Tag: leadership – Page 2

Leadership Communique, 11/3/2013

Lessons in Leadership

It is the Sunday after Homecoming Week. The weather cooperated all week to add to the splendor of the falls colors breaking our all over the campus.

For many of you this past week has been a non-stop series of events, rehearsals, activities, all amidst your normal long list of projects and responsibilities. I know that many of you participated in Cheer and Dance Friday evening. Your enthusiasm energized all who attended that evening. All of your extra efforts this past week were truly appreciated.

Dan Boren was our guest leader and his focus on the merits of public service. He simply and clearly stated why he, and others, selected a career of public service. “You do it”, he explained, ” to help people.” The position offers you access and opportunity to make a palpable difference in someone else’s life.

His portrait of a “day in the life of a Congressman” chronicled rounds of committee meetings, non-stop fundraising, shuttling between Washington and his home district in eastern Oklahoma. He held town meetings in each of the 25 counties there and dealt with a wide range of issues, both local and personal as well and national and global. Dan also offered us a peek into intra- Congressional life when he spoke of the importance of positive relations with the chamber leadership in order to secure the right committee assignments which, in turn, determine your capacities to assist the citizens of your home district.

As a leader, he quickly learned that each decision will have mixed outcomes depending on the interests being impacted. ” With each vote, or sponsored bill, you will make someone mad.”, Dan commented.

Several of you were interested in his role on the House Intelligence Committee and his visit to Pakistan around the time of Osama bin Laden’s elimination. It should be noted that his father, OU’s President David Boren, was a leading member of the Senate Intelligence Committee when he served in that chamber.

In addressing the matter of his leadership style, Dan emphasized that he voted with his constituency up to 95% of the time. However, there were those moments and issues where he would exercise his own best judgment and vote in what he perceived to be the best interest of the country. Those are leadership moments for him as he would realize that what he knows about an issue eclipses what his constituents may not know and that they may not perceive all the consequences of an impending decision. In those circumstances, his powers of communication are essential to his success.

Dan also emphasized the importance of access to quality public education and that the continuing cuts in public funding are negatively impacting the future of the state.

Dan’s comments about life in balance and informed judgment in decision-making were particularly relevant to the leadership development you have undertaken this semester.
Leadership, as in life, is not lived as a series of easily-taken, clear-cut issues and decisions. Life is composed of varying shades of gray rather than black and white situations. Ron Heifetz writes about “leadership with no easy answers.” It is our ability to function effectively as leaders in the realms of ambiguity and uncertainty that is decisive when making challenging decisions in challenging times.

We are in one of those historic eras which is likely not to change soon. In such circumstances, integrity, competence, compassion, communication, collaboration and character remain timeless ingredients for servant-leadership success.

America’s venerated author and philosopher left us with this timely prescription.

” Always do right. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

May you continue to astonish people.

Take care,

Don Betz

Leadership Communique, 10/27/2013

Good Sunday to each of you.

Another week of the Fall semester has evaporated as we move deeper into the academic term.

Halloween this week to be followed in rapid succession by the Thanksgiving holiday, final exams and term projects due, and, suddenly, it is Fall Commencement. Activities and deadlines will escalate over the next few weeks.

It is sound counsel, however, for you to keep your ” eyes on the prize”, hold fast to your priorities and successfully complete the term. A dimension of that success is “life in balance”, often easier to suggest than to actually achieve, especially when the demands of deadlines approach. Planning and preparation in advance are reliable allies when multiple responsibilities begin to crowd your agendas.

This is Homecoming Week at UCO when alumni and current students celebrate the legacy, creativity and energy of this historic university. Amidst the other opportunities during these days, I encourage you to participate in some of the many events packed into these few days.

I am certain that some of you are connecting with friends in your organizations to be part of the “Cheer and Dance” competition on Friday evening, November 1st. This has been a “must attend” program for years. I am sure I will see many of you that night. The next morning we will all gather for the Homecoming Parade, this year with a record number of entries. The tailgate party is at noon and the football game follows at 2PM. Throughout the week, we will celebrate “There’s No Place Like Central”.

This week, Lessons in Leadership is pleased to welcome Dan Boren as our guest leader. This is a young, accomplished Oklahoma public servant you will want to hear and meet. Dan has served with distinction as a member of the US House of Representatives for the 2nd District of Oklahoma which includes most of eastern Oklahoma from Kansas to Texas east of Tulsa. During my tenure at Northeastern State University, I had the opportunity to work with him on initiatives relevant to the people of our state. His record of public service and his perspective of the vital role of leaders at both the local and national levels are admirable and will enrich the few minutes we will have him with us on Tuesday. I urge you to learn about his work in Congress and his current emerging leadership role with the Chickasaw Nation and economic development. Dan Boren will be a continuing, leading figure in Oklahoma for years to come.

