A new era has commenced. This is a time to keep our minds and hearts open, and to find common ground rooted in immutable values, those principles that call us to action and to connect with each other to insure possibilities for those in our charge and those who will follow us. It is a clarion call that affirms we know why we are here.
The author of these insightful columns, Richard Lapchick is a life-long advocate for ending apartheid in South Africa and racism everywhere. His civil rights work in the USA began in the 1960s and has continued throughout his exceptional career.
Lessons in Leadership
Good frozen Sunday to you!
We are counting on clearing skies to assist our UCO crew in preparing the grounds for a safe
finals week. But please be cautious walking and driving. Slow and steady make
good sense in ice and snow. I want you to successfully complete this semester and return to
your family and friends for your holiday break.
Susanne and I were delighted to have you in our home this past week. You all looked
marvelous, and I am confident that you harvested hundreds of photos. I enjoyed speaking
with many of you about your studies, families and aspirations. You are all members of
UCO leadership programs we intentionally created to encourage and prepare graduates to
assume roles throughout our world, from local to global. We are committed to offering you
experiences which, taken together, provide you with a value-added opportunity to learn and
exercise leadership as undergraduates. Leadership is one of UCO’s “Central Six”, high impact
practices intended to enhance your growth and development beyond your mastery of discipline
Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner and former Edmond major Patrice Douglas was our
final L in L guest leader for the semester. Patrice is a vibrant public servant and a relevant role
model. Despite her demanding responsibilities, she was truly looking forward to her time with
I was pleased that she included concepts from Bill George’s True North. She asked us to
consider what we value most and why. I know this is your blog topic this week in your interaction
with Jarrett. This “true north” alignment is connected to issues of integrity and character that
we have discussed earlier.
At the nucleus of effective leadership is a vitality and determination closely linked to service, to
others and to the fundamental rhythms of life that connect us all. Patrice and Bill George know
that we are all in an intensely human enterprise, that what each of us does impacts others, and
that, in the end, we our brother’s and sister’s keepers. Cultivating our expanding competence,
our honesty, our vision and our compassion demonstrably enhances our capacities to serve, our
leadership effectiveness, and the sense of satisfaction which is derived from our quality of life.
Please be sure to reach out Patrice to express your appreciation at some time in the coming
Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who spent 27 years in prison for his
resistance to the apartheid regime that ruled his country, passed away this week at age 95.
For the next week, the world’s media will concentrate on the man, his legacy, his country
and the goodbye which will be witnessed by a massive global audience. South Africa can
seem distant from our world here in Oklahoma and at UCO, but the lessons to be discovered,
enshrined and retold are universal.
Many volumes have been written about Mandela, and more will follow. Former President
Bill Clinton places him in the rarest of company in the past century and more, listing him with
Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr as leaders with transforming impact on those around them,
and far beyond. Each was a recognized change agent who suffered at the hands of government
and local authorities in their campaigns to alter the circumstances under which people lived their
lives. None of the three was financially wealthy, controlled vast armies or territory, and all there
experienced humbling setbacks. Two were assassinated, martyred for the beliefs and their
Nelson Mandela’s ” martyrdom” was to spend 27 years in an isolated island prison off the coast
of Capetown, a hard labor confinement intended to rob its captives of hope. But changes within
the global political landscape, in his own country, and his disciplined determination resulted not
only in his celebrated release in 1990, and also in his election as the first black president of a
South Africa historically controlled by its white minority citizenry.
There is so much to his story that includes the USA, the Cold War, nationalism, economic and
racial disparities, and struggles for democracy that continue in Africa and around the world. I
urge you to learn more about him and the world in which he fought for political, economic and
Among the comments that are relevant to our goals here at UCO and for L in L include those
related to his character and leadership style. He has been identified as a man of courage,
character and compassion, a man who become the change he sought for his people and, by
example, for others. Mandela was a symbol of freedom for many in Africa and elsewhere. I
have seen his face on t-shirts in dozens of countries, proudly worn by the young and their
parents. Mandela was admired because he lived his values, but was also pragmatic In
achieving his goals of freedom and democracy, goals which, even today, remain elusive in his
home country. Even in the dark days in Robben Island prison, his fellow captives marveled at
his perpetual discipline. He remarked that his captors isolated him, but they could not take his
mind and heart.
Mandela is revered also because rather than seeking revenge for his lost decades in prison, he
molded and advocated for reconciliation, so essential if South Africa was to become the multi-
racial democracy Mandela envisioned.
There are so many quotable quotations attributed to Nelson Mandela. Here are just a sampling
with special meaning for us.
“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”
And one which is hanging in the Nigh food court seating area, “It is impossible until it is done.”
Given the state of contemporary technology, the coverage of Mandela’s funeral and related
events will be exceptional. This is history as we watch, listen and learn.
I encourage you to observe and connect as your lives permit.
Finally, my best wishes for a highly successful conclusion to the semester’s work. All of you
should rightly count this as an notable achievement.
And offer a work a thanks and appreciation to Jarrett and Marissa for all their guidance and
I am truly pleased that you are here with us at UCO. I will be following your pathways with
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.
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.”
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.