historic leaders share successes, struggles with packed MSU audience
At first glance, there is nothing unusual about the stage at Montana State University being set up with three microphones and bottles of water for the MSU President, Bozeman’s Mayor and its City Manager. But Carmen McSpadden, director of the MSU Leadership Institute, and the woman in charge of setting up the meeting of the top leaders, says Bozeman is getting to experience an historic moment.
For first time in the city’s
history, those three key positions are held by women. MSU President Waded
Cruzado, Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus and Bozeman City Manager Andrea Surratt
spoke to a packed house Thursday about what it’s like to make history in
Montana and what it takes to be a leader.
“Conflict is in the fabric of our
days,” City Manager Surratt told the room. “As leaders, we make peace with it.”
Surratt went on to explain that she reframes
the conflict inherent in her job; thinking of it instead as a process. Not a
bad process. Not a good process. Just a process to work through to create a
better future for Bozeman.
Surratt also entertained the room
with stories of being new to town. She moved to Bozeman from North Carolina
last year for the job. From surviving snowstorms and frozen iPhones to showing
emotion over the recent death of her mother, the audience was treated to candor
and humility not usually shown by top government employees.
Cruzado also talked about being a
new face in a new place. As a Puerto Rican woman with an accent, she told the
story of being head hunted for the university presidency. Cruzado was working as Interim University President
in New Mexico. She remembers her red telephone ringing and a man on the other
end of the line saying she was being considered for the top MSU job. Cruzado
said she laughed. She had never been to Montana.
“I don’t look like anyone there,”
she said. “I don’t sound like anyone there. I’m five feet tall and I grew up in
So, she kindly brushed the man off
and continued her work in New Mexico. Some weeks later, her red phone rang
again. It was the same headhunter, this time informing her she was a finalist
for the MSU job. And the thought she had next, drew actual tears from the
“I thought, ‘What do you see in me
that I’m not seeing,’” she said.
That sentiment, from a woman with an
esteemed career, resonated with the women in the MSU ballroom Thursday. Because,
as the panel of three explained, women often second guess their abilities.
Andrus said that’s one of the
reasons she started her mentoring program for women called “Mentored by the
Mayor.” Her first mentee will soon graduate with a master’s in civil engineering
and has already helped the City of Bozeman work through water issues complicated
by the county’s rapid growth.
McSpadden said all three women
espouse ethical leadership that elevates the entire community and challenges
employees to rise with them.
“Much of how leaders mobilize others is by
creating trust -- and a willingness by the leader to be vulnerable, helps their
team turn challenges into innovations,” she said.