When you find these comments on the blog site, there should also be access to articles and comments I place on Twitter. Today I will post a link to a fascinating piece that appeared in the November 2013 issue of The Atlantic.

James Fallows, an award-winning writer, surveyed leading scientists, historians and other to create a list of the defining invention and discoveries since pre-history. The result is “The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since The Wheel”. In his subtitle comments, Fallows offers this framework. “Why did it take so long to invent the wheelbarrow? Have we hit peak innovation? What our list reveals about imagination, optimism, and the nature of progress”?

What follows is an informative and stimulating sequence of humanity’s technological progress with linkage from one discovery to another. By offering the list in reverse order, from 50 to 1, Fallow invites you to make your own list and sequencing.

We know that imagination, creativity and innovation have strong links to leadership development. I encourage you to take a few moments and review this article.

There will a many public events this Homecoming week and I look forward to seeing you throughout the coming days.

A thought for today is from Socrates: “Wisdom begins in wonder.”

Take care,

Don Betz

Leadership Communique, 10/20/2013

It is Sunday, and we are reaching for our UCO sweatshirts this morning. The young maple tree in our yard has begun its transition toward winter as its leaves move from green to shades of light red and burnt orange. Given the wide variety of plantings across the campus, we will see the full spectrum of autumnal colors at UCO in the coming weeks.

Here in the USA, this past week saw the country move away from political deadlines and financial cliffs as last minute, temporary compromises in Congress produced legislation that re-opened the federal government and authorized the country to raise its debt limit and thereby meet its immediate financial obligations.

But anyone seeking lasting relief from the contentious issues that have divided the nation must wait for another day. The current “fix” has been characterized as “kicking the can down the road”. There was no resolution of the outstanding issues because there is no consensus on priorities or direction. It should be noted that the impasse and the continuing absence of basic consensus is being perceived outside the USA in less than favorable ways. Given the interconnected nature of our planet, there are few issues and decisions that do not have multiple global consequences. We are inextricably interconnected in countless ways to the world physically beyond our borders.

Martha Burger is a highly respected UCO alum who shared her experience and insights with us. She focused on key leadership concepts, developed them with cogent examples and left us with a “quotable quotation” to exemplify each precept. I believe that Martha exemplifies the very characteristics she highlighted. Authenticity, vision, strategy, communication, legacy and other leadership ideals were among her litany of preferred traits. Martha was adept at linking concept with application. She also offered pragmatic advice relevant to securing and keeping a professional position.

I found her four-part response to preparing for success highly useful. She advised to volunteer, over-deliver, present solutions and pay it forward. In the end, how you demonstrate what you know, how you learn, how you collaborate and that you are trustworthy clearly positions you for optimal possibilities.

Never underestimate the power of persistence linked to talent, initiative, passion and a sense of purpose. As you know, we often link the discussion on growing leaders to public service and civic engagement. These are community and society-building initiatives that can change lives and transform states.

For your community, for the state, the country and beyond, you become a vital actor in the growth and change of society. Human talent is our true sustainable asset which will guide us in successfully addressing the unending list of opportunities and challenges that will define our current and future circumstance. This is one of the reasons why we at UCO place a focused emphasis on the intentional encouragement and development of leaders. To care for this place, be it local or global, your neighborhood or the planet, authentic, visionary caring leaders are needed. To encourage you in your development is why we gather together in PLC, LOT and Lessons in Leadership.

Make a small difference in a big way this week.

Take care,

Don Betz

Leadership Communique, 10/13/2013

Good morning.

It is Fall Break Sunday and I trust that you have made the most of this extended weekend to enjoy some of your favorite interests.

I know that among you are volunteers who participated in the “Alternative Spring Break” rehab work in Shawnee and other locations with Jarrett. I hope that the time and energy you spent assisting in various ways was as meaningful for you as I am sure it was helpful for those who you assisted.

It is in those moments that theory meets reality. Participating in such worthy work together, as a group, often builds new bonds among you and you learn about one another and the power of collaboration. I know that many of you are seasoned veterans of volunteer work from your high school days, and these purposeful projects should reinforce your resolve of why you undertake such work in the first place.

There has been little movement this past week in breaking the Washington DC impasse. With the partial federal government shutdown now into its second week and the rapid approach of the limit on government borrowing which funds government spending, both Congress and the President are approaching a rare moment in America’s political history. While the government was brought to a halt briefly in 1995, the combination of the layoffs of federal government employees and the halting of certain government services simultaneously due to the inability to borrow, is unusual with some analysts contending that it is unprecedented.

