND Today.