In the 15 years that he’s been at the helm of Adelphi University as president, Dr. Robert Scott has been the guiding force behind an enormous array of achievements, initiatives and accomplishments that are far too numerous to list on this page. (To read a full feature on Dr. Scott, please click here.) Currently working on a book about leadership and ethics, Dr. Scott’s decades of experience at the upper echelons of institutes of higher learning have given him insights to facets behind effective leadership. Here are his words of advice.
On Getting the Basics Down
“An effective leader should have a firm grasp on the fundamentals of speaking, writing and listening.”
On Having a Broad Knowledge Base
“Solid leadership is built on a good sense of world and American history, a grounding science for an understanding of technology and a deep learning in the humanities so that [said leaders]can develop the skills of critical thinking and also of reflection.”
On Self Awareness
“Too many people are so focused on training for a job without realizing that through life, they’re going to have to reflect on their experiences and know themselves and write their own script instead of acting in someone else’s play. This is because they’ll have opportunities to switch around even at my age. It seems to me that a lot of times people forget half their life. What are examples from when you were in Boy Scouts, camp, school or the playground? Or the time when you and a bunch other guys were saying nasty things to some guy in a shop and he came out and gave you a job because he knew you were acting out because your mother had just died? That was me. Those experiences of humility and humanity are all part of our well. We dig our well and can draw from our experiences. Too often, people forget that they have those experiences.”
There is a lot of emphasis on vision. A leader’s vision has to be informed by the people to be led. There’s an old saying that culture eats strategy. In other words, in companies, corporations, nonprofits, universities or hospitals, somebody comes in with a strategy for growth and change. If the leader doesn’t understand the culture or the guiding principle, the strategy doesn’t make any difference because there’ll be resistance. You’ve got to listen to who is here now, who is here before and then you try ideas. Is this what you mean? Do I understand the history? Many times in meetings for example, a person of authority would ask a question and someone would respond. And I emphasize respond and not answer. They didn’t really hear the question and they start talking and that makes the other person frustrated because they asked a question and there’s no answer forthcoming. So listening is important.”