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Helping Marketers and Leaders Serve First with Jenny Petty 

When Jenny Petty found the Organizational Leadership program and Servant Leadership track at Gonzaga, she said it was like something lit up inside of her. Like the way she always dreamed of showing up in the world exists and has a whole philosophy behind it.

Jenny is now the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Communications Officer at the University of Montana and a self-described mom of 3 hooligans, extreme bookworm, and Ted Lasso and Taylor Swift enthusiast.

Now, with close to a decade in higher ed, Jenny sits down with Josie to talk about this philosophy of leadership, the radical responsibility of taking care of your people and yourself, her own podcast The Servant Marketer, and how you can be nice AND strong at the same time.

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Josie and the Podcast is produced in partnership with Alumni FM, a podcast agency dedicated to higher education. Alumni FM works with leading colleges and universities to tell stories on campus that build branding, drive engagement, and connect communities. Reach out to  to connect on podcast strategy, production, and growth. We look forward to talking with you!

Campus Sonar offers unmatched insights and expertise that build client capabilities, transform campus goals, and support higher ed community learning and networking. They use digital and social intelligence to help campus partners understand and implement meaningful change.

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More About Jenny

Jenny Petty left the corporate world where she worked with some of the world’s biggest brands including Dolly Parton, Family Guy, Harley Davidson, Phantom of the Opera and The Ellen DeGeneres Show and joined the world of higher ed almost 7 years ago. She currently serves as the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at the University of Montana. In this role she oversees brand strategy, digital innovation, enrollment marketing, creative services and strategic communications. Before coming to Montana, Petty was the Director of Enrollment Marketing at the University of Wyoming, where she was a key, driving force behind The World Needs More Cowboys campaign. She finds joy in building teams and helping others grow, as well as flexing her creative muscles whenever she can.

She’s a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism and the University of Nevada and has a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University where her studies focused on the intersection of Servant Leadership and the marketing profession. She’s the host of “The Servant Marketer,” a podcast featuring marketing leaders, marketers, creatives, academics and entrepreneurs and shares thoughts on how marketers and leaders can serve first at

Connect with Jenny

[00:00:00] Josie: Do you all know why I started Josie and the Podcast? Well, I’m a chronic overachiever and digital explorer. But, more importantly, podcasts are a great platform for storytelling, building a community, and having meaningful conversations. The challenge is finding the bandwidth to do it. Take it from me, it takes a lot.

That’s why, this season, I’m partnering with Alumni FM to bring you great conversations like today’s. They are a higher ed podcast production and growth agency. Their team works with leading institutions like Stanford University, Howard University, and Middlebury College to create podcasts that resonate with their communities. It has been such a relief to have the entire team at Alumni FM guide my podcast strategy, from the rebrand of the logo and graphics, show development, and, of course, sound engineering. Thinking about podcasting for yourself or your campus? Visit to learn more and get started.

Hello, and welcome to Josie and the Podcast. I’m Josie, and I am so happy to have you with me today. What does it mean to lead in the digital space with heart and humanity? On my podcast, Josie and the Podcast, I spend time answering this question with heart, soul, and lots of substance. My goal is to share conversations that encourage you, empower you, and yes, even entertain you to rethink digital strategy for yourself and for the higher organizations you support. My goal is to share conversations that encourage you, empower you, and yes, even entertain you to rethink digital strategy for yourself and the organizations you support.

All right, let’s get to know today’s featured guest. What do Dolly Parton, Phantom of the Opera, and the Ellen DeGeneres show have in common? Well, Jenny Petty has worked with them all. That was her life before higher ed. And now, she serves as a chief marketing and communications officer at the University of Montana.

She finds joy in building teams and helping others grow, as well as flexing her creative muscles wherever she can. She’s the host of The Servant Marketer, a podcast featuring marketing leaders, marketers, creatives, academics, and entrepreneurs, and shares thoughts on how marketers and leaders can serve first.

Jenny Petty, I am so excited we get to hang out for a little bit of time today. It usually takes a conference or a podcast recording to get a little bit of time, but thank you so much for joining.

[00:03:19] Jenny: Thank you so much for having me. I am always excited to hang out with you.

[00:03:22] Josie: So, to get to know you a little bit, everyone just heard a bit of your bio and confined you in all the digital spaces that I think it’s so interesting, just based on what people have in their bios, to really get into some goodies. And yours definitely packs a punch. On Twitter, it says CMO/CCO at U of Montana, plus mom of three hooligans, plus extreme bookworm, plus host at The Servant Marketer, proudly overeducated — I had to look this one up — University of Nevada at Reno, Gonzaga. And then Ted Lasso and Taylor Swift enthusiast. I mean, all those things we could just talk about for a long while, but maybe pick a couple of those and why you put them in your bio.

[00:04:07] Jenny: So, I joined the University of Montana in March of 2021, which is really exciting. I’m coming up on close to a decade in higher ed, which is great. I came from the private sector before that. I am mom to three kids who are 11, nine, and almost six, who are helping me build my character every single day. I read like a crazy person. I have just books all over the place. My nightstand is out of control. I have just always enjoyed reading as part of my self-care rituals. I got a great education at a public land-grant flagship in Nevada, where I studied journalism. And then, my master’s I did at Gonzaga, where I studied organizational leadership, with a focus on servant leadership.

