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Hesselbein: Leaders need “a moral compass”

Leadership, says Frances Hesselbein, “is a matter of how to be, not how to do. And most people spend their lives teaching how to do …”

She should know. Hesselbein, after all, was the founding president and remains chairman of the board of governors of the Leader to Leader Institute.

She brought her unique perspective on what it takes to be a leader to Lehigh on Oct. 6 as the kick-off speaker for the 2005 Leadership Breakfast Series. The series is jointly sponsored by The Iacocca Institute (as one of its Professional Education programs) and the College of Business and Economics (CBE).

“Today calls for leaders with a moral compass. We call for healers and unifiers who embody the mission to succeed,” Hesselbein told an audience of CBE students, Lehigh faculty and Global Union leaders. “Today’s students are the voice of the future. I come to colleges so that I can leave filled with hope.

“It is the students who will be future leaders and shine the light in the darkest corners of today.”

”Redefining the future”

Hesselbein’s credentials to discuss leadership are impeccable. President George H.W. Bush appointed her to two presidential commissions on national and community service. A few years later, President Bill Clinton recognized the former chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts as a “pioneer of her time” while honoring her as a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, this country’s highest civilian honor.

In 2002, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Eric K. Shinseki named Hesselbein as the first recipient of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Security Series Award for her “outstanding contribution’s to America’s national security.”

During her talk at Lehigh, Hesselbein hit on a variety of topics during her talk, but put particular emphasis on the professional journey students leaving their college years should expect. She spoke about the “art of leadership” and ways in which leaders express themselves, preaching that language and communication are the building blocks that today’s decision-makers most often overlook.

Hesselbein also discussed how “dispersed” leadership is a powerful force, explaining that effective leaders spanning a spectrum of sectors and industries must collaborate to achieve success. She added that global ethical leadership, the importance of building trust, and understanding changing demographics should be the hallmarks of leadership.

The Leader to Leader Institute was formerly known as the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management. And the namesake of that organization has been an inspiration for Hesselbein throughout her professional life.

“Peter couldn’t predict the future, but he could look out the window and see what is not visible,” Hesselbein said. “A true leader can lead in redefining the future that is not yet visible. It is the quality and character of a leader that determines results.”

Hesselbein witnessed firsthand the importance of leadership as the chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of USA, a post she held from 1976-1990. In addition to her current role as chairman of the Leader to Leader Institute, she also serves as the editor-in-chief of the quarterly journal Leader to Leader and is a proliferate author; her best-selling book, The Leader of the Future, has been translated into sixteen languages.

“My speech is about destiny,” Hesselbein said, adding later: “May many people write of you. I will know then that my audience has responded. Let us keep the faith.”

Rick Neulight, president of National Management Strategies, Inc., will be the featured speaker at the next Leadership Breakfast Series event on Nov. 10. He plans to discuss “motivating employees through coaching techniques.”

--Andrea Tulcin

Posted on Tuesday, October 11, 2005

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