Westmont Magazine Lead Where You Stand
Conference Focuses on Effective, Purposeful Leadership for Executives
Westmont’s fourth annual Lead Where You Stand Conference, June 6-8, 2018, helped executives and executive teams strengthen their leadership skills. David Brooks, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lynda Weinman and President Gayle D. Beebe delivered keynote talks on the theme “Transformational Leadership in the 21st Century: Pursuing the Greater Good in Challenging Times.” Nine Westmont professors or administrators and three alums addressed a range of topics in shorter presentations. The Mosher Center for Moral and Ethical Leadership and the Brittingham Family Foundation sponsored the conference.
A DAY WITH DAVID BROOKS
The New York Times columnist, commentator and bestselling author, David Brooks, says life has a two-mountain shape. The first mountain is building our career and family, but reaching the top can feel unfulfilling. Finding ourselves can lead us to scale a second mountain to a more meaningful life. We can fall or get knocked off the first mountain by events in life, and how we navigate the valley reveals our character. We emerge a different person as we start up the second mountain.
Brooks identifies three crises in our culture: isolation, alienation and a lack of meaning and purpose. We’re lonelier and more likely to live alone, and we don’t trust institutions or our neighbors. The generation that lived through the Depression and World War II believed they were all in it together. Today, we’re pleasing ourselves. Eventually, that leads to tribalism, which focuses on scarcity rather than abundance as tribes consider gains by others as utter ruin. Negative polarization results when people hate other tribes and fail to love their own.
How can the country recover from tribalism? Brooks anticipates a civic revival—not a religious one—with hundreds of groups emerging to rebuild community and find meaning on the local level. He encourages us to build social capital and to remember that programs don’t turn around lives, relationships do—and society is a system of relationships. We contribute to a national recovery when we build on what we share and support people creating civic institutions. Change occurs when small groups on the margins of society figure out a different way to live, and others come over to their side. He believes societal change always follows personal transformation.
Brooks says the University of Chicago sought to make him a certain kind of person. Today, colleges focus on research and specialization. Chicago welcomed him into a long line of scholars and introduced him to a philosophy of life by exposing him to various traditions. He learned how to see reality, not just what he wanted to see. Through literature and music, he discovered how to react emotionally to the world. Finally, he found higher things to love, discovering that beautiful things lead us even higher to greater beauty and transcendence. Peter Drucker told managers to raise people to a higher standard, and that’s what colleges should do, Brooks says.
Brooks believes we build character not by having great willpower but by having great desires and great love— by desiring to do the right thing, honoring our obligations, and entering into loving relationships. Finding something to love transforms us. We let the world happen to us rather than making ourselves the center of it. We develop humility. Then, as we learn to love God, we do things important to God.
“LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM HISTORY: FDR AND ELEANOR ROOSEVELT”
Has the country ever faced such turbulent times before? Doris Kearns Goodwin says we have. The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer detailed the effective leadership of four great presidents well fitted for their times: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. She tells fascinating stories about them illustrating their strengths and character. All of them overcame significant hardships and crises in their lives, including a lack of formal education, the death of close family members and serious illness. They learned to motivate themselves through adversity and possessed an unusual determination to succeed.
A FIRESIDE CHAT WITH PRESIDENT GAYLE D. BEEBE AND LYNDA WEINMAN
Lynda Weinman, cofounder of Lynda. com, says the good thing about learning online is that you can go at your own pace and review material whenever you want. The educator becomes the mentor and supporter instead of the person holding all the knowledge. She stumbled on the idea of online education at the right time with the right people who all loved what they did and kept taking it further. Completing her undergraduate degree at a liberal arts institution gave her a great feel for all the dimensions involved in starting, growing and sustaining a company that meets a significant need in modern society. She said Luck also played a role in her success as she lived in the dawn of the computer age and internet.
“EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP AND THE ESSENTIAL CONTRIBUTION OF TEAMS”
Quoting Peter Drucker, “Management is work for a team,” President Beebe identified qualities of effective executive teams: high capacity and commitment, emotional intelligence, loyalty, working toward common goals while managing individual areas, vision and resilience. He says leaders can achieve strategic effectiveness through a blend of intelligence (education and guided experience), empathy (moral and emotional intelligence), and creativity (innovation and strategic risk-taking). Emotional intelligence requires self-awareness, awareness of others, self-regulation and social regulation—including cyber disinhibition, which requires resisting quick, angry responses to online information.