September 2009

Leadership

John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, once observed that “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” It’s a definition that certainly ranks among the best I’ve ever seen, because it points to the particular qualities that leadership entails—qualities (distinct from technical expertise and other professional competencies) that essentially involve enabling the aspirations of others toward a greater good.

Those qualities exist at all levels of our organization and one of my highest priorities is to make sure we identify, develop, and support the people who have them. Partly, this is a matter of providing meaningful next steps to aspire to, in order to keep the extraordinary talent we have. And partly, it’s a matter of benefiting from the deep institutional knowledge our own faculty and staff can bring to bear on decision making. But above all, it’s about the key role leaders play in shaping our shared future.

Not everyone can (or wants to!) be a leader, of course. Most people find other, equally meaningful, ways to make a contribution. If I stress the role of leaders, it’s because it’s their job to help unleash the potential in those around them.

The list of our leadership-development initiatives is growing all the time. It already includes New Beginnings for Managers, ongoing courses in supervision and in specific skills like listening, and innovative programs for particular populations—such as physician leaders, Lean Management facilitators, and minority faculty—that to date have involved over 100 graduates. Today, we are putting in place strategies to apply the same systematic approach to developing talent as we do, say, to technological innovation or environmental sustainability.

I firmly believe that to become a world-class institution, we must give every possible opportunity to those who have the aptitude for leadership, the willingness to work hard at it, and the conviction in their very bones that leadership is not about power, it’s about service.