Spotlight on Service: Jill Piacitelli


Every once in a while someone comes along who shakes things up, puts a new perspective on worn-out topics and encourages people to think in a new way. Jill Piacitelli, executive director of Break Away, joined College of William and Mary students on Sept. 27 to discuss the intersection between leadership and management and how to be the best leader without micromanaging every aspect of your organization. “One of the problems with leadership right now,” she said, “is that leadership and management are running side by side to the point where we cannot distinguish the two.”

Jill shared how she thinks that there are a number of people who call themselves leaders, but do not practice the characteristics of true leadership because in reality they are actually managing. While management may often be necessary in a business setting, Jill said that leaders are a movers and shakers. Management is leading while controlling and distributing the power unevenly in a project or organization. Leaders are the people who are original, innovative, unpredictable, imaginative, full of surprises and caught up by a higher purpose. Leaders have a passion for equality and shaking the status quo.

Simply put, she said that leadership is doing your job and being competent at it. So often, we blow this concept of leadership out of proportion and think that leaders are those people who are born into the position or handed the skills and tools to make things happen. In reality, anyone can be a leader so long as they choose to lead.

Take TOMS shoes for example. Blake McCoskie was an average young man who traveled to Argentina in 2006 and made an interesting observation about the children there: none of them were wearing shoes. With his entrepreneurial mindset and some previous business experience he started a one-for-one movement to provide shoes for the children. The following year, he returned to Argentina with family members with 10,000 shoes. Today, the company has given children in need more than 600,000 pairs of shoes. He was one person with one vision who changed the way that people see social entrepreneurship.

Piacitelli’s message to the students was this: Build a common vision and assemble a tribe. Be bold and creative. Commit. Build a culture and always challenge yourself. It might be the eureka moment or just a simple observation such as Blake’s, but everyone has the potential to be an incredible leader if they are willing to put the time and energy into making it happen.

Break Away: