I have been an educator my entire professional career. From my first day of school, to my years of teaching, and to my current role as a university president, the bookends of my life have been learning and teaching, teaching and learning. The joys of being an educator and the magic of education involve being able to instill values in students and to demonstrate to them the merits of ethical behavior.
Being a role model and showing students a positive way of life are rewards beyond description. To accomplish them, however, a role model must also live a positive way of life. I have done my best by following eight self-imposed principles as a high school teacher, college professor, and university president.
- Be a servant leader. Servant leaders are not afraid to be caught doing menial tasks. No work is beneath a true servant leader. Servant leadership is a gift to be shared and revered. Be a servant leader.
- Instill a sense of hospitality. To be hospitable is to be welcoming and receptive. In the workroom beside the President’s Office, I have free coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and apple cider available every day for students, staff, and faculty. On Mondays and Fridays, we also provide 24 dozen donuts, bagels, and muffins. Is there is a better way to show others that you appreciate them? Also, during our 15 years as the President and First Lady, my wife and I have hosted over 40,000 guests at our home for dinners, receptions, and picnics. Most of our guests are students. Students experience hospitality up close and personal. Be hospitable.
- Tell the truth. I am amazed at the number of people who cannot simply look you in the eye and tell the truth. How often do you wish people would be honest with you? And how often do others wish you would be honest with them? Be authentic. Tell the truth.
- Be kind. There is not enough kindness in the world today. I cannot imagine how many problems and conflicts could be avoided if only we were more kind to one another. Kindness beats crassness every day of the week. Be kind.
- Trust the human spirit. Have faith in the goodness of others. I truly believe that people are basically good. When others know that you trust them, believe in them, there is a better chance for them to be trustworthy. Over my many years as an administrator, I have been taken advantage of a few times, but that has not changed my belief. Trust the human spirit.
- Take the high road. When situations are glum, and people are treating you unkindly, take the high road in your reaction to them. Resolutions are quicker when we rise above the fray. Besides, the low road is usually too crowded anyway! Take the high road.
- Be optimistic. I have always been an optimist. I like optimism and being optimistic. Pessimism is a killer and can cut through optimism like acid. The world needs fewer pessimists. Be optimistic.
- Choose the right life partner. Life is so much easier when we share it with the right person. Choose carefully because that person is your built-in movie date for life. I cannot imagine my life without my wife, my partner in everything. I am fulfilled because of her. Choose the right life partner.
That’s it! Those are my eight guiding principles for being a role model and helping students achieve a more positive way of life. That and teaching and learning, learning and teaching, teaching and learning…