Month: September 2013

Lessons in Leadership, Communique for 9/29/2013

Good day to you.

Earlier this week Ann Ackerman, the Executive Director of Leadership Oklahoma,  spent a session with you sharing part of her story and insights she has acquired across her multi-faceted career.  Leadership Oklahoma is one of the most effective and influential networks in our state. As she explained, each year 50 participants are selected from across Oklahoma frame every region and sector of society. They are united in their conviction that our communities in the state matter as places where people live, work, raise families and make contributions to the prosperity of their cities and towns.  They are equally focused on intentionally growing the leadership for our communities and our state.  LOK is comprised of over 1350 alumni who use their experience during their LOK year to learn more about the opportunities and challenges in the state,  to build connections, and then to branch out from their “class” to those who benefitted from LOK before and after their year. Ann has served as the coordinator of LOK with distinction.

As you move into your professional careers, I encourage you be involved in organizations  and activities, such as LOK, that are dedicated to advancing the quality of life in the state.  It is one way to actively craft your leadership skills and, via collaboration, to create community outcomes with other service-oriented citizens.  Oklahoma, our country and the planet will be shaped  by those who take the initiative.

This week has seen another round of startling developments that again call our attention to the seminal role of leadership.  On the international stage, interpersonal contacts and conversations on the sidelines of the main meetings that opened the 68th annual session of the United Nations in New York City have produced some unprecedented results and perhaps opened pathways for more cooperation on protracted global issues.

The principal public actors for the USA have been Sec of State John Kerry and President Obama.  This week both the President and the recently elected Irani President Hassan Rouhani demonstrated leadership on the global stage in deciding, at first via intermediaries, and then by phone and perhaps Twitter and text, to find a pathway to resolve the overarching issue of Iran’s nuclear program.  One of the reasons why this action has been so startling is that the two countries have had virtually no direct formal contact since 1979 and the Iranian revolution which overthrew their monarch, the Shah, who was a staunch US ally.

One result was the takeover of the US embassy in Teheran and the captivity of US diplomatic personnel for 444 days.  Once close regional allies, the USA and Iran have be estranged for decades.  This isolation of Iran, particularly due to concerns about the intention of its nuclear enrichment program (make weapons?), has not resolved the issues.  But changes in leadership and bold actions at the right moment can have a powerful effect of breaking through what can appear to be impenetrable impasses.  Presidents Obama and Rouhani, and Sec of State and his Iranian counterpart are creating a fresh platform from which to understand the current situation from all sides as well as identifying possible pathways to resolution. This is diplomacy practiced by the highest ranking political leaders in both countries.

A second example in the same week also occurred in regard to the debilitating  two and one-half year old civil war in Syria.  The leading players were the USA and Russia and the issue was the use of chemical weapons in the country which resulted in the deaths of almost 1500 Syrian citizens.  The overall civil war tolls are staggering with an  estimated 100,000  killed, and several million displaced in their own country or have fled to become refugees in neighboring states.

This past Friday evening the UN Security Council voted unanimously to condemn the use of these weapons.  This is important because due to the impasse between the US and Russia, as well as other countries, no action has been taken by the international community to address the calamity in Syria since in commenced in March 2011.  Again, it was individual leadership (Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov) and the connections that they made between them and their staffs that account for this unanticipated outcome.  There is much more to be decided and further steps to be taken, but it was individual leaders, actual people making connections and finding common ground, that created the outcomes.

There will be more to watch not only on the global stage, but significantly in the USA and in Congress this week as political divisions have created an impasse on funding the federal government that could result in a number of intended and unintended consequences.

All this may seem to be too much to digest at once, but these, historic, game-changing events are unfolding at this time.  I believe it is valuable for you to understand the sense of the issues and, given our mission in Lessons in Leadership, to observe and comprehend the roles and consequences of leadership, both effective and otherwise.  There are worthy lessons to be studied.

This week, Mr, David Cid, the Director of the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism here in Oklahoma City, will be our special guest.

I wish you a week when you make a new acquaintance, make at least a small difference  in someone’s life, and enjoy a hearty laugh.

Take care,

Don Betz

Week 4 Presentation – Ann Ackerman

One topic Ann focused on was finding balance in your professional and personal life. Do you currently feel that you have balance? If you do, share how you feel you have reached this balance. If you do not, share how you feel you can achieve balance.