Blame and finger-pointing must be replaced soon by collaboration and bi-partisanship for the well-being of the country, including America’s international reputation. Democracies have always been characterized as fragile systems because they rest on a foundation of consultation, compromise and the willingness to accept an outcome that does not meet 100% of any individual or group’s list of aspirations. Our unique political system rests on the three branches of government acting as separate institutions sharing power and that partisan interests are brokered to address the “common good”. It may be safe to say that now that there is not a shared sense of what that public good actually is among two of the branches and the political parties.

These are difficult circumstances that call upon the best in us to see beyond our own interests. It is the moment for leadership and statesmanship to prevail over more narrow measures of “winning and losing”. There are examples and lessons in leadership, or its absence, all around us.

We are truly pleased to welcome Martha Burger to the Lessons session this week. Martha has risen to the highest level of leadership in her profession and has worthwhile professional and personal lessons to share with us. She is a UCO alum and a highly appreciated supporter of the university including serving over the past few years as the co-chair of UCO’s highly successful “Always Central” fundraising campaign. She can speak to us about the pathways to success in corporate America and about her leadership experience. She is engaging by nature, so I encourage you to be ready with questions for her either during the dialogue with her or individually just after the session.

A thought to consider this week is anonymously attributed. ” When all the choices are bad, leadership emerges.” There are those moments in life when circumstances call out to someone, to you perhaps, to step up and help clarify whatever impasse may appear as insoluble. Such leadership is, by definition, selfless, and may be effective only in that instance, and at that time. But, at that moment, it becomes a critical factor for success.

Tomorrow is Columbus Day, an official remembrance of the man who for generations was credited with the European discovery of the New World. We now know he was a vital player in the opening of the Americas to European colonization, but not the first to walk on Western Hemisphere shores.

Learning and the search for knowledge, understanding and truth continues.

I wish you a marvelous week and continuing success.

Don Betz

Leadership Communique, 10/6/2013

Good morning,

Did you walk outside early on Saturday morning? The overnight showers were accompanied the first genuine blast of fall weather. The temperature on campus about 6AM was 46 degrees. Those UCO sweatshirts you may have on a shelf somewhere are finally going to be put to use. By Homecoming weekend in early November, we should see autumn colors across the UCO grounds.

This week David Cid offered you portraits of globally-lauded leaders and simple, clear reasons why each is revered. From Gandhi’s vision to Churchill’s relentless focus on success to Martin Luther King’s capacity to inspire actions here in the USA and around the world as well, David’s profiles in leadership create a challenging list of suggested attributes. An enduring aspect of leadership behavior is the discipline to focus. David counseled to “think deeply about your art and your profession”.

He quoted the maxim used by Malcolm Gladwell that success is rooted in passion, talent and the infamous 10,000 hours. He is lauding the power of persistence, patience and discipline. In his volume, The Outliers, Gladwell undertook extensive research among those who excelled in a variety of professions and endeavors. From champion European hockey teams to accomplished musicians, those who responded affirmed that 10,000 hours of diligent effort is the minimum to attain a level of accomplishment. The old New York comedy routine has more than a seed of truth when it quipped, “So, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?? Practice, practice, practice!”

He also emphasized that we don’t achieve success in isolation. There is a team, a posse, others, individually and collectively who during our lives serve as our mentors and collaborators as we strive to develop our abilities and capacities to learn, to lead and to serve. David Cid counsels us to give credit to those who have inspired and taught us, as often by example as by word.

This was another week of impasse in US domestic politics as the parties appear to be unable to find common ground. As the lack of consensus persists, concern mounts both domestically and internationally, increasing anxiety and a sense of instability. Within two weeks the Congress and President will face the existing controversy of raising of the debt in order to fund government operations. Those serving in federal leadership positions are facing tests of their abilities to lead in this moment of sobering challenge.

I have recently returned from a combined journey to China and South Korea. The mission had multiple purposes including visits with existing university partners in both countries, signing new agreements with a number of new institutions to encourage both faculty and students exchanges as well as promote UCO as a preferred educational destination in the USA. We also met with a spirited group of Korean UCO grads in Seoul with the intention of creating a UCO chapter in this highly developed country with a rich cultural history. I will share more with you later, but UCO’s global profile is attractive to international institutions, faculty and students alike. Enhancing our students’ global and cultural competencies is one of UCO’s key high impact practices in what we call “transformative learning” which places you at the center of your education.

Savor the fresh breeze out of the north today, a serious change in our weather pattern for the past several months.

Former US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, years ago offered this perspective on one of the consequences of learning : “Man’s mind, stretched to a new idea, never returns to its original destination”.

May this week be filled with opportunities to to test Holmes’ assertion.

Take care,

Don Betz

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