28 Dec

Reflections on 2010

I’m wrapping up year one of the University Advancement Blog, and I hope it’s proven to be a resource for you.  I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for my institution and for our team to make a difference.   About, as Seth Godin stated in his Thanksgiving Day post, “the opportunity to build something bigger than ourselves, something worth contributing.  The ability to make connections, to lend a hand, to invent and create.”

As I look back on the books I read during the past year, three themes clearly came to the forefront:

  • Listening
  • Storytelling
  • Management vs. Leadership


Listen first and talk later.  Being a good listener seems so simple and basic, yet it’s emphasized repeatedly as a leadership skill that’s overlooked and seldom perfected.  USC President Emeritus Steven Sample does a fabulous job dissecting this in The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership (review forthcoming) with a full chapter devoted to “Artful Listening.”

“A contrarian leader is an artful listener, not because it makes people feel good (which it does), but rather because artful listening is an excellent means of acquiring new ideas and gathering and assessing information,” he writes.  “If a leader can listen attentively without rushing to judgment, he will often get a fresh perspective that will help him think independently.”


Several authors highlighted the power of storytelling, including Sample.  “The contrarian leader knows that telling compelling stories is one of the most powerful tools there is for establishing a close bond with his followers and for inculcating his vision among them.”

I ask the directors in our department to read a book together each semester, and The Story Factor is next on our list.  One of our favorite sayings is “Stories not stats. People not programs.” (from TargetX), knowing that our university’s people and their stories are the most authentic thing we have.  We’re looking forward to learning more about the power of story to persuade and influence.

Management vs. Leadership

Seth Godin spends much of Tribes distinguishing a manager from a leader.  To summarize, managers have employees; leaders have followers.  Managers make widgets; leaders make change.  In The First 120 Days (review also forthcoming), Jerold Panas explains that management is about “order and control,” while leadership is about “making change and achieving challenging goals.”

There are a few books on my shelf that I didn’t get to in 2010, but there are higher ed colleagues who have posted excellent reviews of them:

Being Lucky, Overthrowing Dead Culture, and Embrace the Oxymoron: Customer Service in Higher Education are among the books on my list for 2011.  Please share what you plan to read in the new year.

As I look ahead to 2011, I’m reminded of Bob Sevier’s comments at CASE Indiana that it’s an extraordinary time to be a well-led institution.  Here’s wishing you a prosperous 2011 in advancing your institution’s mission and enhancing its reputation, relationships, and resources.

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