One of my favorite books in the bible is the book of proverbs. The main reason why I love this book is because of the many practical lessons we learn by reading this piece of scripture. In the book of proverbs we learn that, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14); “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20); “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15); “For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 24:6). It doesn’t take too long for anybody to realize that a Christian leader must have an abundance of counselors in order to bring glory back to God.
In my life, I have had many counselors who have played a critical role in my development as a professional but one in particular has made a tremendous impact on how I see both life from God’s point of view and higher education. His name is Kurt Dudt, a former United States Marine combat veteran who taught me how to lead academic departments with a heart and ways to shoot guns competitively. The immense amount of wisdom that I’ve learned from Kurt can’t be paid back. I am indebted forever to him. During the literally hundreds of walks that we had for five days a week (sometimes more than once a day) for two years, Kurt has shown me why most higher education leaders fail and only a few de facto succeed. In this article, I will share with you some of the many secrets that Kurt has shared with me throughout our daily 2:00pm walk conversations. Are you ready for this? The content you are about to read is pretty revolutionary and critical if your goal is to lead others with success.
Here are twelve (out of the 100) pieces of advice that Kurt has taught me on how to become an academic unit leader.
1) Before any major decision, pray.
2) Let the members of the team have a say but implement your vision. You were elected to lead and it is your job to get things done. Implementing your vision is your job.
3) Before making any major decision, ask faculty about their concerns and prepare for them, to ensure your goal is accomplished.
4) Let faculty teach the classes they want so that you can have your final decision when you need.
5) Be proactive and defend the department and faculty members if necessary, especially if the faculty member is too inexperienced or there is faculty conflicts involved.
6) Make time to speak with students, be available.
7) Speak with faculty on a regular basis. Invite them to lunch sometimes.
8) If a faculty member faults, try to bring him back.
9) Listen to the non-mainstream faculty member’s contribution. They often provide wisdom in their responses.
10) Don’t be afraid to tell you are not happy with something.
11) Recruit talent. Every time “Luis” is doing something well, Kurt Dudt receives praise.
12) If a colleague is in trouble, help him even if it is 3:00am. If a colleague is in the hospital, go to the hospital… if a colleague’s mother dies, go to the funeral/viewing. Address faculty as a body (he is one of us) and defend the faculty member.
Without a strong a mentor, you will fail to reach your career potential. Nobody is born knowing the operation of leadership. The bible provides tremendous help in this regard along with a friend who is willing to coach you. Be aware: A leader can’t have an evil stream otherwise, problems occur. A leader bring (unite) people together, as much as possible. Remember: Don’t expect followers to be leaders. The moment you see an organization empowering non-leaders to positions of absolute authority, flee from them quickly because disaster then becomes inevitable and eminent.
When undecided, pray… When in question, ask… When in trouble, resolve… When you know, share. Never under any circumstances, forget that. Pray often! Pray for an advisor! Remember: The almighty God listens to your prayers. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).