Get to know our new Executive Director!
As of April 1, COMPASS started a new chapter – installing Laura Lajewski as the Executive Director after John Lydon retired. Recently, Gregg Grenier, Development and Communications Manager, got a chance to ask Laura some questions to help COMPASS’ family get to know her even better.
GG: Although you are just getting settled into this new role, what is a preview of your vision for COMPASS with you as Executive Director?
LL: As Executive Director, I will focus on maintaining COMPASS’ position as one of the Commonwealth’s leading providers of special education and human services for youth and families in need. This includes assuring that the COMPASS culture that has long been at the heart of our organizational success continues to flourish.
GG: What qualities do you think are required in a successful leader?
LL: In 2018, I received my doctorate degree, completing the Urban Education, Leadership and Policy Studies program at UMass Boston. Throughout the courses and my own research, I focused on different leadership theories and became interested in transformative leadership. I concentrated on the differences between transactional leadership, transformational leadership and transformative leadership. They sound similar but they really are different!
I see these three types of leadership on a spectrum, going from basic leadership skills to more complex leadership skills. A transactional leader ensures smooth and efficient organizational operation through transactions. A transformational leader looks for motive, develops common purpose and focuses on organizational goals. And a transformative leader recognizes the need to begin with critical reflection and analysis to move through enlightened understanding to action. A transformative leader requires moral courage and believes in full participation, advocacy and activism. To be a successful leader, I think there needs to be a balance between these types of leadership. It’s necessary for leaders to be able to move back and forth through this spectrum of leadership styles, depending on the context, depending on the situation, and depending on the day.
GG: What background do you bring to the Executive Director role?
LL: Having worked in various environments, geographically and philosophically, I feel that I bring a unique look to the Executive Director role. Before starting at COMPASS in 2010, I was a teacher in Miami, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. These were two great places to live as well as two great places to teach. I learned a lot from my time teaching in public schools, which helped me for my time teaching at COMPASS. Since starting at COMPASS, I have worn different hats including being a teacher, the Education Coordinator and the Chief Operating Officer. Through these positions, I gained exposure to COMPASS’ programs, built relationships with the leaders and staff and witnessed the great work that we do every day. I have had experiences that have challenged me to think outside the box and reflect on my daily practices. Also, as mentioned above, I recently obtained by doctorate degree, which was the most challenging work that I have completed in my professional career. The program and my research focused on leadership and the knowledge I gained throughout will help me in the new position.
GG: What do you love about COMPASS?
LL: I love that I love to come to work every day. I believe in COMPASS’ mission and our Core Values and am grateful to see and hear about the great work that we do every day. We have grown to 140 diverse and talented employees with more to come to meet the demand. We may have differences in our daily work schedules and practices at COMPASS, but we share a mission of helping our students and families to reach their highest potentials.
GG: Is there anything else you would like the COMPASS community to know about you?
LL: I grew up playing the piano and usually play at my mom’s house when I visit her in NY. I missed playing consistently so I recently bought a full-sized keyboard and am so happy to be playing again. I just started playing “Shallow” from the movie A Star is Born!
Along with playing the piano, I enjoy working out and started CrossFit about a year and a half ago. I go to the gym every morning at 5 A.M. and always think, “If I can get through this workout, I can get through anything that comes my way today!”