GOLD speaker Phillippa Lewis Moss shares tips on how to be a leader in the 21st century

Sep 1, 2021
Brenau Staff

Headshot of Phillippa Lewis MossThe Women’s College of Brenau University kicked off the third year of its GOLD Speaker Series on Wednesday, Sept. 1, with community leader Phillippa Lewis Moss presenting 21 Leadership Lessons for the 21st Century.

Moss currently serves as director of the Gainesville-Hall County Community Services Center, which provides programs and support to uplift and strengthen the lives of area residents. In her keynote address to the campus community and guests via Zoom, she shared her personal and inspirational story about her career and overcoming the challenges she faced along the way.

While growing up in Oakland, California, Moss witnessed the rise of homelessness and the drug epidemic that resulted in the gentrification of her community. She realized that many people in her neighborhood that looked like her were beginning to move out with other people moving in.

“I was visiting one of my favorite snack shops and in an instant, I became painfully aware that my presence there was problematic,” she said. “No one made a negative gesture or said an unkind word, but it was very clear to me that I had walked into a place that was simply not intended for me.”

It was these experiences that led Moss to her current role with the community services center, as well as to multiple roles with community-based organizations focused on helping others.

“It’s just in my DNA,” Moss said.

She relocated to Atlanta in 1996 with her husband and found herself without a job. Moss spent several months volunteering at the state capitol and eventually got a job working as a consultant with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. While working on her M.S. in conflict management from Kennesaw State University in 2001, she found a position with the Gainesville-Hall County Community Services Department, which she currently heads today.

With all of her professional experience, Moss highlighted some lessons she learned throughout her career in hopes it would help the viewers with their own careers.

“The path from your birthday to your death day is not a straight line,” she said. “It may be that way on a headstone. But that’s not reality. It’s more like a roller coaster with lots of ups and downs. You may get a great new job one day, only to have to lay people off the next day. So, put on your seatbelt.”

Some of her other tips included being coachable, being a lifelong learner, learning to fall forward and asking for help.

“Find the gold in every conversation and every interaction,” Moss said. “Throughout your life, you will be exposed to different people and experiences. Some of those experiences will be awesome and others not so much. But even with those interactions that we deem unfortunate, consider that there’s something for you to glean, a lesson for you to learn. Look at every experience and interaction as an opportunity to do better for yourself.”

Outside of her work with the Gainesville-Hall County Community Services Center, Moss has served on numerous boards including the Gainesville-Hall County Community Council on Aging, Salvation Army, United Way Hall County, Jackson EMC Foundation, North Georgia Community Foundation, Georgia Transit Association, Hall County Family Connections Network, Northeast Georgia Medical Center Board and the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce.

In 2020, Moss and her business partner founded The ThoMoss Group, which leads racial equity conversations across the Southeast. She is also currently a registered mediator with the Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution.

Brenau student leader Haley Bartoletta also spoke during the Sept. 1 event, stressing the importance of taking advantage of opportunities when presented. Bartoletta is a senior mass communication major and the recipient of this year’s Baxter-Bryan Scholarship, Brenau’s highest academic honor.

“When you are allowed to use your voice to speak up, do it for the ones who might not have the courage yet to buy into it,” she said. “Maybe your moments look a little bit different than the person next to you, and that’s OK. Maybe you decide to be a leader in a group project rather than waiting for your responsibilities to be delegated to you. Maybe that’s how you begin to buy into it.

“Maybe one day you’ll be in my shoes, looking back at the little 18-year-old girl leading in ways she never thought she could. Maybe that’s when you’ll realize all the times you bought into the opportunities and joy of leadership, you bought into the chance to be a part of something greater than yourself. Those are the moments that define and shape you as a leader.”

Debra​ ​Dobkins, dean​ ​of​ The​ ​Women’s​ ​College​ ​at​ ​Brenau​ ​University, also emphasized the importance of joy in serving others as the GOLD Program focuses on leadership over the coming months.

“The Brenau Ideal encourages us ‘to find satisfaction in being rather than in seeming; to find joy in doing rather than in dreaming,’” she said. “And that is exactly what we intend to do in this “L” year as we explore ways for our students, faculty and Brenau community to serve by doing, by leading, by mentoring and sometimes by following.”

The GOLD Speaker Series, featuring highly accomplished and trailblazing women, is an ongoing component of The Women’s College’s GOLD Program. In its current “L” year, the program is focusing on leadership. This follows the “G” year dedicated to gender awareness and the “O” year, which was about ownership of personal responsibility and challenged students to participate in the democratic process. The ensuing “D” year will focus on diversity.

Brenau President Anne Skleder called the GOLD Speaker Series a “crowning jewel” of The Women’s College GOLD Program.

“While we grow and change to meet the dynamic needs of our society, we are steadfast in our commitment to The Women’s College and to the GOLD Program,” Skleder said. “I believe strongly that The Women’s College is as relevant and needed today as it was in 1878. Our students need to hear that. Our community needs to hear that.”