Dr. Nancy Grasmick Leadership Institute at Towson University

For businesses large and small, the past two years have been challenging to say the least. The Coronavirus began causing havoc in early 2020, forcing businesses to shutter in the name of public safety, and sadly, many never reopened. Others pivoted to remote work when possible, and once vaccines became widely available, many businesses brought employees back in the office full time, while others opted for a hybrid approach or stayed the status quo and had their employees continue to work remotely. In any event, the American workplace that existed in January 2020 looks very different than the one we have today, and companies have had to remain agile and flexible to survive.

“We cannot predict what the workplace will look like in the future, but we can prepare business leaders with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills, along with the moral courage to make the tough decisions when necessary,” says Erin Moran, executive director of the Dr. Nancy Grasmick Leadership Institute at Towson University. “Towson University’s Dr. Nancy Grasmick Leadership Institute is an interdisciplinary research and action-based institute that is forging a new standard for leadership development for the state, region and nation that will elevate leaders across all levels,” according to a press release by Towson University last August announcing Moran’s appointment as its inaugural executive director. The Institute is named for Dr. Nancy Grasmick, Towson University alumna, presidential scholar and a visionary leader as state superintendent of the Maryland State Department of Education from 1991-2011.

Moran says the mission of the Leadership Institute is to develop exceptional leaders who are also ethically driven to positively impact the region and beyond. “We have a unique approach that we call ‘one size fits one’ to support leaders wherever they are on their leadership journey. We provide programs for all levels of leaders, all industries and all different sizes of companies. We also offer different levels of engagement from the free webinars to customized, intense and immersive experiences that last eight months.”

For example, the Leadership Institute offers Signature Programs that feature cohort-based learning and one-on-one coaching, including the Professional Leadership Program for Women, Next Level Leaders to build mid-level managers into leaders with impact and expanded influence, and Integrity and Ethics in Leadership to prepare leaders to garner the trust and respect of colleagues by preparing them to more effectively grapple with ethical workplace dilemmas. In addition, coaching and special events are offered.

Moran notes that the Leadership Institute works with individuals seeking professional development, as well as creating customized programs for businesses looking to grow leaders within their companies.

“If companies were to create these professional development programs internally, it would be costly and timely. When I was chief culture officer for Union Square Hospitality Group, the parent company of Shake Shack, I wish these programs existed, as I would have sent a ton of our leaders to the Leadership Institute at Towson University,” she says.

Moran says one of the key skills of great leaders is the ability to identify and unlock the potential in others. “Great leaders are not born; it takes years of continued growth and development and it is a life-long journey,” she says.

Moran says that during the pandemic, leading with compassion was especially important. “Employees had many personal challenges, juggling child care, working from home and being quarantined for months. It’s important for leaders to actively listen to their people and have an understanding of their unique needs and what matters to them. Great culture does not need to cost a lot of money. Not every company is able to offer perks like Google can, but it’s all about the intentionality and thought behind the initiatives to let your employees know you respect them and genuinely care about them as individuals.”

Moran adds that a great culture also leads to improving the company bottom line. “Studies show that when you invest in developing great leaders, you see higher levels of engagement and productivity, and your retention rates are higher. When you lose employees, institutional knowledge leaves the door, and it’s costly and timely to attract, hire and train new employees. During this time called ‘The Great Resignation,’ the war for talent has never been greater.”

And while compensation and benefits remain key priorities for job seekers, Moran notes that many studies show that the majority of recent college graduates would be willing to accept a job that pays less if organization is known for having a great culture.

“Integrity-based leadership has been a struggle in this country for years, but integrity is the heart of everything we do at the Leadership Institute. All of our programs include elements of ethics, integrity and trust, core values built into the ethos of Dr. Grasmick. It’s important to balance compassion with results,” says Moran.

This was originally published as an advertorial in the Baltimore Sun Education Section on February 6, 2022.