President's Perspective on ...
Welcome to the first edition of UA eNEWS.
This enewsletter was created to open another line of communication
between University Administration and our staff, and it also will
provide a new forum for me – one that I will use to share news or
thoughts on issues affecting the University of Illinois or higher
education, in general.
In this edition, I want to focus on leadership. The Board of Trustees
has encouraged me to actively work on the institution’s need for
succession planning, and one element is a new program that will be
launched this year to help prepare some of our most promising people to
advance into senior positions.
The leadership development program is still “under construction,” and
we will share details once they are available. Our plan is to ask each
campus to nominate its top prospects, those who are recognized as
possessing strong leadership potential, who will then undergo training
in areas such as managing the University and its campuses, and working
with state and federal leaders.
Our campuses are home to some of the nation’s best talent and this
program will nurture their skills, creating a succession network that
serves the University’s interests by grooming in-house administrators
who bring their institutional knowledge with them as they rise in
Long ago, I learned that leadership skills don’t come with a title or
promotion. In high school, I was class president and a statewide
officer in Future Farmers of America. Later, I was student body
president at my community college and a student senator at Texas A&M
I thought I was a leader until an experience in the military showed
me I only knew how to get elected. Our drill sergeant put a different
trainee in command every day and when my turn came, it was my job to get
fellow soldiers to belly-crawl under barbed wire. Let’s just say it
didn’t take long for me to realize I had a lot to learn about leading.
Since then, I’ve been intrigued by leadership – how you get people to
pull in the same direction to achieve a common goal. And time has
provided some lessons.
Effective leaders must understand their organizations in a profound
way – every strength, weakness, opportunity and threat. They need to
function in the present, draw perspective from the past and chart a
clear course for the future. They must work in the organization’s best
interests, not their own. They must serve as “cheerleader in chief,” in
good times and bad.
At its very core, leadership boils down to two simple but critical
traits. The best leaders, in my view, are collaborative and decisive.
They encourage discussion and take feedback to heart. But at the end of
the day, they realize the ultimate decision rests with them. Over the
years, I have found when people feel they have been heard and
appreciated, they can accept decisions and follow them even if they
Finally, leaders also have a responsibility – sharing their
experience to help guide the new generation of leaders that will follow.
That mentoring function is the foundation of our new leadership
development program, and I look forward to the countless benefits it
will bring to our great University.