Swing Together: How Teams can Benefit from Virtuous Leadership

Because we went through SLG together, we became an even stronger, tight-knit team.

Swing Together: How Teams can Benefit from Virtuous Leadership
Lisa Datka, Amy Leal, and Justin Carroll-Allan
November 6, 2023
Leadership & Followership

The Early Learning Academies (ELA) Marketing Team is small but mighty and strives to work as a cohesive unit to provide the best support possible for our customers. When our team hits swing (working in harmony, united in purpose, and striving for shared success), we communicate clearly, courageously, and efficiently with one another. That clear communication spills over to our cross-functional partners who depend on us to help grow the business. Achieving swing as a team is not something that just happens. It is a journey that requires dedication, desire, and continuous reflection.  

Early Learning Academies Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Lisa, expanded her team with the addition of Marketing Managers Justin and Amy as she began her Severn Leadership Group (SLG) journey as a fellow. We were fortunate to see the effects of courageous leadership firsthand. Almost immediately, it was clear that the whole team could benefit from the leadership virtues at the core of SLG.  

Around this same time, ELA was expanding at a quick rate. As we acquired more childcare centers, we recognized that we could do more to support our customers but needed a common language and tools to come together and achieve swing.  

That’s when Lisa suggested Amy and Justin participate in the SLG six-month virtual cohort program she had recently graduated from.  

The Importance of Shared Experience

Right away, our team felt the benefit of having a shared experience with SLG. Because we went through SLG together, we became an even stronger, tight-knit team. Our emotional intelligence assessments (EQi) helped us identify our individual strengths and weaknesses, gaps our team may have, and the areas we should focus on. All of this made us capable of lifting each other up when adversity struck and holding each other accountable when it was time to try something new.  

The impact of having all gone through the same program had so many benefits:  

  • Shared Language. Because we were all familiar with the leadership virtues and shared the language of SLG, it was easier to make an immediate impact on our team and those we support.  
  • Connected Community. The experience of going through SLG made us all closer. Because strong leadership requires fearless self-reflection and honesty, we can be vulnerable and hold each other accountable in a way that wasn’t possible before SLG.  
  • Consistency. Because we all participated in SLG, we keep the LITER Virtues and other concepts of the program at the forefront when making decisions.  
  • Culture of Support. One of the most valuable lessons we learned in SLG is the importance of supporting, believing in, and trusting each team member. By giving our team the freedom to try new things with unwavering support, we have empowered each other to continue to grow, experiment, and thrive.

Practice, not Perfection

The work of SLG has not stopped since our fellowship ended; we continue to strive for swing each day. As a team, we created professional development goals related to SLG virtues, and we meet regularly to stay accountable. To keep it fun, Amy created a game: LITER bingo, which helps us see how the LITER virtues show up in our actions each day, and we take the time to recognize when we see each other lead with LITER virtues. We’ve seen the benefits of virtuous leadership outside of our team, too:  

  • Leading with love meant that our colleagues felt supported, prepared, and set up for success when we recently rolled out a new, companywide customer relationship management (CRM) software system.  
  • With our Social Media team, we established trust through empowerment and accountability, which led to more sustained engagement throughout the team. 

For teams facing changes, new leadership, or just looking for a way to grow together, utilizing the SLG program gives participants a clear understanding of virtuous leadership and the power to harness their strengths in a whole new way. After all, swing can’t be achieved alone; it can only happen when we work together as a team.

Lisa Datka is the Chief Marketing Officer at Early Learning Academies and has spent over two decades creating impactful marketing strategies in the education industry. She leverages her extensive experience to successfully navigate the ever-evolving landscape of the education industry, quickly adapting to changes and disruptions. She prides herself on her ability to inspire and motivate teams, fostering collaborative environments that drive productivity and fuel success.

Justin Carroll-Allan is a Marketing Manager at Early Learning Academies and has worked in education for over ten years. As a former English teacher, Justin’s love for storytelling and the classroom has informed his marketing career. Justin has helped education-focused companies create compelling marketing material that resonates with their audiences and generates strong leads. He’s helped create brand voice, strategize local and national advertising campaigns, and helped grow the social media presence of trusted names in education. Off the clock, Justin enjoys spending time with his spouse, two children, and an ever-increasing menagerie of pets in Portland, OR

Amy Leal is a Marketing Program Manager with Early Learning Academies. Along with her team, she serves and supports over 75 unique childcare locations across the country with their marketing and enrollment initiatives. She enjoys finding new ways to motivate teams as they work together to come up with creative solutions. Outside of work, she loves spending time with her husband and two boys in Portland, Oregon.

Swing Together: How Teams can Benefit from Virtuous Leadership

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