Leadership: Philosophy & Summary

Lead with CARE. This simple word summarizes my leadership strategy. For me, it is all about relationships, and the word CARE articulates the key attributes that guide success:

  • Clarity – If we don’t know where we are going any road will get us there. Clarity provides an opportunity for us to agree upon where we are going.
  • Accountability – We need to evaluate progress regularly. Do we need to change direction? Provide more resources? Make other adjustments? Without accountability, we might never know.
  • Respect – I am fortunate to work with great people who are passionate about what they do and have a lot to contribute, They are worthy of my respect.
  • Encouragement – In academics motivation is not the same as in a corporate environment. People do things because it is important to them. It’s my goal to encourage them to pursue these goals and do what they are passionate about.

In addition, I have always believed that leadership is based on what one does, not on one’s position. This at the heart of my leadership philosophy.

Leadership Philosophy

Effective leaders lead from their core. It is all about who they are as individuals. It is not about the position they occupy, but their ability to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses while seeking out others with diverse perspectives. For me, it is all about relationships. I believe this is extremely important, particularly in an academic setting. The typical techniques for motivating action in industry are not appropriate in academics. Academic progress can take time and investments in relationships can yield synergies and possibilities that aren’t immediately evident. My leadership philosophy is based on four principles that emerge from how I view academic relationships.

Value of the Individual

Each person and each relationship have value. Each has something to contribute. My goal is to treat everyone as an individual with their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. We should be stronger as an organization not just because of our strengths, but because or strengths and weaknesses fit together. As a leader, it is my responsibility to assist people in their own personal development to achieve success. For some, it’s a clearly defined job with simple responsibilities. For others, it is a chance to explore new things and take on new challenges. Each can make a contribution, but their contributions will be different.  A leader must realize this and align people, so there are proper individual and organizational alignment. A diverse group of people will have very different views or opinions, and that is a good thing. I regularly seek out people with different perspectives because it makes us all better. This leads to my second principle.

Honesty, Integrity, and Candor

The only way to truly develop people as individuals and to truly appreciate the diverse perspectives of others is to be honest and candid. Once people know that I care about them and what is important to them, it is easier to be honest. But this requires a great deal of integrity. Doing or saying something with the purpose of getting them to do what I want them to do, or think, is not honest. This is particularly critical as I seek out people with diverse perspectives. They can quickly tell if I have an agenda or if I truly care. In addition, as we seek to align individual and organizational goals, an honest assessment is needed. If they are not in alignment, then just being aware can be forward progress. This leads to my third principle.

Shared Vision

It is all about the conversation. A shared vision is a difficult and continuous process. It must be maintained, nurtured, and adjusted. The first two principles are necessary components of true shared vision. A shared vision is complex in that it can have multiple interpretations and implications. Individuals must see how their actions are crucial to the growth of the organization at all levels. A shared vision can be at any level including the individual. If we continue working on a shared vision on all levels, then it supports my fourth principle.

Empowerment & Accountability

When the first three principles are followed, then empowerment and accountability are effective. Tasks and responsibilities don’t just need to be delegated, but individuals need to be equipped to do their jobs well. It is my responsibility to make sure they have what they need to be effective. Then it is also my responsibility to hold them accountable to their portion of the shared vision. Accountability doesn’t just happen at annual review time; it too is an ongoing conversation. Regular interaction to make sure that we are all pulling in the same direction is central to effective leadership. As a leader, my best strength is helping others be successful.

While my leadership philosophy can be articulated in four relatively simple principles, it is not easy. It really does start with individual relationships. Each of these relationships has importance and requires effort. But if we can get a good mix of diverse perspectives, experiences, strengths and weaknesses the result is very worthwhile for all involved.


“Engaging leadership” was chosen as a tagline for my website intentionally. It seems that in whatever I do I am engaged and seek to exert a positive influence. To produce positive change. When I was an untenured assistant professor, I chaired the COB Undergraduate Committee that pushes forward significant changes. It was the right thing to do. When I serve on committees, I make sure that my contribution helps lead the committee to a successful result. When I lead groups, I make sure everyone contributes. I believe part of my responsibilities as a leader is to help others achieve their goals. If others are not advancing under my leadership, then I reevaluate and look for more intentional ways to address their individual circumstances. My goal in leading is to bring people together. Not just to achieve “buy-in” but “be-in.”

More details can be found in my vita linked to the right.

Photo credit: Inky Bob via photopin cc

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