Expect More of Yourself

If one wants to push others to the limit, one should push oneself first. Doing so can be done in the obvious way of being the first in/last out of the office. In my years of leading two colleges, I generally followed that formula--well, at least half of it.

I rarely (almost never) was the first in. Since I had very young children for most of my presidential years, and since I was also for several of those years a single father, I made sure my children were off to school before I headed to the office. In truth, because I am a physical fitness nut, I also got my exercise in before I started my presidential day.

Part of expecting more of oneself means being willing to do any job. A small--a very small--example involves my longstanding habit of picking up trash whenever I found it on campus. I did so because I thought of the campus as my home (which of course it is at a small college) and because I believed, naively, if students saw me picking up garbage, they would be more careful with what they did with their trash--and they might even follow my example.

It did not really work. On one occasion, I turned a corner just as a student threw a bottle in the bushes. When he saw me, he said he did not realize I was there. At least I did not have to say anything before he scrambled into the bushes to retrieve the bottle.

Picking up trash does not make it to most presidents' lists. Going to events does. Of course, the challenge is to figure out the logistics of how to attend competing events.

The demands on a president are so great it is always impossible to attend every event. However, I made it a practice to be in as many places as possible to let my various constituencies know I cared about what they were doing. It was easy doing so because I really did care.

My approach was simple: I would always try, if I could not fit in the entire event, to see the last part. In that way, people would generally recognize I had a conflict, whereas if I left early they might conclude I was not interested in what they were doing. Simply put, coming late is acceptable because of one's schedule but leaving early is often viewed as a sign of a lack of interest.

Not all jobs are glamorous on a college campus; all are important. I was grateful to those who did every job, and I always tried to thank people for their work. An example: I never left a party without first going into the kitchen to thank the wait staff. While a very small gesture, it was always--always--appreciated.

One needs to work hard if one wants others to do so, and one needs to thank those who work to make the institution better. Gratitude is one's most valuable currency. It should be spent freely and generously!