[00:04:52] Josie: And then, of course, our love for Ted Lasso and Taylor Swift.

[00:04:56] Jenny: Just don’t get me started, Josie, because that’s all we will talk about.

[00:04:58] Josie: I know.

[00:05:00] Jenny: Like, I just adore both Ted Lasso and Taylor.

[00:05:03] Josie: I’m sure there’s like cult fan podcasts of both of those, or how to get tickets to Taylor Swift, which I know we were on a group thread about trying. And it could still happen. We’ll just put that out into the universe.

[00:05:18] Jenny: I have hope. I have hope.

[00:05:20] Josie: Well, let’s scroll the clock back to many, many moons ago of what your earliest memories of technology was in your life.

[00:05:31] Jenny: I love this question so much. And it got me thinking about my parents. My dad is an engineer, and my mom is an educator. She taught second grade for a really long time. And I remember, you know, probably being in third grade and my dad bringing a computer home for the first time. And, you know, there wasn’t much you could do on it, but I remember it being cool that we had this computer and, maybe, my dad trying to introduce some sort of game. It wasn’t Oregon Trail, that would’ve been way cooler. But I do remember like my first exposure to technology, really, was gaming, really essentially, was this entertainment piece of tech.

[00:06:13] Josie: Yeah, I remember that day we got a computer, and my mind was just blown. I think I also pretended it could do more than what one could do today. I was one of those Oregon Trail kids, for sure.

[00:06:26] Jenny: And, I mean, when I remember it, I’m like an elder millennial. And so, you know, I remember tech being around, but we didn’t have the internet until I was 16, 15, something like that, you know. So, I do still can remember a time when we didn’t have that connectivity, which I sometimes now look back on very fondly. But, yeah, I do remember this kind of slow evolution of tech becoming more prevalent in our house.

[00:06:54] Josie: Absolutely, much different to raise kids and teens in a house today. So, you shared about getting your master’s at Gonzaga. And your throughline of your thesis and your work and, just overall, your leadership is about servant leadership, which I don’t know if it was that or the University of Wyoming campaign that you led that made me stumble upon you and immediately jump into your DMs. But for someone that’s never heard of servant leadership, if you could give us the cliff note version and, maybe, how you’ve integrated it into your work as a CMO.

[00:07:35] Jenny: So, the term, “servant leadership,” is something that was coined by a man named Robert Greenleaf. Robert Greenleaf had been an executive, a lifelong executive, AT&T. And he had been in the realm of what we would now call like organizational development, but they didn’t call it that back then. So, he worked at AT&T his entire career, 40 years, and he observed a lot. And when he retired, he read a book by Herman Hesse. And that book got him thinking about this idea of the leader as servant or the servant as leader. And he wrote essays and he wrote a book and just wrote and wrote and wrote until his death. And he framed this idea of servant leadership, which is leaders who are defined that the people that are in their charge are more free, more autonomous, more likely to become servants themselves after being led by someone like this.

And I think what’s really interesting is, with servant leadership, sometimes it gets coined as being, you know, a Christian way of leading. There’s, you know, the book. I think it’s like “Lead Like Jesus” or something like that. There’s a lot of ways that people think about servant leadership through the lens of religion. But the truth is, is that servant leadership shows up in every culture, every religion. It’s almost a universal truth when we think about cultures around the world, is service is part of almost every single one.

And so, for me, when I didn’t know anything about servant leadership, I started looking for a master’s program. I realized I couldn’t hack an MBA. I was like, I don’t have the ability to do finance classes in my brain. And so, I started looking for, if I’m going to spend this time investing in a master’s, what will it be?

And when I found the organizational leadership program at Gonzaga and I found the servant leadership track, which I had never heard of, it was like something lit up inside of me. And it was like, oh, my gosh, this just makes sense. And this way that I want to show up in the world as a leader, it exists, and there’s a whole philosophy behind it.

And so, my master’s was very much spent on learning about servant leadership, learning about organizational leadership. And then, as I got moved through the program, what I ended up starting doing was looking at the way that the marketing profession and servant leadership can overlap and where is our ability as marketing communications professionals to show up and serve. I often think about our profession, sometimes, gets lumped into being, well, those are the people who are in charge of promotion, which just drives me crazy because we all know, if you work in this profession, there’s such depth to the work that we do. And when I think about the world of marketing outside of higher ed, just advertising, public relations, we really have the influence to shape and reflect society. And that’s a huge responsibility.

And so, for me, that’s what motivates me to continue to study and think about our work in that way, is there’s deeper meaning in the way we show up in these roles, and there can be a way that we can serve society with this work.

[00:10:42] Josie: Yeah, elevating the industry and putting more meaning behind it. That intersection was, again, like when you stumbled onto the Gonzaga program, when I stumbled onto you, I was like, “This is my girl.” Sometimes, you have to connect the dots, because unfortunately, other perceptions, like, oh, marketing is just for promotions. So, one of the tenets is, first among equals, why do we need leaders to enact something like that right now?

