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Philosophy of Leadership

Here are some fundamental principles that I believe ought to guide the leadership style and decision-making process of any academic leader.

  • Develop a collective sense of vision. In this capacity, the role of a leader is to be a facilitator. Vision cannot be imposed from the top but must be a shared identity that enriches the whole and charges each individual with a purpose beyond her or his own self-interest or area of expertise. The mission and vision of the institution is greater and more lasting than any one individual. In particular, the multi-disciplinary nature of humanities, sciences, and the professional fields requires a clear sense of the value of all. Just as the church is “one body” made up of many parts, we find our greatest power in the collective embrace of who we are as a team. The task of a leader is to assist in identifying the place of each person, to help in maximizing skills, insights, and personalities, and to celebrate the contribution of each discipline, department, and person.

  • Recognize a sense of calling. Some debate whether leaders are born or made, but I believe that leaders are called by God and placed into positions as circumstance and opportunity beckon. Over time I’ve come to realize that my strengths lie in helping institutions know, clarify, and fulfill their mission. While I enjoy the classroom and have good success as a teacher, my greatest strengths lie in administrative service. I understand the complexities of organizational structures, human idiosyncrasies, political posturing, bureaucratic layering, and the challenges of multiple and many times competing grids of influence and perspective. This is my calling. Knowing this gives me confidence to make a difficult decision and to look beyond the present circumstance to a greater purpose.

  • Encourage openness, trust, and honesty. I believe in consistency, equity, openness, and fairness. There are times when confidentiality must be strictly maintained and not everyone will agree with certain decisions. But in general, if others know why a decision is made and what the driving forces are that call for this particular response, they will respect that and generally support it. On the other hand, if things are secretive and legitimate inquires are rebuffed, it raises suspicion and erodes confidence in leadership. A great test of authority and power is to never have to use it in a coercive fashion. I believe it is best to be upfront about the challenges, the constraints, the available resources, and the principles by which important decisions should be made.

  • Create a culture of honor, respect, and care. We are here to serve, teach, and nurture our students and each other. We create an ethos of respect and care by recognizing the value of our uniqueness in the midst of our diversity. We are enriched by conversations with others who bring different perspectives, insights and cultural understandings. In this context, the role of a dean is to encourage interaction and dialogue and to provide space to allow these conversations to flourish. We all need each other, and while my strength lies in analysis, discernment, and administration, I know my limits and weaknesses and need others who complement me in various ways.

  • Maintain a sense of humor and humility. Confidence in our knowledge and abilities is one thing, but a haughty spirit of pride and indifference is a sign of weakness and self-importance. Our position is a gift from God and not to be flaunted. Whatever our lot, we must maintain a sense of humility and recognition that God is ultimately in control. A heart of gratitude and blessing is the best way to respond to our circumstance. I am confident in my abilities and my understanding of higher education, the various academic disciplines, and institutional best practices, but I believe that any award we earn or praise given should reinforce our sense of dependence upon others. What we have, and what we are, must be acknowledged as gifts from God, lent to us for a time, but never owned or deserved on our own merit. When we are weak, we need the strength of others. When we are strong, we are only strong because there are those who have helped us to be successful. I also believe in a good laugh. Maintaining a sense of humor and joy is a good foundation for a healthy and productive work environment. An ethos of joy, passion, and commitment is important. A job completed in drudgery is just that, a “job” and not a joy. Passion is the ultimate driver of success and a good sense of humor is medicine for the soul.