5 Fundamental Leadership Skills from Meredith Myers


In March 2018, Meredith Myers, Ph.D, worked with students in NASExecutive Program in Arts & Culture Strategy, providing frameworks for constructive dialogue and group discourse. We’ve built upon Myers’ five leadership fundamentals here.

“Anyone can be a leader.” This bold statement from Meredith Myers (instructor, organizational dynamics and nonprofit leadership at the University of Pennsylvania) gets at the heart of leadership: While not everyone is a leader, the skills to lead are universally available; they need only be applied with humility and persistence. Myers outlined five fundamental leadership processes:

1. Appreciatthat we are the co-creators of our situations, conversations, relationships and outcomes; we make choices.

Good leaders acknowledge shared responsibility. They don’t require colleagues or employees to take on the burden of responsibility alone, nor do they see themselves as victims of circumstance. Leaders move through the world owning their intention.

2. Exploring situations by listening actively, asking questions, and seeking feedback. Leaders ask, ‘How can we surface new possibilities?’

Leaders employ a growth mindset: They pursue possibilities rather than accepting previous outcomes. Engaging in the process becomes as important as the goals they chase. By looking for opportunities to grow and learn − with and for others − good leaders uncover new potential where others may not yet see it.

3. Role modeling the behavior that we want to see in others.

We’re no stranger to Gandhi’s maxim, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” − But that doesn’t mean we always practice it at the level we preach. Strong leaders are the ambassadors for values and culture in their organizations: embodying the mission of the organization, putting people first, and remembering that they cannot expect others to behave better than the example they set. Certainly, leaders are not perfect; we are all bound to make mistakes. Role modeling includes owning our missteps, and acknowledging the good work of others.

4. Sharing our intentions, hopes, thoughts, and feelings.

Communication establishes trust, and trust in turn encourages collaborative teamwork. Open communication in-and-of-itself is a humble act: by sharing intentions, hopes, thoughts, and feelings, we encourage others to reciprocate in a like way.

5. Being adaptable to different needs in different contexts.

In Myers’ words, “Adapting is just a default position – but being adaptable is a state of mind; it’s proactive.” This fundamental leadership skill requires intentionally anticipating what is needed by different people, and in different situations. Leaders who embody this skill trust that they have the skills to adapt.

Just as leaders strive to embody all five of these fundamental skills, so too should we recognize those who already embody these fundamentals but aren’t yet called ‘leaders.’ There is no circumstance or position that limits us from leading with these intentions.

About the presenter: Meredith has been coaching executives for over a decade and has vast experience running trainings in a variety of settings, including companies big and small, government agencies, non-profit organizations, military special forces, and universities. Meredith is Executive Director of Job Crafting, LLC, and teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

Meredith presented this material during the March 2018 meeting of the Executive Program in Arts and Culture Strategy, co-hosted by National Arts Strategies and the Center for Social Impact Strategy at the University of Pennsylvania. Learn more about the event here.