Professional Development: Thoughts About Life and Leadership

“Thoughts about Life and Leadership”

Stan Pelkey

I have been keeping a journal since August of 1985. Every few years, I find it instructive to read over large swaths of that material to consider what I have learned. In the past five years, having made the transition from full-time teacher to full-time academic administrator, I have filled my journal with more and more reflections on career development, leadership, and taking stock at mid-life. Here are some thoughts about life and leadership that have come into focus for me since 2010:

Keep finding ways to expand your skill set.

Do not underestimate the power of good communication.

Work to develop a “sense of the next.” In the end, the only real conflict is how will you marshal the limited resources of time and energy that you personally possess.

Get yourself organized!

There is power in cultivating the ability to understand multiple sides in an argument or situation. Work to become the colleague people trust to always be fair.

I really want to learn to be magnanimous, no matter what, and to see conflict and change as opportunities to cultivate new skills and insights.

Experience is a very important ingredient for success in the workplace, but so are intelligence, your message, and your timing. There is a lot of wisdom in the old saying, “Strike while the iron is hot.”

An academic leader will not be able to avoid the collision of faculty, staff, and administration prerogatives and perspectives. What remains, then, is to find those ways that create the best balance possible.

You are going to second guess yourself. So be it. Success does not come because the “second guessing” stops. No, success comes because you decide, again and again, day after day, to take command of yourself in every situation in which you find yourself.

“Leadership” is often just a fancy, “loaded” word for “managing relationships.” Oh, and by the way, successful leadership cannot even begin until you begin to manage yourself.

Lead from the front; build from the center.

Here are leadership traits that everyone appreciates: “was welcoming”; “was prepared”; “asked good questions”; “was honest”; “listened”; “supported.”

Develop coalitions.

Practice an ethic of hospitality.

Embrace the naysayer and find ways to reconcile your vision with his or hers.

Sometimes, the best strategy is to just get on with the day!

At least get out there! Take some risks! Get into the scrum!