This term, I had the rare opportunity to step into the classroom in the coveted role of ‘guest lecturer’ – coveted by me, at least, as it gives me the chance to connect directly with students and share with them the presidential perspective – which, let’s face it, is something that few students concern themselves with during their postsecondary education.
I was invited by the post-grad program in Manufacturing Management to address the Leadership and Management of People course, a subject dear to my heart as I’ve studied it incessantly over the course of my career. I’ve learned by doing, watching other leaders, learning from my mistakes, and drawing on the wisdom of others – including notable thinkers like Peter Senge, Stephen Covey, Malcolm Gladwell, Henry Giroux and Peter McLaren.
The fundamental thing I’ve learned, and that guides my leadership style today, is that people are essentially good, and they want to make a positive difference in the world. Building on this premise, one of the key roles of an effective leader is to inspire them to feel empowered to achieve meaningful change.
As I’ve clearly declared in previous blog posts and elsewhere, I am leading Sheridan on a ‘journey’ towards becoming a top-ranked undergraduate teaching university. I shared with the class the principles of leadership that I firmly believe will get us to our destination.
Empowerment & Collaboration
From the outset, our journey has been rooted in collaboration and empowerment, involving hundreds of conversations, meetings, and strategic retreats with students, faculty, staff and Board members as well as politicians, legislators, peer institutions and competitors. The engagement of all stakeholders will continue to inform and guide our journey.
Transparency & Visibility
Change can cause fear and create uncertainty. Being visible is about being available to answer questions. Being transparent involves answering questions with integrity. As President, I set aside dedicated time on a regular basis for faculty, staff and students to bring me their ideas, interests and concerns.
Optimism and Saying Yes
I believe that a successful leader looks at challenges as opportunities for improvement – not as criticism. Sheridan’s journey presents both challenges and opportunities for our faculty and staff, and I’m committed to helping them overcome the obstacles and seize the opportunities that a change of this magnitude presents.
Helping People Understand
Misperception and confusion stem from a lack of communication. I shared with the class some examples of what Sheridan strives to become, including several examples from Western Canada such as Mount Royal, Vancouver Island, Grant MacEwan and Kwantlen Polytechnic – institutions that started out as colleges but are now universities – all featuring small class sizes, practical learning, undergraduate teaching and applied research, and strong connections to industry.
Preparing Students for a Different Future
Today we recognize the underlying need for lifelong learning because our students will have many jobs, or even many careers, over their lifetimes. The ‘journey’ is about turning Sheridan into a hub that provides pathways for students to pursue new career opportunities through a range of channels over the course of their careers.
I was pleased but not surprised that the Manufacturing Management students responded to my lecture with insightful questions and comments. More importantly, they voiced their support for the journey that Sheridan is undertaking – a vote of confidence that will help us stay the course.