Being a simple leader is a lot harder than generating and wading among complications. It almost always involves more responsibility. Paradoxically, it requires more comfort with complexity, because you have to spend time sifting the complex into simple terms. And it requires tremendous self-confidence, because in a simple leadership environment, there won’t be any question who is responsible when problems arise. But it’s what professionals do.
Fourteen years and eleven hours ago, I was in graduate school. It was the second year of a three-year program, I was getting married in three months, and I expected that Tuesday to be like any other. During my first class, whispers emerged about something going on — a bombing, I heard first. By the break between classes, there was a TV set up in the student lounge and we had started to learn about planes hitting the World Trade Center. The Pentagon was hit during my second class, and rumors about other attacks were rampant.
When we really get it right, the holy grail of leading creatively is that we increase the value experienced by the community around us. Put a different way, we enable those around us to flourish. To some extent, this is aspirational: it feels a little pie-in-the-sky. But we are obligated toward this aspiration.
You haven’t mastered the disciplines of business administration – no person has. You have, we certify today, mastered the art of learning about business administration. Graduation isn’t an occasion to mark full formation, but rather an occasion to mark that you’ve found the work to do within: to occupy yourself with your own goals for learning and development.