Professional development program empowers leaders

Too often, people confuse management with leadership.

But a title doesn’t make a leader, said Lisa Watson, a leader with the state Department of Human Services.

Being a leader requires one to inspire others to follow you, Watson said during the Leadership Development Program graduation held at Harrisburg University Monday.

A member of the program’s first graduating class, Watson was one of several students to reflect on the lessons learned while enrolled in the four-month program, which HU presented in partnership with Alvernia University.

“The difference between being a manager and a leader is getting the individuals who work with you, those that report to you and those to whom you report to want to follow you,” Watson said. “Being a leader requires a certain type of attitude. It requires self-evaluation.”

The Leadership Development Program was established to give senior leaders working in state government the opportunity to further develop their leadership skills.

Watson was one of 16 leaders to earn a leadership certificate on Monday.

She said her busy work schedule doesn’t give her much time to stop and reflect while in the office. Watson was searching for a leadership class when she learned about the program. She said it didn’t disappoint.

“We are a large state agency and we don’t have moments to just stop to learn and strategize,” Watson said. “I think everyone of us would say our coaching sessions were phenomenal. It was an opportunity for us to tap into the skills we have. I’m excited to see what we use from the class beyond today.”

By enrolling in the course, some of the commonwealth’s most seasoned managers are acknowledging that there is always room to learn and grow, said Keynote speaker Eric Hagarty, Deputy Chief of Staff for Gov. Tom Wolf.

“Your completion of this program is a testament to your commitment to public service,” Hagarty said. “Each of you have gone above and beyond.”

The next Leadership Development Program course will be offered September through December.

The program curriculum is based on case studies, team projects, role playing and scenario planning. Classes offer a “safe space” for senior leaders to discuss issues they may face in their positions while promoting inter-organizational collaboration.

Some of the subject areas covered are:

  • Leadership versus management.
  • Team building and motivating employees.
  • Working with Millennials and other generations.
  • Understanding and working within the constraints and culture of state government.

Program graduate Christian Stephens, state director of field supervision for the Board of Probation and Parole, said he walked away from the course with three very important lessons learned.

“Who we are helps shape a situation,” Stephens said. “You also have to have a process to deal with a situation.  “What are your principles? Principles are what drive a situation. And you have to have a process for engaging a situation.”

HU President Dr. Eric Darr told the graduates that a set of expectations comes with completing the course.

The leaders who earned certificates are now expected to put what they learned to practice in the workplace.

“We expect you to use what you learned and carry it forward with you in the future. Pay it forward,” Darr said. “The program is meant to create the workforce of the future for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

For more information, or to register for the next Leadership Development Program, click Here.

Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Harrisburg University is a private non-profit university offering bachelor and graduate degree programs in science, technology, and math fields to a diverse student body. For more information on the University’s affordable demand-driven undergraduate and graduate programs, call 717.901.5146 or email,