[00:11:17] Jenny: You know, I saw this graphic on LinkedIn, and it definitely felt like click bait. But somebody had put up, kind of, this comparison graphic of a nice leader versus a strong leader. And servant leadership was listed on the side of the nice leader. And I think that speaks to, first of all, that graphic was BS. Like, you can be nice and strong at the same time. Like, let’s just own that. But I think there is this shift in our culture that is happening. And humility in leaders and this idea, first among equals, which is that the leader of a group is not any better than the people they are leading, for that moment in time, they are chosen to be the person who is first among the equals. But everyone comes at it from a place of equality and equity. And I think we need more leaders who are willing to do the work to show up in that way.

And it’s hard. Like, being a servant leader, I often… You know, when people are young or inexperienced managers or leaders and they’re trying to find their bearings, they will ask me like for information about servant leadership. And I have to tell them, like, choosing to care about people, choosing to do the work beyond the surface, is much harder than if you were going to be like an authoritarian leader who says, “My way is the highway.” This is really tough work. And so much of that work is actually the internal work we have to do on ourselves. It’s not getting a list of tools and tactics that are going to make you a better manager. Like, those things exist and they can be helpful. But to be a servant leader is almost, in a lot of ways, I think about being a parent. When I became a parent for the first time, I thought, oh, I have this beautiful little baby. Now, it’s my job to shape this little person into he’s going to be. And then, you get humbled very quickly and over and over and over again by this tiny little baby who rules your world. And, pretty quickly, you start to realize, no, actually my job is just to guide this little person. And it’s just to make sure that I’m taking care of myself so I can take care of them.

So, I think about servant leadership in that way frequently. And I think we have a reckoning happening in the world right now. We’re seeing it with the authoritarianism that’s, you know, happened in a lot of countries, including ours. And we are seeing, I think, a calling for leaders who can lead and bring people together and genuinely care about others.

[00:13:45] Josie: Yeah, truly see your people. I also appreciate the humanizing element. It just screams heart when you talk about, sometimes, we don’t include descriptions like that in supervising or in leading or in higher ed. But if you dig into mission statements and value statements of our campuses, it’s there. It just gets buried sometimes.

Your podcast, The Servant Marketer, which I’m hearing is coming back, features marketing leaders, creatives, academics, entrepreneurs, and just overall thoughts about how marketers and leaders can serve first. So, from your past episodes, what have you been discovering, talking to others about being a servant marketer? And what are you cooking up next?

[00:14:40] Jenny: I learned so much. You know, I made 23 episodes. That was my capstone project for my master’s. That’s what was the whole premise of starting the podcast, was it was really for school. And it turned into such a blessing. And the 23 episodes, I learned so much, and it also left me with a thirst for how much more there is to learn around this topic.

But, you know, there were a couple of things that rose to the surface in that first series, which was, you know, we have a tremendous responsibility as marketing communications professionals. And our creativity, we have to be radically responsible with it. So, we need to think about the way that we use our creativity and who it actually serves. That was one of the main themes. You know, in other words, we’re talking a lot about diversity, equity, and inclusion as marketers. And what I learned during the podcast, I had to stop myself and look around and realize that my network, my personal network, wasn’t actually that diverse when I really thought about it. And when I thought about bringing guests on the show, I had to do some hard work on myself to actually reckon with the fact that I didn’t have a super diverse network and that needed to change. And I think, often, when we talk about marketing with representation, representation matters so much. And so, marketers have to be champions of DEI efforts. That’s incredibly important.

I think one of my favorite episodes, you know, was with Seth Odell talking about curiosity. And that kind of goes along the lines of the awareness of gaining deeper personal and self-awareness of the work and the way these environments impact us. And so, the first season left me thinking that we have to get more curious about our own reaction to things. We have to slow down the space between stimulus and response. We have to be open to different ideas. And we have to question our emotions and our reactions to things. And so, I think those were the three primary lessons that came out of that first season. But there’s so much in there. And so, what I’m doing with the second season, this special 10-part series, is going to be about the 10 characteristics of servant leadership.

So, after Robert Greenleaf died, some scholars went back and went through all of his writings, even some writings that they found that he had not published. And they took from those writings these 10 characteristics. And so, every episode of this next series, we’ll be focused on one of those characteristics. So, we’ll get deeper into things like empathy, persuasion, listening, foresight, because there is still so much to learn and so much to think about when we talk about how servant leadership shows up in our field.

[00:17:26] Josie: Well, I was excited to see that very much as coming back. I know what it takes to produce a podcast. So, it is quite the ordeal. But also, how cool that you started one, it was like your master’s thesis, that you got to create something like that and on such a vehicle. And even your reflections back about discovery, some of it was, obviously, what you educated out, but you got educated in. I sometimes… like, a lot of my work is research. It’s not just research for a speaking engagement, like I’m discovering things about myself. And I think that’s just also being centered in a leadership philosophy, too, that it’s just as much work on ourselves as others and being so open to that.

