What do the upcoming election, weathering through a time of higher education and preparing for a looming graduation all have in common?
Leadership—the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
Dr. Peter Millet, a licensed clinical psychologist and president of Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, spoke to the value of good leadership—in all its forms and with all its pervasive importance— in a convocation lecture held in the Massey Business Center boardroom on Friday.
“When I was preparing for this talk, I was going to present the latest information and data on leadership styles and management styles,” said Millet in his opening remarks. “But any one of those could take the full hour, and no one wants to hear all that technical jargon.”
Millet visited Belmont’s campus as part of the university’s inaugural Scholar-in-Residence program, created to bring in African-American and other minority leaders in higher education for the purpose of growing Belmont’s diversity efforts.
As part of his short-term residence, Millet hosted convocation lectures emphasizing the importance of leadership, especially at a collegiate level and beyond, and how to go about exercising it effectively.
“Organizations have a tendency to be very messy, making leadership in those environments challenging,” said Millet. “If you implement some of these tips that I’m going to share with you today, you’ll have more peace and less mess in your work relationships.”
Read on for Millet’s 10 tips for developing killer leadership qualities, the importance of adopting this vision post-graduation and why ground-level leaders are so integral when higher-level leadership is in question.
Define reality. “This is huge. As a leader, you have to be honest about the current situation you’re facing. You can be optimistic, but you’ve still got to be realistic. You want to have someone who can navigate through a storm and lead to the best possible outcome. Once you identify the problem, then you can start to turn things around.”
Have integrity at all times. “You always have to do what is right, even if no one’s looking—even if you’re frightened or stand alone. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, ‘To be neutral in a situation of injustice is to have chosen sides already. Good leaders do things the right way. Great leaders do what is right.'”
Value people. “Care for everybody. Be kind to everyone. Everybody is somebody. The people that you meet on the way up are the same people you’re going to meet on the way down. We get mad about things so easily. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Everyone’s fighting a battle that you know nothing about. We are all interconnected. What affects one of us directly will affect everyone else indirectly. Recognize people for doing well.”
Communicate effectively. “This is probably the greatest challenge that leaders have. The bigger the group, the greater the need for formalized communication. Document everything. Keep deadlines. If you have communication conflicts that arise, deal with them immediately. We want to delay unpleasant things. If you’ve got something unpleasant to do in your organization, do it quickly and be through with it.”
In all things, demand excellence. “Imagine how much better people would work if you had to put your name next to everything you did. In 1967, Martin Luther King asked a group of students: ‘What is your life’s blueprint? When you discover what it is that you will do with your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty picked you in this particular moment of history to do it.'”
Value diversity. “We get so set in our routines that we come to think that our way of doing things is the only right way to do it. A good leader recognizes the value that other people bring to solving a problem. You may not be regularly asked for your opinion, but you should make your opinion known.”
Be courageous. “A good leader will take risks. Don’t focus on what could have been or should have been. Don’t operate on fear. Don’t become a leader if you want to be popular—it’s not a popularity contest. Good leaders do what has to be done. Do what is right—take a chance. Embrace the fact that everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes are not always bad.”
As a leader, don’t bring your problems to work with you. “Leave them at home—they’re going to be a distraction. Everyone has problems, but don’t bring them to work with you.”
Think before you speak or act. “Be slow to anger, because everything has consequences. Particularly, don’t put anything in writing when you’re angry. It’s going to feel good, but will be short-lived. My mother used to say, ‘The ears that you tell off today, may be associated with the fanny you have to kiss tomorrow.’ Think before you do things.”
Have a vision—dream big. “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president of Iberia, said, ‘Your dreams must exceed your current ability to achieve them. If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.'”
For more information about Millet, visit his bio here.
This article was written by Katherine Foreman.