Christine K. Wilkinson

Senior Vice President and Secretary of the University, ASU

As the first woman in many of the professional positions I have held, I succeeded while coaching and mentoring the next generation of leaders, many of whom have been women.

Why do you believe honoring achievement is important?

Honoring achievement is an excellent opportunity to highlight individuals and organizations reaching goals and encouraging others to achieve their own. The ability to focus and persevere with the task regardless of the surroundings is significant. Business environments can change from tranquil to chaotic in a short timeframe. Those who can lead the group through chaos, and bring calm and consistency to the organization while advancing to meet goals, will achieve. 

Once reaching the goal, celebrating the team achievement should be done quickly, and this can be accomplished in various ways. Expressions of gratitude can simply be an email to the entire group shortly after a successful event, a project executed, or a milestone reached. This message should include those behind the scenes who provide technical support and operational services. Of course, food is always a great way to celebrate, and it doesn’t have to be elaborate. 

So, honoring achievement impacts the individual group, organization and community at large. Recognition of achievement illustrates the diversity of leadership and contributions made by many in a broad range of professions. 

This year’s theme of giving back demonstrates how much we can all pull together to improve the quality of life through numerous corporate contributions and the 1,000-plus nonprofit organizations dedicated to the communities in which we all live. We can be proud of the breadth and depth of the commitments in giving back while realizing there is still much to accomplish.

What insights have you gained in your career that would inspire others?

Several important “things” to inspire others stand out to me: understanding that a lot is going on in everyone’s life and we are only one small part of that life; regularly giving people new opportunities, whether it is a single task or delegating an entirely new program to design and implement. 

The concept of a team overrides anything one person can do on their own. Be ready to assist in accomplishing the goal and helping others do the same regardless of the task. 

Personally, seeing the funny side of each day — being able to laugh at oneself or laugh with others, is good for the soul. 

And working in a field and place where you love what you do makes a significant difference in how you approach each day. 

I often say the following related to leadership: Positive leadership comes in many shapes, sizes and voices. It is not about title, rank or status. It is about responsibility, an ethical value system and inclusiveness. It is understanding that, without others, there is no leadership. It is about listening, not just hearing. It is about establishing a direction, but knowing there are numerous paths to reach the goal. Finally, leadership is knowing yourself — constantly striving to improve, to change, to be aware of the subtleties of a situation, and to gain from each experience.

What can we do — now — to make a difference for young people/women in Arizona?

To make a difference for young people and women in Arizona, a leader must recognize individual talents and diversity of backgrounds. A leader must be willing to take a chance on those with promise and not fall back on formal qualifications that stifle new ideas. The concept of “too” should be avoided if possible — too short, too tall, too experienced, too inexperienced. What about individuals in interviews — too nervous, too talkative, too aloof? 

How does one assess the person and their qualities? Once hired, take the time to mentor and coach the person. Initially, spend more rather than less time combining information about the task at hand and communicating the organization and specific unit culture. Encourage other professional development opportunities, whether internal to the organization or external, at a professional conference or leadership training. When necessary for individuals, coach them from the notion of “I” to “team.” 

Additionally, with the exponential growth and technology integration in the workplace, all employees will need to learn and adapt to ever-changing digital surroundings. Simultaneously, we will have to concentrate on the impact to human interaction in achieving goals and how we can assist through further training, workshops and appropriate equipment to meet individual needs. Lastly, we cannot communicate enough, and a constant flow of communication, even over-communication, is more critical than ever. 

About Me:

Dr. Christine K. Wilkinson is the senior vice president and secretary of the University, ASU Alumni Association president and CEO, and managing director of the Trustees of ASU. Among other executive roles, she has been the VP for student affairs and was the university’s interim athletic director three times. She is a tenured professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. 

She serves on the boards of Valley of the Sun United Way, Japanese American National Museum and Pat Tillman Foundation, is board chair of SARRC and president of AzBL. 

Among numerous distinguished awards, Dr. Wilkinson was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame as the first Living Legacy in education.

In Few Words

What was the last course, certification or training you took to improve yourself professionally? APEX Leadership Insights
What would you say is a single characteristic OTHERS might attribute to you that defines your success? Focused
What is the one thing you feel you could work on professionally to be a greater success? Learning to play golf (just kidding)
What is the one professional skill you have that has gotten you where you are today? Perseverance
What is the single greatest issue facing Arizona today? The lack of sufficient funding for K-20 education.

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