So, another way that we’ve got to work together this last year is having conversations about healing in higher ed. And this podcast, this season, just like yours, it’s going to have a throughline of talking honestly about wellness and mental health, from our own, to those that we support and serve, and maybe even our students. So, how are you taking care of yourself right now? And how does that look like for your teams, especially with your role as a CMO?

[00:18:44] Jenny: You know, I think, if there was any blessing that came out of COVID, it is this… I feel like we do have a new focus on self-care and awareness and mental health. And I think my view on it, to be honest with you, I’ve never been good at taking care of myself. I’m always really good about taking care of other people, but never taking care of myself. And, you know, I took on this new job. It was really intense. And I realized that I completely neglected myself for almost a year.

And so, starting this last summer, I really got focused back on the basics. So, I read Brad Stulberg’s book, “The Practice of Groundedness,” earlier in the year. And that book really impacted me in thinking about self-care as a practice rather than, you know, doing a health kick or doing a diet or something like that. And so, that mindset shift has really helped me. And so, just getting back to basics this summer of drinking enough water, like realizing that I was probably dehydrated for an entire year, which is bad — don’t do that, drink enough water — so, you know, drinking enough water, trying to get up and take walks throughout the day, transitioning more of my meetings to be walking meetings so we can get, you know, staff out together and do that. Therapy, therapy, therapy. Like, I am a huge proponent of therapy. I think it’s awesome. So, that’s something that I take care of. I’ve tried to get… I’m not going to say I’m good at a meditation practice because I’m not, but I’m trying. I’m trying real hard.

[00:20:17] Josie: Therapy, therapy, therapy. That’s going to be [inaudible 00:20:20].

[00:20:20] Jenny: Yeah, yes.

[00:20:22] Josie: I second.

[00:20:24] Jenny: Yeah, therapy is great. I’m not so good at meditation, but I’m trying. But, yeah, getting back to, like, just thinking about this idea of being grounded in wellness rather than only doing it when you’re suffering, which I think, for me, is definitely something, like, I have to feel real bad before I decide to take care of myself. Like, that’s not healthy. So, if there’s anything that came from COVID and taking on this big job in the middle of COVID, it definitely is that. And then, for my team, you know, I get pretty radical about taking care of them and helping them take care of themselves because, watching and managing a social media team during COVID, I just saw firsthand how that work was wrecking people. It was just so much pressure, just a really brutal time to be working in higher ed. And so, I tried to do a lot of things to help shape the culture of our sector here at the University of Montana, everything from, during the summer, we had really flexible hours. So, tried to make it so that, you know, during this short season when it’s gorgeous in Montana and we had a reprieve from the craziness of the semester, that we were able to take that time to enjoy in the outdoors.

We also try to have fun with each other. I think levity for marketing teams is so wildly important. We had a Taylor Swift listening party when her new album came out. The team made themed snacks, including sexy baby carrots. So, you know, we just try to have fun with each other because that’s part of it. The work can be really heavy when you’re dealing with crisis or issues management. Things can get really, really heavy. And you have the workload that’s heavy as well. And so, just trying to infuse modeling, you know, making sure people know, hey, here’s how I’m taking care of myself, so you can see that I’m doing this in action. And then, just trying to pave the way so that they can take care of themselves, too.

[00:22:16] Josie: Oh, my goodness. I really would want to see a photo or video from that gathering. So, appreciate just starting with the basics for yourselves. Even as leaders, as achievers, we then also want to be perfect in how we take care of ourselves. And I also just… I’m a drop-out of meditation school, literally. But I learn, if I walk more… And, like, moving stuff works better for me. And just even the basic stuffs, I think that’s such a great reminder. And then, I really like how you described it like radically taking care of your teams. It’s not just like a nice-to-do, like no, it needs to be extremely prioritized taking care of your people.

[00:23:02] Jenny: It does. And I think, you know, something that I did earlier this year was, just it was like a Monday morning and I just wrote on teams, like, “Hey, everybody, I’m feeling really run down, and I’m going to take the day off.” And I didn’t realize how impactful that was until one of my staff members came and said, “You know, I can’t thank you enough for showing us that that’s okay.” So, people need to see from their leaders that taking care of ourselves is just part of what we do.

[00:23:36] Josie: I am so excited. For the fourth season, I will be partnering with Campus Sonar as a podcast sponsor. Campus Sonar offers unmatched insights and expertise that build client capabilities, transform campus goals, and support higher ed community learning and networking. They use digital and social intelligence to help campus partners understand and implement meaningful change.

In January, Campus Sonar is hosting a webinar focused on audience-centric strategies that you can use on campus to increase brand cohesion. Register for free at to learn more from Dr. Liz Gross and Rebecca Stapley.

Well, so, this summer we got to work together as faculty for a conference eduWeb in Philly. And we led attract healing and wellness. And that topic wouldn’t necessarily be a common track, or even session, at a professional conference pre-pandemic. So, why do you think that needs to change? And what could it look like, knowing what you and I cooked up?

