Positive Leadership: The Staff Series “Living Your Purpose”

June 17, 2016

By: , Brenda Rutkey

Professors Robert Quinn and Ryan Quinn wrote a book entitled Lift: The Fundamental State of Leadership, Edition 2 that addresses, among other great features, how to live a purpose-centered life. Brenda Rutkey was one of the attendees who participated in the Positive Leadership series for staff at the Ross School of Business. Below she describes how she lives her purpose.

Brenda Rutkey
Title: Executive Assistant to the Dean
Number of Years at Ross: 5 years

1. Before you attended the sessions, what did you think you were going to gain from them?

I chose a few of the classes that I would like to attend (i.e., Professor Shirli Kopelman’s work on Negotiating sounded incredibly beneficial); however, Dean Alison Davis-Blake suggested that I attend all the classes. Even though these sessions would take me out of the office for a significant amount of time, she wanted me to be able to take advantage of this positive initiative offered to staff.

To be honest, I was a bit nervous.  Am I going back to school? Are they teaching to a college-level group that is above me? I found out that the teachers were nervous, too, as they were not accustomed to teaching staff. In fact, I asked them if they adjusted their presentation for staff that did not have their PhDs. Their response was “No.” In fact, Professor Kim Cameron said that this is exactly what and how he teaches to generals!

2. How would you explain/describe the experience of attending these sessions to a close friend or family member?

The second session that Professor Bob Quinn taught resonated with me. This was something I could relate to my family. I discussed this with my Mother and realized that when my son is doing well, I’m glowing; when he is not, I’m down. I was able to identify and put my words around my purpose: for example, putting that purpose into action at home. Around the dinner table, I started asking my son to talk about one positive thing that happened during his day, as opposed to the generic “How was your day?” This conversation was a door-opener into my son’s life.

3. What did you take away and how do you see yourself applying what you learned into your everyday life?

I realized how important it is to give my undivided attention to my son when I get home from work – even when it is about video games! I also learned how necessary it is to manage your energy so that you are able to be productive at work and at home.

4. What constitutes a positive work environment?

What if everyone at Ross lived their purpose! We would all want to be here and share the same goals. Some people would leave; others would stay, and some would be attracted to our dynamic and uplifting place to work!


Think one positive thought today.

I believe a great addition to this series would be to interview the faculty – ask them about their experience presenting to staff!

If you would like to discover how to be a more effective and positive leader, we highly recommend that you read the book How to Be a Positive Leader: Small Actions, Big Impact, edited by Jane E. Dutton and Gretchen M. Spreitzer.

Positive Leadership: The Staff Series is a group of interviews capturing staff reflections after participating in the Positive Leadership Workshops.