We have several leadership positions open at UTHSC with search committees assigned. It seems like an opportune time to think about the qualities that we are looking for in our current and future UTHSC leaders.
With the passing of Prince Rogers Nelson in April 2016, the world lost a musical genius and innovator. One of his best-known works was Purple Rain from the movie of the same name. Did you know that the song contained his thoughts on leadership? Well, it did. Here are some of the lyrics:
“I know times are changing
It’s time we all reach out
For something new, that means you too
You say you want a leader
But you can’t seem to make up your mind I think you better close it
And let me guide you to the purple rain”.
Change can be scary but is necessary for growth. A leader must be a change navigator. While many leaders understand what needs to be accomplished during change management, few understand the people side of change. Why would you allow a leader to “guide you to the purple rain?” The leader must have the ability to build trust. For a new leader, this takes time. Perhaps the most important attribute of great leaders is their honesty and transparency. “No legacy is so rich as honesty”- William Shakespeare.
The leader must be able to articulate a clear and sensible vision and chart a path towards shared goals. We have a shared vision for UTHSC Research stated in the Operational Strategic Plan for Research that is being implemented successfully with the help of faculty-driven Implementation Teams, led by the VCR’s Research Cabinet. I look forward to the help of our new UTHSC leaders in creating a network of effective change agents.
What are other core values of true leaders? Outstanding leaders do the right thing even when it is not popular at that moment. John Izzo, author of Stepping Up, said “Often as leaders . . . we must make the choice to risk popularity or take on strong interests because we feel it is the right thing to do.”
As the leader takes on strong interests, they will encounter those who are used to getting their way by being combative and confrontational. Which leads us to the next core value of leadership, which is that one must be willing to confront bullies effectively but selectively. As Winston Churchill said: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something in your life.” However, as Winston Churchill also explained, you cannot allow these confrontations to become consuming and delay you from reaching the desired destination.
Amazingly, I have gone from Prince to Winston Churchill, on this one page describing leadership. I think by now you get my gist. We are in the midst of hiring new leadership at UTHSC (Deans, Associate Vice Chancellors, and Chairs) that will influence the future of UTHSC including its research programs. Let us look for the qualities listed above in these future leaders. When we find them, let us give them the time to exemplify these qualities, and our complete support as they enter the UTHSC environment and culture, which they must learn to navigate. As VCR, I look forward to their new ideas, vision, and help in strengthening and growing UTHSC Research.
-Steven R. Goodman,PhD, Vice Chancellor for Research