Leadership, Communication And Checking The Compass

Good morning to each of you.

It is another Sunday as we now sense the onset of fall.  This rain reminds me of my early days as a boy in Seattle. A gentler drizzle than we usually experience in Oklahoma, but the refreshing of the air and the nurturing of the land and us is the same.

This past week was dominated by political struggles in the country and touch-and-go diplomacy abroad related to Syria, Iran and other issues.  The world’s leaders will gather this week at the United Nations headquarters in New York City for the annual opening of the UN General Assembly, the body to which all 194 member states are officially accredited. Much closer to home are the issues of immediate interest to you.

But this session will be a particularly relevant and closely-monitored gathering given the gravity of the issues facing the international community.  Heads of state and governments will address that Assembly over several days.  President Obama will be speaking early in the session, likely this coming Tuesday.

We were indeed fortunate to welcomed Oklahoma Senator Clark Jolley as our Lessons in Leadership presenter this past week.  Senator Jolley is a staunch advocate for higher education in our state.  As you know his district includes UCO and he is most helpful to the university is its relationship with the Oklahoma legislature.

I appreciated Clark’s message on leadership under fire.  He and all who serve in pivotal leadership positions quickly experience the maxim that someone is going to be unhappy with whatever decision you reach or action you initiate.  As a leader you deal with criticism.  How you do so differentiates affirming, successful leaders from others.  He was most helpful in counseling that we differentiate the policy differences from the personalities advocating or challenging them.  This can translate into demanding choices where there is not fully a right or wrong answer.  In those moments, transformative leaders are guided by a set of values and an implicit understanding of the short and long-term impact of the decision.  Clark spoke to earning the respect of colleagues and even adversaries if you are honest and transparent in your motivations and actions.

None of this is easy.  No one should pretend that it is.  Hundreds of volumes and countless addresses and seminars have been devoted to exploring the depths and modes of effective leadership. Clark’s counsel about the primacy of communication as a potent leadership tool is among his most actionable advice. The prime facets of communication, speaking, writing, reading and listening, can combine, over time and with practice, to be key in a leader’s ability to serve others no matter the role or circumstance. Listening, active listening, can be among the most effective tools of effective leadership.  Like all mastered skills, it requires practice and persistence and, I believe, the clear motivation for the use of the tool and the leadership position. What moves us to accept an opportunity in the first place?  A possible topic for a later conversation.

By now you should have a clearer measure of expectations for success in the university environment.  I hope that you are making connections with organizations and activities that interest you, and that you are beginning to identify reliable and motivated learning partners here among the class as well as with other students.  It is not too early to begin the search for a mentor or mentors, those members of our UCO community, factory and staff, with whom you make a connection and can offer you guidance, encouragement and perspective as the year continues to unfold.  Jarrett ( our Dr. Jobe) is a most likely and useful place to begin, as I am sure many of you have discovered.  Please overcome whatever reticence you may have and reach out.  There is an entire university community ready to assist you as you sort out the opportunities and complexities of decision-making.  We are here to help you learn and succeed.

Make this last full week in September an occasion to review your first 6 weeks at UCO and insure that your compass is set on “true north” for you. I know it can seem like you are frenetically moving from one class, event and demand to another without making the clear connection between what you are doing and why.

We all need to check to be sure that we have our “eyes on the prize” as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once counseled.  I highly recommend it.  This personal checklist helps me often during the week.

I wish each of you a week of discovery, of learning and creating new connections with others, and also a time to refresh with friends and have fun.

I believe in you.  You will make a difference.

Don Betz


Senator Clark Jolley Week 3 Presentation

Senator Jolley spoke on several issues that included the lack of respect in the political arena and the ability to take criticism in a leadership role. For this week’s blog choose one of the following topics.

1. Describe your perceptions on the current political environment, focusing particularly on leadership of our politicians and respect.

2. Provide your thoughts on how to receive constructive criticism while deflecting criticism of a vindicative nature.

Lt. Gov. Lamb, a 9/11 Community Moment and a first look at Syria

Good Sunday to each of you,

Another week has flashed by in a flurry of classes, activities and events.  Over the past few mornings there has been just a hint of fall as the temperatures and humidity moderate just enough from previous weeks.  Leaves are beginning to dot the campus as a prelude to the coming seasonal transition.

