Lessons in Leadership: With Nido Qubein and Julie Freischlag

This story is featured in the Spring 2019 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below one of the many impressive speakers brought to campus to share knowledge and insight. 


President Nido Qubein interviews some of the world’s most influential thought leaders and change agents who are drawn to the High Point University campus. Their conversations focus on leadership, innovation and values that prepare HPU students to lead lives of success and significance. These topics are also the focus of Qubein’s Seminar on Life Skills, which he teaches to all freshmen.

The interviews are open to the entire community, filmed in front of a live audience, aired on public television, and shared online with viewers around the world. Printed below is an excerpt of Qubein’s interview with Julie Freischlag, the CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity and can be viewed in its entirety at www.highpoint.edu/series.

Q: QUBEIN: You talk a lot about resilience and what it means to be resilient. As one of the top surgeons in your field, how did you get to where you are today?

A: FREISCHLAG: As I’ve experienced through my life, there are many people who tell you what you can’t or shouldn’t do. Part of resilience is saying, “Well, I can do that anyway,” and also realizing that it may not turn out just the way you want. But it may turn out the better way that you didn’t even know was possible.

Q: QUBEIN: You initially intended to be a teacher, like your mother before you. You understood the importance of a good education. After attending college and moving your career focus to medicine, you were the first woman to do many things, such as leading the Department of Surgery at Johns Hopkins University, a leading institution of higher learning. What was your path like?

A: FREISCHLAG: When I began as a vascular surgeon, I just wanted to be the best I could be, and I was only the sixth woman in the country to get my certificate to be a vascular surgeon. I was used to being the only woman in the room. Later, I was the only woman chair in the country when I eventually got the job at Johns Hopkins.

Q: QUBEIN: This is where resilience plays a very important role. Having been turned down by multiple universities, you didn’t give up. In fact, you remind younger generations the importance of surrounding yourself with people who share your vision. How did you push past that adversity?

A: FREISCHLAG: You really need to find a brave person who will go the journey with you. A mentor is someone who will give you a chance but not be afraid to tell you when you’re doing something wrong.

Q: QUBEIN: You’ve been a large role model to women specifically through your career accomplishments. What would you say to encourage today’s young women and young people in general?

CLICK HEREto see the full Spring 2019 Magazine!

A: FREISCHLAG: The first thing is to believe in yourself. No matter who you are or what you’re doing, you need to have the wherewithal to speak out. Even on the days when you aren’t sure, figure out where that strength comes from. Surround yourself with good people, good friends and mentors so that when you have a problem, you know who can help you or offer you the ability to learn from it. And don’t be so hard on yourself. We are all so impatient to get where we want to be as quickly as possible. When you don’t get something you want, there will be other doors to take you to this vast array of endless opportunities.

Q: QUBEIN: To all the males who have the opportunity to guide and lead females in different capacities, what is your advice to them?

A: FREISCHLAG: Make no assumptions of what a woman wants to do, can do or has time to do. Never make that assumption that we don’t want it, can’t handle it, or aren’t available to do it. Have appreciative inquiry. Ask, “What do you think about that?” or “Is that OK with you?” or “Does that ring true with you?” or “What has been your experience?” Some people choose not to speak up, but make sure they have the ability and opportunity to. And be able to say you made a mistake. Being able to admit your mistakes and fix them gives others confidence that you hear them and you recognize them.

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