[00:24:56] Jenny: I think I’m seeing it more and more show up in interesting ways at marketing conferences. You know, just American Marketing Association higher ed symposium just happened. And there was a meditation mindfulness track that you could start your day with. Looking back at the last couple of years, and certainly we weren’t working in hospitals, we weren’t on the front lines of COVID in that way, but for a lot of us, our time on our campuses became even more important and elevated during COVID. And that came with additional responsibilities and additional workload. And I think I remember I told somebody the other day, you know, from March of 2020, I think I worked 57 days straight or something like that. You know, I put on a virtual commencement in this very short amount of time. Like, when I look back on it, thinking about starting meetings at 6:30 in the morning and sometimes ending at 9:30 at night, like, it took a toll on me. I know it took a toll on a lot of people.

And so, I love that, as an industry, we are normalizing and putting a value as a group on wellness. And I think there’s just more and more space for that to show up in different ways. I think, you know, what you and I did this summer gave people an ability to, maybe, vocalize some of that pain and suffering and maybe take a second to stop and reflect on it. And this session I did at AMA was really similar. I’m just shocked at how much people want to talk to one another right now about what the last couple years have been like.

[00:26:30] Josie: Absolutely. And almost there was structure, but just being able to be around each other to process and giving up a prompt, and then they’re just running with it to unpack realities and resources. And for our track, we were able to center servant leadership as one of those frameworks. And even a lot of people had never heard of that theory before. And it contextualized around marketing. So, it really makes me excited to see intersections in places maybe we hadn’t before, because, you know, that could be an element of healing, too.

At the AMA Conference, which I was stalking through Twitter and didn’t have any FOMO at all, I stumbled on your session, which was getting shared out a lot on Twitter, Healing Through Branding. The University of Montana just went through a pretty decent rebrand, pretty good-looking rebrand. But we know those aren’t just light switches and not just a color palette and logo, but it’s an entire process. So, if you could give us an insight, not just into what you shared in that session, but, obviously, the title of how healing shows up in branding and how it showed up in your process.

[00:27:51] Jenny: Yeah, I was so honored to present with Kevin Tyler from SimpsonScarborough. We worked with SimpsonScarborough on this branding process. And what became pretty evident to me early on when I started at Montana was Montana had been through a lot of trauma, a lot of wounds that had been opened and never been able to heal because they just kept being wounded. Things like, you know, an enrollment crisis that started in 2011. So, by 2019, the freshman class at the University of Montana was 40% smaller than what it had been in 2011. You couple that with a pretty public sexual assault scandal that resulted in the book, “Missoula,” by Jon Krakauer, there had just been a lot of issues, including, you know, financial pressures that had resulted in some decisions to cut back on staff.

And so, these areas like marketing, IT, things like that, had been desecrated. By the time I got, you know, here in 2021, they had started to be built back up. But these traumas had just happened over and over and over again, and this place hadn’t had a chance to heal from it. And so, what had taken shape was this narrative that the best days for the University of Montana were behind it. And so, I realized pretty quickly, you know, we were going to do this branding work because it was so necessary for moving forward.

But what I realized, especially during the discovery process of the branding, is that people needed someone, people needed people, to bear witness to the pain that they had experienced working here. And what I found during the discovery process was that it was an incredibly moving experience to be part of that and to see people slowly open up to the idea of hope again. And what we saw through that whole process, you know, we made the branding process far more transparent than I think, you know, you might at another institution. But it was incredibly important that people understood the “why” behind we were doing this work, that it wasn’t just going to be a new color palette or a new font or something like that. Like, this work was about telling the story and shaping the narrative of what this place is and what it could be.

And we did this process incredibly quickly. We started in October. We launched the new branding in April. But the transformation that happened during that time was really, really meaningful. And you did see a shift in the way people felt about their jobs and about this place. And we hosted in April an event called Brand Camp, which was a day-long seminar/interactive event for campus to learn about the branding process. And I opened the day by we took flower pots and we put flower pots on every single table. And then, we had seed paper, paper that you can plant that grows flowers. And we had people. I said, “You know, I want to start this day by having you all take a pause and reflect on what’s the story you’re telling yourself about this place that is keeping us… it’s holding us back.” And I said, “I don’t want you to share that.

I want you to write it down on the seed paper.” And then, they planted it at the end of that.

And then, after we did that process, you know, we said, “Okay, now, I want you to share your greatest hope for this place. Write it on the sticky note and put it on the back wall.” And they did. And so, the symbolic nature of designing Brand Camp in a way where it wasn’t just a training session, it really was about thinking about this place in a new way and letting go a bit of some of that pain that had happened, turned out to be incredibly powerful, definitely one of the most powerful things I’ve done in my career.

And now, to see, even internally, my team, we had to walk through creative tension together. We had to walk through creative tension with SimpsonScarborough. And I told the audience at AMA, creative tension feels exactly like a trauma response for a lot of people. So, when we’re on our campuses and we’re trying to create really great work and we’re working hard and we’re trying to do something different or a new way, I had to normalize that for people. So, it was fascinating to be part of that process and to have to also be aware of my own response. The first time I saw the concepts from SimpsonScarborough, I flat-out told them the bold concept, which is the one we ended up going with in the long run, but the first time I saw it, I said to them, “That might work in a couple of years, but it’ll never work right now.” And by the end of the phone call, I had to say, “Oh, my gosh, I’m really sorry. I had a strong reaction to that.”

