A Profile in Higher Education Diversity Leadership


Many career paths were open to Dr. Jabbar R. Bennett, Northwestern University’s first associate provost for diversity and inclusion. Rather than follow a more traditional route based in academic research and study, he heeded the voice inside his head to pursue a path that would give him to both purpose and peace of mind.

Dr. Bennett shares his thoughts on leadership, including the importance of career advice from his mother, in a recent Witt/Kieffer Leader Profile. Here below is an excerpt from that interview:

How did you become a leader? What’s been your personal recipe for developing the ability to manage and influence others?

Dr. Jabbar R. Bennett

Bennett: I always believed in being vocal and sharing my thoughts about important issues, in taking initiative and accepting challenges when opportunities arose or when there was an absence of apparent leadership. I noticed early on that I could get people’s attention by the things I would say, that people believed me—believed in me—and were inspired by me.

Please complete (and elaborate upon) the following phrase: “Great leadership requires…”

Bennett: Accountability, empathy, engagement, flexibility, proactivity, responsiveness, transparency, and visibility. Those are eight things that I have been discussing throughout the past year amongst many different groups. There are many aspects of great leadership but these are all imperatives.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever gotten?

Bennett: The best advice came from my mother, who passed away not long ago. She said that peace of mind is worth more than anything else and will keep you grounded during the ebbs and flows of your life and career. Something else that I would like to share as advice: “This too shall pass.” In the work that we do as chief diversity officers we are working with hard challenges and issues every day. You have to keep a positive attitude and believe that each challenge will have a positive outcome.

Read the entire Leader Profile of Dr. Bennett.

Witt/Kieffer is proud to have served Northwestern University in the recruitment of its associate provost for diversity and inclusion.

By the Witt & Wisdom Blog Team

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