As a young child growing up the Fillmore district of San Francisco, Dr. Angie Taylor could be found most evenings in bed under her blankets with a flashlight reading her favorite book. Someone who always loved to learn, Dr. Taylor knew she would eventually go to college and someday make an impact in the world.
“Education is something that always mattered to me,” recalls the Fall 2019 Ashford University* commencement speaker.
Dr. Taylor was right in her prediction. Thanks to the encouragement of her mother, she would eventually go on to earn three degrees from the University of Nevada, Reno, including a PhD in educational leadership, a master’s degree in public administration and policy, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Later, she served in several leadership positions at the university, where she worked for 20 years.
Today, Dr. Taylor has taken that experience and is applying it in a different arena, as president and chief executive officer for Guardian Quest, Inc., an organization that provides diversity/inclusion, leadership and organizational development training and consulting solutions for educational, governmental, corporate, and military clients.
A recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Taylor has a deep history of leadership, people development, and community service. With a focus on her passions of education, diversity/inclusion, leadership, and faith, she shared her expertise in her first book “Leadership Matters: Lessons that Shaped My Leadership.”
Here, she offers some personal insight into education, leadership, and mentorship.
AU: Why is education so important to you?
Dr. Taylor: We grew up poor, but my mom always made sure we understood that education was important. She was a single mom. She had us very young and never had a chance to go to college. I knew that education was the key to success. I always knew I was going to college. Didn’t know why or how, but I just knew. Education changed my life. But it also changed my family’s life. My mom eventually went to college, too, and we have a legacy of college graduates in the family.
AU: What does it mean to be a successful leader?
Dr. Taylor: Leadership by definition is “influence.” At the end of the day, you have to have an impact. Defining moments don’t come all the time. Don’t waste it. You have to work on your mark. I have been thinking a lot about legacy lately. I keep asking myself, ‘When I am gone, what will I have done?’ One of these days, I won’t be here anymore, and serving as a mentor, being a leader, helping others is a way for a little of me to stay behind because I have impacted someone. Do something that matters.
AU: Can anyone be a good leader?
Dr. Taylor: Leaders might be born, but they also need to be made. People always ask, ‘Are leaders born or made?’ I used to think they were born. And I do think the propensity to lead is something that can be ingrained and inherent in you, but it has to be developed just like any other skill or gift we may have. You can be born a leader, but if you don’t work your craft, you won’t grow.
AU: How important is mentorship, and what could someone learn from being a mentor?
Dr. Taylor: I can’t overstate the importance of finding a mentor and being a mentor. Mentors have nothing on their minds but to help us get better, so they can tell us the truth. I know my mentor is on my side. Even during the times when she would get on me, I knew it was coming from a good place. When I realized this, I let down my wall of defensiveness, which we all naturally go to. If you want to grow and get better, you have to do the work. Certainly there is the personal satisfaction of being a mentor. I will sit back like a proud parent, and although I can never take credit for anything, I know I played some small part, and that’s the kind of stuff that feeds the soul. And we all need stuff that feeds our soul. You also learn from the people you mentor because younger people think differently. There’s just more ways to do things in this 21st Century-way of thinking.
AU: What is the greatest lesson you learned from your mentor?
Dr. Taylor: It’s not just about me. I am in a unique position, and I get to influence people. That is a responsibility. I have to walk worthy of the opportunity. It’s a calling, and how I handle that matters a lot.
AU: What is your role in helping others achieve change?
Dr. Taylor: We all have a mindset that holds us back. My job is to come and challenge that mindset that may have gotten in the way. We work so hard at doing what we know how to do, and sometimes we just get stuck. I can’t make people change, but we can talk about the values of change. The objective of change has to come from them.
Written by University Staff
* Ashford University is now the University of Arizona Global Campus