And then there are the crickets, and another national news story chronicling the natural challenges many associate with Oklahoma. We are known as a hospitable people, but I believe I am safe in concluding that all will be ready to bid these swarming visitors goodbye.

This week we were delighted to host Lt. Governor Todd Lamb twice in as many days.  During his time with you at L in L, Todd spoke about his story, his road to the public service office he now holds.  His current position has him traveling almost all the time, crisscrossing Oklahoma promoting economic development and job creation.  Both he and Gov. Fallin hold the distinction this year of serving as the chairs of their respective national governors and lieutenant governors associations.  Oklahoma has never before enjoyed this spotlight on its state leadership.

Todd clearly believes that the state’s future is built on the quality of its citizens which, in turn, rely on the quality of its education and its leadership.  I have mentioned to you that human talent is society’s only truly sustainable resource.  Simply stated, the Oklahoma, our nation and the globe invest in securing the future by investing in youth, the citizenry and “leadership-in-training”.

Todd was speaking to you AND about you. We create programs and opportunities to cultivate your and others leadership understanding, appreciation and capabilities precisely because our communities, state and national leadership pool must be consistently replenished with talented, motivated, principled men and women who choose public service as a life pathway.  We are investing in you.

Todd focused at L in L on each of you refining yours skills and your ability and passion of learning, leading and serving, and then openly encouraged you to use your knowledge, expertise and passion right here in Oklahoma.  He does not mean that you should not seek knowledge, experience and skills in other places.  Rather, the message is to focus your collective energies and expertise here in state to help our people and communities grow and prosper. I know that many of you are sorting out what your interests might be, and what major disciplines and careers you might pursue.  The message is that as you are about this important process, keep in mind your opportunities as a citizen and leader in the state.

Our 9/11 ceremony Wednesday at Broncho Lake was a moment to remember.  My appreciation to all who organized the event, and to everyone who participated in creating this powerful community activity.  Lt. Gov. Lamb reminded us of that fateful morning now 12 years behind us.  Some of you were in early primary school.  It was a profound, disturbing, collective time for our country when the President was deliberately on the move in Air Force One, fears mounted about the possibility of more attacks and a strange silence fell over our skies when for the first time in history there were virtually no planes allowed into American skies.  Everyone here and many abroad have stories to relate to generations to come.

Our answer to such assaults is not to hunker down in fear.  This is precisely what such enemies would want.   Rather, we returned to our work and our lives more resolute to preserve and protect our communities and country and at the same time uphold the freedoms for all that are the unique characteristics of the American system.

Gov. Lamb was truly pleased to spend time with you on both days and appreciated the questions you posed both before the class and in person. You represented yourselves and UCO with distinction.

This has also been a week of global focus on Syria, the USA and Russia as global diplomacy moved in unpredictable ways to address the Syrian civil war, use of chemical weapons on Syrian citizens with the resulting tragic loss of life, and the impending vote in Congress to authorize President Obama to undertake a military response.  All of this is swirling in the traditional and social media countless times per day.  But from last Monday until today, the result of what Reuters Press Agency in the United Kingdom characterized as “seat of the pants diplomacy”, a coalition of the moment has emerged between the USA and Russia to identify and collect all of Syria’s chemical weapons in an operation still to be determined.  There was lightening quick agreement among several parties to proceed, and thereby, at least for now, postpone the Congressional vote and the US military response against Syria.

There are endless details, and an historical, political and sectarian prequel and backdrop to all that you may see or hear about the current circumstances.  What should be noted at this point is that circumstances can shift suddenly and mutual strategic interests can bring nations and leaders together in common cause that just days before may have seemed impossible.  Leaders from different countries and organizations are making decisions, or not, that are influencing how the world and the USA takes next steps.  This issue is broader and larger than Syria and has truly become an international crisis requiring the full measure of attention by the USA and the international community.

There are lessons in leadership all about us every day. Watch this global issue continue to unfold.

I wish you a particularly fruitful week.  I am truly pleased that you are members of the UCO community.


My best wishes,


Don Betz


Lt. Governor Week 2 Presentation

The Lt. Governor encouraged each of you to either “stay in Oklahoma” upon graduation or “hurry back” to Oklahoma if you leave. What are your thoughts on this comment. Explain, from your perspective the benefits or drawbacks of either path.