Leading a Unique Life: A Message to our Graduates

Another year, another set of bittersweet goodbyes as our graduates throw their caps and hold their diplomas in hand.

We send them off in to a world full of challenges that are ever changing and growing in complexity. But also a world that is brimming with innovation and possibilities.  A world that can really use smart, energetic, impact-oriented graduates to help lead the way to a better tomorrow.

We are lucky enough to share deeply in two years of our students’ journeys towards becoming “leaders of consequence.” And we look forward to continuing to be a part of that journey, as they find the place where they want to use their skills and talents to have an impact.

As they go off and begin their careers as leaders, we hope that they never stop growing and learning.  Earlier this year Tom Tierney, co-founder of The Bridgespan Group, came to campus and met with our students.  He had many sage words of advice and so we wanted to leave our graduates with his “three lessons on leadership” from a Huffington Post interview (note: the following quote is edited for length, see the full version in Rahim Kanani’s interview with Tom Tierney):

1)    Aim High, Aim Long: Don’t waste effort on little stuff: aspire to achieve significance. Important results can take years, even decades.  Persistence and unbending commitment matter.

2)    Get Better: If you are not a more effective leader this year than you were last year, then you are failing to truly confront the “Am I getting better?” question. The best leaders develop acute self-awareness, seek constant feedback from multiple sources (especially constructive negative feedback), and build assiduously on their natural strengths.  They never get comfortable; they take risks and learn from the inevitable shortfalls. They are confident, but no matter how accomplished they might be, they always believe that they have a lot to learn.

3)    It’s Not About You: Stay focused on the ultimate beneficiary and on the ends you are striving to achieve.  Recognize others (not yourself); give credit (don’t take it); listen incessantly (you will learn more). We can so easily get trapped in a world where perceptions matter more than reality; where we are supposed to climb some invisible ladder; where we are preoccupied with building our resume more than leading our unique life; where we concern ourselves with our span of control rather than our span of influence.  If it is not about you, if you develop trust and mutual respect with those upon whom you depend, then people will respond to your leadership, they will collaborate and contribute and then you will succeed.

To our graduates – follow your passions, never stop learning, and lead your one and only unique life to the fullest. And, of course, keep in touch – we’ll miss you!