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Spring 2017 Letter from the Chair

December 30, 1899

 

​Our progress is personal.

I remember my first day as the president at Hartwick College (NY). Finally alone for a few moments, I sat down at my desk, looked out the window, and took stock of the enormity of my new role. I recall feeling the weight of my responsibilities settle onto my shoulders. It was a physical sensation of the burden of leadership. I carry this even today, nearly nine full years into my presidency.  

The way we respond to the weight of leadership is personal. This fall, I spoke to a group of women administrators who were participating in a leadership formation program. I led them through a decision-making exercise based upon an actual incident and asked them, at intervals during the exercise, to write down how they were feeling in response to the circumstances within the scenario. I collected their notes, and shared some with the group. Their words were powerful and diverse: they penned “stressed,” “frustrated,” “overwhelmed,” and “angry” to describe how they felt in response to the stimuli of the scenario. Even a paper-and-pencil exercise can evoke an emotional response, and that response varies from person to person. 

Leaders must attend to how they feel. The daily challenges of leadership may shift, but our next step will inevitably be influenced by our circumstances and how we react to them. The reaction to leadership challenges is much more nuanced than “fight or flight,” and every response to our challenges in our environment—whether we register it or not—will impact our next step in problem solving, and, possibly, our success. 

I met a number of impressive future leaders at last summer’s session of ACE’s Advancing to the Presidency program, and have been privileged to continue to advise two women participants who aspire to the presidency. I see in them the courage to lead, and an awareness of their own responses to the circumstances of the presidential searches they have embarked upon. Their reflections on these experiences will prepare them to choose the best college or university to serve, and be more responsive and adaptive first-year presidents.

I am encouraged that people are reflecting on how they feel about our current political environment. These feelings will serve as the predicate and catalyst for our response to national events. I am filled with hope that the next moves we make will be based on a full consideration of economic and social priorities. Leadership requires that we “mind the gap” between what will be a sustainable response and what is simply a response that will suffice in the near term. Our students, our employees, and our communities are depending upon us.

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark has said that “the measure of your quality as a public person, as a citizen, is the gap between what you do and what you say.” Perhaps the measure of the quality of a leader is the gap between what you feel and what you do about how you feel.

We are surrounded by women who are motivated by their feelings about the importance of the leadership of women. Kim Bobby has moved on from ACE to focus on other pursuits; Gailda Pitre Davis now serves as the interim director for ACE Leadership and supports our Women’s Network. How fortunate we are that two women who feel so deeply about the power of women’s progress have chosen to support the work of the WNEC and WNET. These women, along with Shavlik award winner Judy Genshaft, president of the University of South Florida System, and the leaders of the Oregon State University’s Difference, Power, and Discrimination Program, are exemplars who act on what they feel strongly about, and do it in ways that really matter to all of us. Their personal progress benefits every member of the ACE Women’s Network. 

Best,

 

Margaret L. Drugovich
President, Hartwick College (NY)
Chair, ACE Women’s Network Executive Council

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