Monthly Archives: March 2011

Questioning the right thing

I took notes on this napkin from my recent chat with the CEO of a major office furniture company. Like most of my notes, I can’t read what I write — thus the reason I blog and tweet a lot to try and take notes publicly in the legible form of text.

Hmmm, what does this say? Let me try to remember. “Jim” recalled how he sent me an email on the day I was announced as president because he saw a video of me comfortable with questioning what it meant to become president of a college. He had hoped I wouldn’t stop that instinct to question one’s role as the leader — an instinct he said that leaders should keep alive and well.

Jim then told me a story about how he met the legendary leader of a major international hotel chain when he was in his 30s. He asked this leader why he hadn’t gone to build in Las Vegas whereas his competitors were all there breaking ground. He said this leader said simply, “Not for *me*.” I didn’t quite get what Jim was saying. Jim further elaborated, “The leader will always question decisions s/he makes, but when there’s no question of ‘who am I?’ and they are secure in their identity as themselves, they make the right decisions.” Moral: Questioning your role as leader is always a good idea, but you should have no question about who you are. -JM