Leadership makes all the difference

Notice how some organizations are really fun and really effective while others have few members and those they do recruit quit before the semester is over? What makes the difference? Leadership.

So, how do people learn leadership? The obvious is through the military. Programs like our ROTC teach leadership (which, by the way, has been acknowledged as one of the best programs in the nation according to the Department of Defense). Competitive team sports teach leadership. Participation in social, philanthropic and religious organizations teaches leadership. Notice that organizations that produce leaders require self-sacrifice, self-discipline and commitment.

Imagine assembling a really talented pool of brainy people who love their particular subjects. Imagine that the majority of them are slightly introverted with very egotistical personalities. Imagine that few of them have ever worked effectively in any sort of team (few of them were ever involved in sports, the military or anything that would give them an idea of effective leadership). Then imagine that some of them have a personality of entitlement (feeling the world owes them a stable environment free from change and controversy, though they don’t mind touting changes for others). Then add terrific egos because they survived an experience that required them to pretend to be humble and solicitous to get their special card which can lead to guaranteed life time employment.

Now you have the typical university faculty. Where does university administration come from? Administrators are selected from faculty, of course, because no one else has the pass (the doctorate degree or Ph. D).

Imagine the challenge of being president, dean or department chair of such an institution of individuals. Imagine the leadership challenge of persuading a herd of cats to move together in one direction! If the president decides that all the programs in a university to be “accredited,” you have the perfect storm for leadership challenges. The same is true for other organizations as well.

Good leaders (and there are many on this campus) will pleasantly engage their faculty in both formal and informal discussions. Good leaders understand that the greater the change, the more important individual relationships are with subordinates.

Fear is the major emotion that blocks change. The only way to break the fear of change is to gently, carefully create a nurturing environment that lets each person know that they are important and that the change (accreditation or whatever) is going to make them more and not less important (appeal to the ego).

Another way is to feed people. Bosses that feed their employees are much more liked and respected than those who conduct business impersonally. Good leadership will recognize that if they build the personal relationship, people will go along with the change even if they don’t think it is a great idea. Student organizations that offer food do better than those that don’t!

Some administrators take another approach to change because they have other experiences that have taught them their way to success. That approach is the “manage above” strategy. They are charming and eloquent to their bosses. But, they have a mission. In their minds it means “my way or the highway.” They are short on people skills except when it comes to telling the boss what they want to hear. Their subordinates do not feel engaged or empowered.

The challenge for their boss is to give them the counseling and TLC to soften their tone, have a little humility, and get to know their people. People generally leave bosses, not jobs. Remember that when you agree to become an officer of a student organization.

Leave a Reply