And it’s just this constant being aware of that piece of it, but normalizing the fact that, when you’re going through something, even when it’s good and creative, it can still be really scary for people. And so, I’m so proud of the work that came out of it. It’s gorgeous. It tells the story of this place in such a new, unique, modern way. And I just couldn’t be more thrilled with the process.

[00:33:14] Josie: Well, it’s really a holistic perspective and experiential, even, as you think about unpacking the brand, revealing the results and the humanity of it, that this is going to bring emotions and feelings. And, I mean, I see this, just when I look at a campus’ social media, like, my results are going to bring up unpack other things other than what’s on the screen, that we’re going to have to dig into as an organization and within leaders. So, well, kudos to you and your team for all of that work. And, again, I would’ve loved to sat into that session. It sounded amazing.

As I got perusing your servant leadership website, which has all kinds of resources and goodies and snacks, and that’s where the podcasts will be found, I stumbled upon a page that’s your leadership philosophy. And I read it all because [inaudible 00:34:13]. And I adore you, but I found at the very end this paragraph that I had to… I’m just going to read it. You say, “I want to live in a world where I get to show up fully as a badass, strategic powerhouse that I am, but also the woman who is going to bring you soup and hold your baby and hug you as you deserve. I am no longer satisfied with a world where women must shift and contort themselves to manipulate the world to be comfortable with their strength.” I want that on a t-shirt. Jenny, that is so powerful.

[00:34:47] Jenny: Oh, my gosh. Thank you. You know, I had to write that as an assignment for my capstone class. So, it’s fun to go back to it. I honestly had forgotten about it a little bit. I think writing a leadership philosophy for anyone who’s in a leadership position or aspires to be is such a great exercise in formulating, kind of, your beliefs and thoughts around leadership.

And I’ll tell you, I mean, when I first… You know, I’m an elder millennial. I graduated from college in 2005. And when I graduated from college, I was very ambitious. You know, I read a lot of books about women in leadership, and one of them was, you know, “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.” I read that book, and there were things in it, like, don’t bring baked goods, don’t have a name that ends in “Y.” So, think about being a Jenny. And I internalized a lot of it. And I thought, well, this must be the way the world is.

And then, my early experiences in working, kind of, reinforced that. And it took years into my career. And, at one point, I decided, well, now I’ve seen what leadership looks like. That’s obviously not going to be my path because I’m not this person and I’m not going to be… I don’t want to turn off parts of myself to lead or to make it and, you know, to break through the glass ceiling, or whatever.

It took years until I worked back-to-back. I worked for two incredible leaders, Julie Brown and Staci Alonso. Staci is a guest in the first season. She’s just an absolutely amazing person. And I watched both of them show up completely as themselves. And it was the first time I realized that that was a possibility. And I decided after that, that I knew it was a possibility now and I could do that. And so, that changed the way I thought about how I would show up. And I don’t think nice and strong are mutually exclusive.

[00:36:52] Josie: Well, and having real models is so powerful for you and for you in your journey, but also for those listening, to even know your philosophy behind that. I use authenticity often in my work around digital leadership, but also, knowing that authenticity can either be contorted and/or unsupported for certain identities, including women. But as we think about our BIPOC colleagues, as we think about diversifying the field and representation who are trying to be a badass, that maybe want to be a CMO someday, or are but not feeling like they’re at a campus where they can be authentic, what kind of guidance might you provide?

[00:37:41] Jenny: So, I think what I want to say is, to anyone who’s listening who doesn’t identify as BIPOC or a female, the work, really, is on those people to help us break down these systems that are in place. It’s not the responsibility of our BIPOC colleagues to figure out how to fix these systems. So, I think that’s the first thing.

The second thing I want to say is, if you find yourself in a position where you are constantly called on to be the quarterback, but you’re never put on the roster, you might have to go. You might have to find a better place that is better aligned with your values. And they exist. But I think there is so much harm that is done in some of our institutions who are not willing to do the work to right this. And I don’t have a lot of patience anymore for folks sticking around and doing the work for others who are not willing to do the work.

[00:38:45] Josie: Well, I’m going back to our conversations about healing and addressing that. Where can folks find you to connect? I know platforms like Twitter are changing all the time, but where might we stumble into you?

[00:39:00] Jenny: Oh, my gosh, I know. Okay, so I’m still on Twitter. I feel conflicted about it. I feel like I’m sticking around a little bit longer. I don’t know what my answer there is, but I’m also on LinkedIn. I’m also on Instagram as @iamjennypetty. I’m trying to. I haven’t got it on Mastodon. I don’t understand how this world works. I also know Hive. I have my name on the waiting list for Hive. I don’t know, guys Just I’m everywhere. You can definitely find my e-mail somewhere. With force comes source.

[00:39:29] Josie: There you go. I know, Mastodon. I’m just like, I’m lost and confused and I feel like that most days, so I don’t need [inaudible 00:39:35].

[00:39:36] Jenny: I just see other people talking about Mastodon and they are confused. And I’m like, I can’t even enter this yet. I just don’t know what to do.

[00:39:44] Josie: Not for me quite yet. So, a couple questions I always end every episode with, as we think about, especially social media and leadership and legacy, is that these platforms, well, we don’t know what Twitter’s doing next, but a few of them will probably live on before us. So, if you knew your last post was going to be your last, what would you want it to be about?

[00:40:10] Jenny: I think I would want it to be about how much goodness still exists in this world. And even on our darkest days, I still know there is so much light. And I want us to focus on that.

[00:40:27] Josie: I love that. So, for now, whether it’s Mastodon or the tools that you’re on or even email, how do you want your digital presence to impact the world?

[00:40:38] Jenny: Since I am an elder millennial, which I’ve said 300 times during this episode — you’re welcome everyone — I have lived this world of social media since I was pretty young, not as young as our Gen Z counterparts, but, you know, from the time I was in my early 20s. And I feel like I’ve gone that whole path of probably being an overshare on the early days of Facebook to then doing frequent fasts from social media and getting more aware of how I use it. What I want people to see when they interact with me on social media is that they’re not alone, that they’re somebody who’s in it with them.

You know, there’s a reason why I’ve posted pictures of my kids in my office, because sometimes life explodes and my kids have to be in my office. My five-year-old had to come to our sector retreat this year. Like, things are not perfect, and I want people to see that. I’m also getting to a stage of my career where, like, I’ve learned some things and I want to share that with other people. And, you know, if that will help or not, that’s what I want people to see, is that, the same way how I felt alone early in my career and like there wasn’t a place for me at the leadership table, I now want other people to see the way that I lead and the way that I approach our organizations, so that they know that there is a path for them.

[00:42:02] Josie: And we need so much more of that for people to feel seen and that they are not alone. I know you write a number of articles, conference presentations, so lots of ways we can learn with you. And I’ll make sure to connect some of those in the show notes. When people ask me if I’m leaving Twitter or just my opinion of it, it’s people like you being able to… you know, the first time I stumbled into you, being able to DM you and jump on a phone call is what, at least, I had found making it so meaningful, not just scrolling. It’s what you do with it, right? And I’m so thankful for where our lives have intersected since. And that we got you on the show today is my icebreaker interview for the last, I don’t know, year and a half since I’ve done one of these. So, it’s been a treat.

[00:42:54] Jenny: Oh, I’m so glad to be here because I think you’re right. Why we have so much collective grief around Twitter right now is because of the community aspect. You know, my friends are on Twitter. So, what am I supposed do? Like, this community that we’ve built? That’s for me, where, why I’m sticking around is like that community means so much to me. And during COVID, it just really was a lifeline in so many ways. And so, I mean I hope we get it figured out or we find some other place to gather or, you know, we email each other like it’s 1999, I don’t know. We’ll figure it out. Community finds a way, like we will find a way.

[00:43:31] Josie: It absolutely will. Well, Jenny, thank you again for your time, for joining me for your joy and your giving. I really appreciate it.

[00:43:40] Jenny: Oh, thanks for having me, Josie. It’s always great to spend time with you.

[00:43:48] Josie: What a way to kick off season five of Josie and the Podcast with my first featured guest, as always, with some soul, sass, and substance. This closing part is kind of like the fact-check section of armchair expert minus the call-outs or corrections. Because many times, after my interviews, my brain gets spinning with reflection. And well, I wouldn’t be a decent leadership educator if I didn’t include some processing time. So, here it goes.

Of course, we talk lots about servant leadership. If you hadn’t heard of this theory before, I hope you soaked up at least just a little bit of what this theory is all about and the intersection that it has with marketing. My eyes lit up when Jenny said marketing isn’t just about promotions, there’s a deeper meaning. And connecting the dots is what makes for impactful content. And if that isn’t, well, exactly what this podcast and a lot of the work I do with digital leadership is trying to do, I call it remixing existing leadership theories to apply to a digital context. But I also think it’s so meaningful and important that we do that in all types of our work.

There’s the other side of this, too — whether if it’s leadership theory, identity development, or marketing — that we look at things through a critical lens, that we understand the historical context, where some of these theories, frameworks, and context come from, because a lot of leadership theory, unfortunately, was developed by white men from studying white students or other audiences or populations that, honestly, aren’t representative today. But again, as we’re able to have intersections, and not just only going by the book of one theory, it’s important to bring light in, maybe, ways that we haven’t before.

This is also why Jenny has her podcast, The Servant Marketer. And I very much appreciate how she acknowledges marketing professionals need to be radically responsible, not just with creativity, but who they serve, from DEI to what we’re putting out on a variety of different channels, and how things are impacting us, as well as how we’re impacting others. And that podcast, their next season, where she’s covering the 10 characteristics of servant leadership, her episode, I think, is going to be a good one.

