Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

THE LAST WORD: Good Leaders Must First Be Good People

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

THE LAST WORD: Good Leaders Must First Be Good People

Article excerpt

THE LAST WORD: Good Leaders Must First Be Good People.

I pursued a career in education because I have faith in the future, and because I believe in the ability of great leaders to emerge from each generation -- leaders who can restore our faith, return us to our foundations and help us to look toward the future with optimism and spirit. One of the greatest challenges facing education today is to help our students understand the vital link between leadership and those values that sustain a democratic society -- and, most important, a good society.

We expect our leaders to have a glimpse of the future, of a time and place better than now. We expect them to coalesce and focus our concerns and dreams and inspire us to action in pursuit of this collective vision. But more, we want to trust our leaders; we want our passion to be their passion. We want to have faith in them, to be assured of their virtue and know they will make the right choices.

But what is virtue? I've come, over time, to think of "virtue" as the embodiment of what is good and right in human life, as the understanding, embrace and employment of values that teach us how to be better people. Virtue is possible through the consideration of values such as truth, integrity, competence, commitment and, above all, compassion.

- Truth. I include truth because without it achieving intellectual and psychological equilibrium seems virtually impossible. Rationalizing to avoid the truth is one of the easiest things we do. "I have no time to get involved." "One person can't make a difference." "It's really none of my business." How often do we lie to ourselves to bring comfort in our isolation, selfishness, and cynicism?

- Integrity, surely, is our most precious commodity. It is the quality that allows us to remain steadfast in our convictions, to resist the temptations of power, status and money. It is the voice of conscience, the inner compass that allows us to steer a steady and true course.

A world of options opens up to us when we are not saddled with integrity. Opportunity abounds when we abandon what we know is right. The newspapers are filled with examples of the wealth and notoriety of those unburdened by integrity. They also are filled with the pathetic words, actions and attitudes of those so unburdened. If you accept the challenge to make the world a little bit better, then there is no better guide than integrity.

- Competence. Through competence we assure our usefulness -- to ourselves and others. Competence is an acknowledgment that one of our most important duties as human beings is first to determine and then to cultivate our abilities. …

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