Dean Tyksinski's Reflection on Leadership

As we prepare to celebrate Presidents’ Day, let’s ponder to what degree do you believe presidents Washington and Lincoln are still relevant to us? We know they were considered great leaders who led the formation of our nation during times of unrest, social change and war. Their actions defined the pivotal moments in the transformation of the country.

What about the rest of us? Aren’t we all leaders with the ability to ignite change during pivotal moments that lead to transformation? Consider the pivotal moments that influence the future of your workplace, co-workers, family, and community. Are you prepared to lead the transformations taking place in your world?

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln did not instantly become leaders on inauguration day. Their leadership abilities developed through their experiences over time, day-by-day and year-by-year. Their characteristic wisdom and courage were honed throughout their lifetimes. In a similar way, your student experience in the College of Professional Studies (CPS) is designed to propel you to develop your leadership skills, your wisdom, and your courage. Here are five elements of leadership that are likely to enhance your ability to ignite transformational change.

  1. Curiosity and observation—Effective leaders develop a keen curiosity about their environment and the world around them. They track the impact of decisions and behaviors, learning to forecast likely outcomes. Over time, these observations lead to wisdom.
  2. Ethical decision making—We create intentional change by shaping the behaviors of others for the greater good. Above all do no harm. At times, the strength of our beliefs conflicts with the welfare of those whose lives we impact. We must choose a more difficult option when the outcome is most promising for those involved.
  3. Evaluation and improvement—Leaders are driven to improve their behavior. They measure everything trying to find ways to reach their goals better, faster, cheaper and with less impact on the natural environment. Continuous improvement is the opposite of maintaining the same old routine. No one ever said that leadership was easy!
  4. Connectedness—Though remembered for heroics during times of great change, true leaders measure their value by moments of peace shared with family and friends. They respect their place in the greater society or universe. They give of themselves as agents of social change, working toward a better quality of life for those they serve.  Many quietly give of their time and resources to help others who are less fortunate.
  5. Courage—Can you think of a single leader who did not demonstrate great courage?  True leadership requires the conviction of your ideas and the intestinal fortitude to follow through on your plans. When viewed in real-time, brilliant decisions made in the course of history were fraught with risk and daunting fear. Personal courage enables leaders to move forward in moments of doubt. Do you have the courage to act on your convictions?

Are George Washington and Abraham Lincoln still relevant? Relevance is a personal construct, so only you can answer this question. I can tell you that they continue to inspire me in my leadership journey. I’d love to hear your thoughts on leadership through email or in person if you have time to stop by Vasey Hall on your way to class.