Title: Sherry Manning on Leadership
Page: Leader in Action
Month: December 2001
Dr. Sherry Manning, our December Leader in Action, is founder, Chairman and CEO of ECCI. She has spent a lifetime of service to higher education, first as a faculty member in Schools of Business at the University of Colorado and University of Kansas, then as president of two institutions, Colorado Women’s College in Denver, Colorado, and Teikyo Marycrest University in Davenport, Iowa. Dr. Manning is a national speaker and author, most recently speaking on entrepreneurship and leadership at various graduate schools. Additionally, she is an author of two books. (See her complete bio in a related article).
Leader Guide Magazine interviewed Dr. Manning to get her take on the dramatic changes in leadership in recent years and months.
Q.Sherry, you have a lifetime of service to higher education, including higher leadership as President of two different institutions. Now, among your many activities, you speak to various organizations about leadership issues, with an emphasis on learning. What are the most significant changes in leadership you have seen during the past year?
A.The last decade and especially the last two years, models of leadership in both public and private organizations have evolved from the relatively static, what one might call a celebrity model, to a more complex one encompassing a far richer notion. A few years ago, the uniquely American perception of leadership was, “Hey, I’m in front, follow me;” and leaders were assumed to be type A personalities, winners, take charge types, energetic, often celebrities in their hard charging success. Leadership was akin to a military campaign, where the pace was swift, and outcomes were clear. Today we have a far richer perspective, first of all challenging the notion that leaders are necessarily out in front. We are beginning to understand the Chinese view of leadership in which the leadership figures are out where the people are going, and follow them, and embrace the role of service, patience, and grace in leading. And we are beginning to know that leading is very different from managing.
Q.If you had to select one five top traits of ethical, effective leadership, what would they be?
A.Character; courage; perspective (historical understanding and preparation); ability to empathize and communicate; knowledge of right from wrong.
Q. What are your favorite leadership books, and why?
A. Two brand new books on leadership are transforming how we think about leadership: Jim Collins’ Good to Great, is a 30 year study of leaders in business who outperformed others and why; and Steve Samples’ Contrarian View of Leadership based on Samples’ experience with Warren Bennis leading a decade of seminars on leadership at the University of Southern California. These books both challenge the celebrity view of leadership, rejecting the Ioccoca, Trump, or Carly Fiore’ brand of leader; and emphasize collaboration, grace, thoughtfulness, and tempered judgment.
Q.You speak on entrepreneurship and leadership at educational institutions and leadership events. What is your main message to your audiences?
A. As I speak to audiences around the country, my hope is to motivate, to stimulate action, to dispel myth. The challenge in entrepreneurship, for example, is not the money, the idea, or the mousetrap. The challenge in entrepreneurship is to start. The challenge in leadership is not being in front, chairing a meeting, or making a mistake; the challenge in leadership is to bring everyone with you!
Q. What are the top issues in educational leadership in a time when among the issues are the facts that students can finish their degree online and in which flatter hierarchies are increasingly common in all institutions?
A.An increasingly important issue for educational leaders is telling the truth about educational levels and educational achievement in their communities. Who wants to hear, for example, that Tennessee is at the bottom of 50 states in educational attainment in higher education? Yet public policy must address that or the problem will only get worse. Being able to complete a degree on-line is a great option, for example; and less bureaucracy in educational institutions is only better.
Q.Do you think we are doing enough to educate young students (elementary, middle school, and high school) about leadership skills, and if not, what are specific ways we can improve?
A.For young people, the celebrity model of leadership is an easy model to emulate. It is known and by definition celebrated. Less well known, but more thoughtful and effective leaders are by definition not celebrities, and their leadership practices are not well known. Books like Collins’ and Samples’ which are beginning to be read, will have a powerful impact.
Q.Who are your favorite models of ethical, effective leadership, both historical and living?
A. My own models are a composite of a selection of leaders, and their actions and responses to problems, over time. Certainly George Patton’s confidence; FDR’s public relations and personal letter writing, Thomas Walsh’s persistence, Ronald Reagan’s sparkle, and Jill Conway’s intellectual curiosity come to mind.
Q.What are the top challenges you see facing today’s leaders as you speak and visit with a variety of institutions?
A. Lonesomeness is the toughest. “To stand in the arena, marred by sweat and dust,” as Teddy Roosevelt tells us, challenging often unpopular perspectives, serving others, and having the grace, to not seek the credit, is tough.
Q.You are active in numerous community service organizations. People say that community service leadership is declining. What do you think and what is the importance of this kind of leadership today?
A.Community service organizations are changing. The Rotary, once an exemplary of community service organizations, recruits members from many diverse levels of an organization (not just the top), and no longer requires weekly attendance. That doesn’t mean that the Rotary is no longer effective, nor that community leadership is in decline. Indeed if the Rotary is reaching deeper into an organization, community leadership may be more diverse, more reflective of the community it serves, more collaborative, and ultimately more effective. Community and volunteer leadership are critically important today and we may be doing it more effectively.
Q.What higher educational institutions do a great job of teaching leadership, and why are their programs good?
A.The University of Southern California does a great job of teaching leadership in an academic setting: Warren Bennis, and Steve Sample have developed a deliberate curriculum and program to explore leadership issues. Nonetheless, leadership is a learned art, strengthened with maturity and grace, honed with practice.
ABOUT DR. SHERRY MANNING: Sherry Manning is Founder, Chairman and CEO of ECCI. She has spent a lifetime of service to higher education, first as a faculty member in Schools of Business at the University of Colorado and University of Kansas, then as president of two institutions, Colorado Women’s College in Denver, Colorado, and Teikyo Marycrest University in Davenport, Iowa. She has served on the Boards of Trustees of Regis University in Denver, Colorado, Teikyo Loretto Heights University in Denver, Colorado, and the University of Southern Colorado Foundation in Pueblo, Colorado.
Dr. Manning is a national speaker and author, most recently speaking on entrepreneurship and leadership at the graduate schools of business at Columbia University in New York, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Carlow College, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
She has authored two books on telecommunications and higher education, Telecommunications and Higher Education: Leadership Perspectives, and Telecommunications and Higher Education: Issues, Opportunities, and Applications, and over 100 articles which have appeared in PHONE+ magazine, Knight Ridder Financial NEWS, and ECCI NEWS.
Dr. Manning earned a Ph.D. in Operations Research from the School of Business of the University of Colorado, a Master of Science degree in Mathematics from the College of William and Mary, and a Bachelor of Arts cum laude in Mathematics from Western Maryland College. In 1979, Dr. Manning was awarded an Lh.D. from her alma mater, Western Maryland College.