In Her Own Words ... Dr. Cormier on Leadership
The following comments were taken from a speech that Dr. Cormier presented at a 23 July 2003 meeting of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
Significant leadership, leadership that works, leadership that energizes, affirms and benefits the community, is not an acquired set of technical skills, nor a cynical act put on to manipulate an easily duped audience. Significant leadership is, for me, the conscious and unremitting application of a values system, a values system based on the ancient belief that humankind is responsible for itself, that each one of us has a responsibility to care for ourselves, for others and contribute to the common good.
As is all too apparent, many who call themselves leaders wield power but lack the values that should inform, direct and ennoble all their actions. From Enron, to WorldCom, to Adelphia, to pedophile priests, to corrupt politicians, our world is awash in glaring and horrible examples of leadership gone awry. As a result of these debacles, an already skeptical public opinion of those in leadership roles has been driven even lower.
Even our beloved academy has not been immune. As is clear to anyone who reads newspapers and watches television, the dialogue concerning higher education frequently focuses on waste, corruption and mismanagement; if values are mentioned at all, it is their absence that is noted.
While I would suggest to you that this popular perception is largely inaccurate, especially in terms of higher education, there has been enough damage done to warrant concern. There has been enough damage done to cause all of us who are in leadership positions to think deeply about who we are, what we are doing and why we are doing it.
I deeply believe that leadership, in and out of the academy, is a privilege. It is the privilege of serving others, of serving society. Significant leadership is not about wealth, recognition, power and prestige; indeed, ultimately it is not about material or worldly things at all. It is about knowing who you are, what your unique gifts are (we all have them), and applying those gifts to a life of service. The value, the ethic that I believe defines significant leadership is service, service to others, service to the common good. Not ascetic selflessness, but rather the joyful use of self to better the human condition …
I believe that significant leadership is characterized by three core values:
Core Value No. 1: Know Thyself
Core Value No. 2: Accepting Social Responsibility
Core Value No. 3: Love
Contrary to popular perception, values are virtues in leadership. They always have been and always will be. The three I have identified here – self knowledge, social responsibility, and love – are extremely important, but by no means all. Each of us has the ability and responsibility to think deeply about our leadership role, to not just take the road of expediency or personal gain, but to always let our values set our course. We must be models for those we serve.