What 300 College Presidents Can Teach Us About Leadership
In the wake of last month's tragedy at Sandy Hook, more than 300 college presidents have joined together to urge immediate action to curb gun violence. Most notably, the coalition would like to ban firearms from college campuses. From the NPR report:
The letter calls for action on four issues in particular: The presidents oppose allowing guns on college campuses. They favor ending the so-called gun show loophole. They support a ban on military-style assault weapons. And, they want to see safety standards around gun purchases.
Go read the full article. As I read it three leadership lessons jumped out:
Leaders understand the initiative to take action is up to them
Lawrence M. Schall of Oglethorpe University is helping to spearhead this effort and his decision to take action was based on the simple question "What can I do?" Leaders don't wait until others act; indeed the very act of leadership often looks like being first, even if it's risky. If you wait until something's popular or easy, the window for real leadership has closed.
Leaders build coalitions, communities, and collaboratives
While leaders may act first, they don't act alone. The other driver behind this movement is Elizabeth Kiss of Agnes Scott College. She recognized that other university personnel have tried similar approaches. Her action step, according to the article, is to pull those other groups together so they can all stand united. Great leaders are able to combine their voices with others to make a louder chorus that demands attention.
Leaders don't do what's easy; they do what's necessary
What complicates all these matters is that both of these presidents are from Georgia, a state in which curbing gun rights can be a tough battle. But, this is also precisely where meaningful action can be taken. "Georgia is a tough state on the gun safety issue," says Schall. "I've certainly got my share of feedback from people that don't agree with my position." It would be easy for these presidents to do nothing, but if they did, they would cease to lead.