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What Makes a Leader?

by: J.B. Potter '11
PUBLISHED: 4 September 2009 No Comment

Faculy share the qualities they find most important in a leader

Hampden-Sydney begins this new school year under the leadership of a new President, Dr. Chris Howard. As the 24th President of the College, Dr. Howard aims to make his contribution to the rich 234-year history of this venerable institution. The character of his leadership will undoubtedly influence the school and be the talk among students, alumni, faculty, and staff for some time to come.

As such, one cannot help but wonder what the members of these respective groups have to say about what they’d like to see under the new President’s leadership. In this issue, we hear the opinions of three valued members of the faculty. After interviewing them, it’s obvious that the type of leadership Dr. Howard practices will shape the future of Hampden-Sydney.

We begin with Professor Simms, a History Professor of over forty years. As a longtime member of H-SC community, Professor Simms has come to appreciate the “magic” of H-SC. “Hampden-Sydney is an established institution with a fine history and time-honored traditions,” he said. Having observed the administration of six previous presidents, Professor Simms has developed a notion of what he believes Hampden-Sydney needs in terms of leadership.

“Leadership is broad and varying, but all leaders should exemplify certain virtues, virtues like respect, loyalty, fairness, and a willingness to accept responsibility.” Specifically, Simms thinks that President Howard will do a fine job if he motivates students and alumni to take an interest in preserving Hampden-Sydney’s long-running legacy. “What this school needs is a good manager – someone who will get people involved without making drastic or intrusive changes to the College.”

The second member of the faculty to share his opinions was Professor Hight, a Professor of Philosophy since 2000. In his view, an effective leader articulates goals and “forms and pursues a vision that is conducive for the success of an institution.” Professor Hight believes that for a small school like Hampden-Sydney, one of those goals must be to improve the school via competing more for prospective students (ex. offering more scholarships) and expanding the Honors Program. In addition, Hight thinks that “the President should serve as an example to the students – a model for behavior and responsible living.” Hight concluded, “If President Howard is a fearless and forthright leader, he will do a brilliant job.”

Finally, we hear from Professor Pontuso, chair of the Government and Foreign Affairs Department. In his view, a good leader is ambitious, talented, enthusiastic, and dedicated – traits which he says Dr. Howard exemplifies. “A good leader treats people appropriately and gets to know everyone he leads. This way, he gains a good understanding of the lay of the land.” Professor Pontuso has been thoroughly impressed by Dr. Howard, so much so that he said, “When I see the new president’s resume, I know how Caesar felt when he read the history of Alexander the Great.”

Historical references aside, Pontuso believes that while President Howard has a steep learning curve with which to contend, he is just the man for the job. “We’ve got what we need [in President Howard]. He understands what we’re about and he’s a great at multitasking. I hope he stays for awhile.”

Hampden-Sydney College is the 10th oldest college in America. This institution was founded by men whose leadership and resolve laid the groundwork for United States. It is in this proud tradition that Dr. Howard follows. By being an exemplary leader, he has an opportunity to build on the legacy of Hampden-Sydney.

Related posts:

  1. What Makes a Leader?
  2. General Wilson describes the course of the College’s future
  3. President’s Leadership Council: Controversy on the Horizon?
  4. A Culture of Accountability

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