So, those 10 characteristics, a couple of them stood out to me that I wanted to highlight, reflect out, and also connect to a few things. One of them is empathy. What does empathy look like in marketing? Are you approaching how you send emails through empathy when you send them, what you’re saying, the tone of content. Also applying this to accessibility and the user experience from your website to social media platforms. Three other of the characteristics, of course, pulled on my heartstrings, from healing, commitment to the growth of people and building community.

And this is where I just have to put in a plug for Renew, which is my retreat series that I kicked off last year that is offered in December and January. And it really goes to the heart of healing and building community, especially for those that are tasked with any kind of digital communications, marketing, and social media. Because if you caught my kickoff episode about, “Hey, Higher Ed, Are You Okay?,” we’ve got some real hardships, hardness, weirdness, whatever you call it, in higher ed, in all pockets. And we need a lot of healing and renewal around it. And honestly, a day off or a therapy session isn’t going to do it. And neither is the Renew retreat series, but it’s at least an effort to address and bring people together to reflect on the last year and put some energy towards ease and a sustainable 2023. So, you can find in the show notes how to learn more about Renew, the four dates that are happening between December and January. And I hope to see you at one of them.

Throughout this podcast season, we are going to be talking a lot about healing, wellness, and self-care. And so, I got to ask that question for the first time to this first guest, and she honestly admitted that, sometimes, she hasn’t done a great job of this in a new job. So, she’s doing simple things from drinking more water, doing therapy, moving her body. But we also have to make sure we’re taking care of others, too, especially at that leadership level. And Jenny, again, uses the terminology, “radically taking care of our teams.” Because, maybe, the things we’ve done in the past, whether if it was something simple, maybe that really isn’t going to cut it anymore. Going back to self-reflection, you also need to display and role-model what it looks like to take care of yourself, because your teams are paying attention to that, too.

Another part of servant leadership is about building community, and I see Jenny doing this all the time. But this is where my work around Digital Community Building Cohort comes into play. For two months, I basically radically take care of participants while we teach social media strategy from a lens of building community. That registration just went live, and we start on February 1st. So, make sure to register by the end of January. This is unlike most professional development experiences out there through the lens of leadership, building community for, not only campuses, but for social media strategists themselves.

As we came to a close in the interview, we talked about leadership philosophy. And the one that I happened to stumble upon from Jenny that she wrote in her master’s program. I knew right away Jenny and I come from similar backgrounds and, maybe, family philosophies. I grew up in a small town in Wyoming, and we are definitely the kind of people that will show up at your door. If you’re sick or have loss or struggles, we’re going to show up at your door with food. We’re going to clean your house, and we’ll quietly leave while, hopefully, you finally fall asleep or getting some rest. And I really loved how she kind of explained that. And as an exercise, how would you answer, what’s your leadership philosophy? Not even taking language from a leadership theory, but what just is innately within you?

Jenny also used some empowering language like being a badass. We also want to think about in this conversation as you think about leadership philosophy and values, and also boundaries, like, what are your unconditionals? As we think about the challenges higher ed is facing, and you personally, you have to think critically about your unconditionals or your conditionals.

Jenny says, if you’re always a quarterback but never on the roster, you may need to go. And she shares further, there is harm in staying behind when institutions aren’t willing to do the work. I think we are seeing examples of institutions and leaders who are, and more clearly those that are not.

So, y’all have to let me know, does servant leadership connect to you? You know, check it out. Has it called to you? I definitely think, whether you’re into this theory and philosophy or not, you have got to subscribe to Jenny’s podcast when it comes back next year. But also, maybe you hadn’t thought of this intersection of marketing communications with serving and servant leadership. Again, I see Jenny living and breathing servant leadership, whether if it’s on Twitter or at a conference. And I am darn thankful to have her as my first guest for season five. But honestly, I hope she’s gifted you something, too, whether if it’s permission to take care of yourself, the reminder to radically take care of your teams, oh, and to drink water. Whenever in doubt, y’all drink more water. And know that I’m also happy to help, whether if it’s simply connecting online or exploring how I support you or your campus. You can visit me at Learn more about my services for developing digital leaders and creating strategic, yet humanizing, digital strategies.

Don’t forget, registration is open for Renew, with dates in December and January. And the Digital Community Building Cohort registration is open until the end of January, kicking off February 1st.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of Josie and the Podcast. Join the conversation online. You can find me on most platforms @JosieAhlquist or the podcast Twitter @JosieATPodcast. Remember, the show notes can be found at

The easiest way to say updated when an episode drops is to simply subscribe. Apple Podcasts, Spotify, wherever you listen to podcasts, we are there. Your feedback is also so important to me and my team, so please consider a little review or passing on the episode to a colleague or sharing online.

If you’re interested in learning more about my speaking and consulting work on digital engagement and leadership or my book, “Digital Leadership in Higher Education,” check me out at Thank you again to our podcast sponsors, Campus Sonar and Alumni FM, who are the producers of this very show for season five. 

Sending digital hugs, loves, and waves to whatever corner of the world you’re listening in from. 

This has been Josie and the Podcast.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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