Experiential learning in a classroom
Leadership Academy participants enjoyed many opportunities to interact, learn with and from each other, grow their network.

A Program that Values Your Time as Much as Its Content

Learning and growing at the UC Leadership Academy

When I first heard of the Leadership Academy at UC Davis, I thought, Great: another conference where we hear the same textbook information on how to lead productive teams and how to work with difficult employees. I'm happy to say I was wrong.

Headshot of a woman
Kim Hostler, Orange County Registrar of Voters

We've all been to them, and in fairness sometimes there is a catch phrase that is new and insightful that we incorporate to our bag of tricks when working through certain situations. But something novel about the UC Leadership Academy almost immediately caught my attention, and I'm forever thankful it did!

This program focused on public employees working in county elections, clerk recorder and assessors departments. This interested me.

I'm currently an administrative deputy director for the Orange County Registrar of Voters (ROV). I've been with the ROV since 2016, and elections is my first and only experience in the public sector. Prior to my time with the county, I was in the waste and recycling industry for 22 years, working in both our corporate office and field operations.   

So Much More!

At first glance, the Leadership Academy presented, if nothing else, an opportunity to spend three and a half days with my peers from throughout California and connect in person. This chance to share stories and learn from other industry experts is what initially drew me to the program. But what I ended up getting out of the experience was so much more. 

The mix of academics, group discussions, break-out session and panel discussions was fast paced, informative and eye opening. There was nothing ordinary about this program.  

First-Class Everything

Prior to the Leadership Academy, I had not had the opportunity to visit UC Davis. "Beautiful convenience" is the best description of the campus, location of the academy classroom and convening spaces, and the hotel accommodations. Our academic building was inviting and encouraged community, not the large, hard-to-navigate facility I'd feared. Everything was close and convenient. 

Well-Rounded Experience

The take-aways from the program seem endless, from the lessons learned from UC Davis Graduate School of Management professors to numerous panel discussions featuring a mix of elected officials from both state and local government and private sector leaders. 

Key for me was the program's focus on learning—learning about ourselves as leaders, but also learning about ourselves as individuals.

Why do we think the way we do? What do we do now that we know? What makes a better leader for our teams, but also for ourselves? We are responsible to lead ourselves, not just our teams. 

I continue to reflect on these and other insights:

  • Smart people don’t want managers, they want mentors.
  • Always saying yes is putting yourself in a no-win situation.
  • Separate your value from your results.

Lessons Learned and Applied

One valuable example: the sessions with Professor Gina Dokko, who discussed the standard biases found in social perception and attribution. She started with a detailed look at the definitions of these biases—and went on to explain how to recognize them.

The most profound takeaway for me was hearing an expert say, human nature causes bias, it happens. It's what we do when we identify it in ourselves that is important.

I walked away with priceless examples of how to recognize and appropriately react to bias. Accepting that bias exists is the first step to addressing it. Finding ways to recognize these instances in ourselves and others allows us to pause and be sure the evaluation of a situation or person is on merit and not influenced by other factors.