Leadership isn’t is one’s DNA

Posted: October 9, 2013 in Entertainment, fiances, financial, health, Help, life, news
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I am just celebrating the second anniversary of the day I officially became chancellor of theUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – one of the premier public research universities in the world and one of the original land-grant universities established by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. I am responsible for leading an institution with more than 43,000 students, 1,800 faculty members and more than 425,000 living alumni around the world.

It’s probably not surprising that in this role I’m often asked to speak and write about leadership. And while I appreciate these opportunities, I always feel a little strange because I have to start all of them with the confession that I consider myself more a leader by accident than by design. I can say with complete authority that, “Be the top administrator at a major public research university,” was never on my childhood list of things to do.

Years ago, when I earned my doctorate and started my academic career, my goal was to understand the molecular biology and biochemistry of the brain and how the endocrine system influences the way the brain works, not to be a department head, a dean or a provost. Yet, in the course of my career, I found myself in all of these roles.

We’ve all heard references to “born leaders” or to be “born to lead.” I cringe a bit when I hear this. In part because it implies that leadership is in one’s DNA and that it’s something only a special few can ever possess. Leadership is a skill like any other that must be cultivated.

And while I believe there is no defined formula or route to leading, I can share a few of the things I’ve learned on the very unexpected, but very fulfilling road that started with Chinese immigrant parents in New York City and has led to the University of Illinois.

Get a mentor

Connections with people make all the difference. I firmly believe one of the best things you can do is to find someone you admire and trust and learn from them. This is not for networking purposes or merely to get ahead – the key here really is learning. Ask them questions. Watch how they behave and how they become leaders through what they do and how they do it. My mentors helped me see what opportunities I might pursue and they taught me to see the lessons available to me at each step in my career. From the things I got wrong, the things I got right, and the things I could learn from those around me.

See beyond yourself

Those individuals who end up in leadership positions are often the most ambitious, but leadership takes far different skills than those used for personal gain. Once leadership is attained, your worth becomes far less about what you personally accomplish and much more about the success of the team, or in my case the university. That means finding satisfaction in the accomplishments of others, not just getting co-authorship or invitations to sit on boards or adding more lines to adorn your resume. Leadership is often a service role. And it takes a great deal of humility to listen, consult and solicit criticism from others.

Have integrity

It seems obvious and clichéd, but never compromise on ethics and integrity. And no matter how successful, don’t copy people you don’t respect. Identify people you can trust versus those who want to please you. As you become more successful there are more and more of the latter. The colleagues and leaders I’ve most admired and tried to emulate are the ones who always seem to recognize who is telling you what you need to know rather than those telling you what they think you want to hear.

Recognize your opportunities

Finally, it is critical to always remember that leaders aren’t born or created by organizational charts nor ordained by the title on a business card. True leaders emerge at every level and in every situation. They are established by their actions and decisions – not by a nameplate. And they are recognized for what they accomplish together with the people around them when the chance arises.

Realize your path may change

For me, my road to Illinois was in some significant ways an accidental path to a place I never envisioned. I have the privilege of representing the students, faculty, staff and alumni of a university that can honestly claim to have changed our world. It may not have been where I ever expected to be, but for me, it has turned out to be exactly where I am privileged to be.

 

Source: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20131008133056-272091362-an-unexpected-path-how-i-became-a-university-chancellor

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