Presidents - Learning & delegating
I like the fact that a university is such a multi-faceted place. If I just focus on the faculty, the myriad research questions that they ask, the sorts of things that they are sharing with their students in the classroom, I feel like a student very often and I am learning, and I am growing. If I look at the non-faculty side of the house, the expertise that people have that I couldn’t possibly have, I haven’t had the opportunity to learn and develop. So making a video, I don’t know how to do that. The deep finances that people work with, I find it fascinating to be learning all these things, even while I am supposed to be leading. And I feel very intellectually stimulated and alive as a consequence.
The misconceptions about the job. I think there are different kinds of misconceptions depending on the level of understanding of what a president does. There are people who have said to me, all presidents do is just kind of go for lunches and dinners all the time, because your job is to represent the university. It is a figurehead. And I recognize that different presidents will bring different styles and different approaches to their role, but I am not a figurehead. I don’t know how to be a figurehead. I feel deeply responsible. One of my colleagues in one of the schools said to me today, maybe you are overly responsible, and I said, I can’t help it, I was brought up in a convent. I went to the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus. So one misconception is a president is a figurehead. My, very, very mischievous 74-year-old brother, still mischievous at this age, said to me, “Do you have to go to work anymore now that you are president?” He got a glare in turn. So there is a misconception about that.
Other people think that the job of the president must be terrible. You must have so much and everything is on your shoulders. And, yes, it is, ultimately the buck stops with me in that sense. But people sometimes don’t understand that there can be senior members of the team who really do a lot of heavy lifting. So, a provost does a lot of heavy lifting that helps the president a great deal. So, the truth is somewhere in between. I am neither a figurehead nor do I have to do heavy lifting in every single area. Not everybody understands that. A former vice chancellor gave me this advice, “Find a good team, develop a good team, and delegate.” And I will hold that in mind.