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Q&A with TCYP Morning Meetup Speaker Dr. Nick Nissley of Northwestern Michigan College

During the 2023 Traverse City Young Professionals’ (TCYP) Morning Meetup Speaker Series, kicking off on February 16 at 8 a.m. at Traverse Connect, Northwestern Michigan College President Dr. Nick Nissley will give an insightful presentation on narrative leadership, how he’s successfully used narrative leadership in the education field and how young professionals can use similar tools in their careers.

Nissley recently sat down with us to provide some further context into his upcoming presentation and what attendees can expect to take away from his presentation.

Tell us about your role as president of Northwestern Michigan College.

Nissley: As I look back over the last 30 years, I’ve always been drawn to mission-driven organizations, so it makes sense that I was drawn to the mission of Northwestern Michigan College. We say our mission is to deliver lifelong learning opportunities that transform lives and enrich our community, and that’s what keeps me motivated each day as president of the college.

We strive to inspire people to achieve more than they previously thought they could and bring their passions, gifts and talents to work every day. That is my ultimate goal and what makes my work so exciting.

You consider yourself a collaborative servant leader and possibilitarian. Tell us about that and your leadership style.

Nissley: I wish I could take credit for the word “possibilitarian,” but I was exposed to that word when I was completing a summer internship at Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont. To me, possibilitarian is a crafty word for someone who sees the glass half full. As a leader, I can’t be the only possibilitarian at the college; I have to inspire others to believe that they, too, can make big, bold changes and make a difference.

During the Morning Meetup, you’ll be discussing the topic of narrative leadership. How would you define narrative leadership?

Nissley: Narrative leadership is a small sliver of leadership, and you can view it as something borrowed from narrative therapy. In the simplest terms, narrative leadership says the most effective leaders are those who can listen because if you can listen well, you are in better touch with what people need in your organization.

Bill George, a Harvard Business School professor and the former chairman and CEO of Medtronic, once said, “It is your personal narrative that matters.” I believe in that notion, along with the concept of narrative leadership, because if you can figure out who you are as a person and bring those gifts and strengths to your work as a leader then you truly know what leadership is.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a career in education?

Nissley: In general, I think people have a narrow view when it comes to education. We often think of a classroom, but in my opinion, classrooms are the least educative of all environments, and education is much more than what is taught within those four walls. With that said, my first piece of advice would be to keep an open mind and seek out learning experiences in places outside of the classroom.

Secondly, I would say to think about the learning that’s transformed your life and how you can transform other peoples’ lives through learning. It’s not about getting 49 out of 50 on a hard test; it’s about constantly encouraging people and helping them achieve their goals.

Lastly, remain curious and try to be inspired by learning because there’s always more to learn.

Interested in learning more? Join us at TCYP’s February Morning Meetup held on February 16 at 8 a.m. at Traverse Connect in Downtown Traverse City.