President Richard Brodhead spoke with Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, on a panel moderated by Kristina Johnson, dean of the Pratt School of Engineering, at The Coach K & Fuqua School of Business Conference on Leadership Wednesday morning.
The panelists balanced their time between speaking about leading large organizations and discussing the state of education in the United States. Brodhead emphasized that leaders must gain trust from those they lead. He distinguished the differences between preliminary trust and deep-rooted certitude, invoking the Ronald Reagan maxim, “Trust, but verify.”
Johnson complimented Brodhead’s idea and told a story of how Brodhead knew who she was before they met for the first time, just after he was named president of the University.
“People want to know that you care before they care what you know,” Johnson surmised.
Lomax philosophized that one must earn the right to lead by showing commitment and hard work.
“When you earn the right to lead, that is when you earn the trust in us,” he said. “Then I think you begin to feel those walls begin to crumble and you begin to develop relationships. If you do it often enough and you do it consistently enough, that’s when trust begins to build.”
The panelists pointed to Mike Krzyzewski and Gail Goestenkors, head coaches of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, respectively, as great examples of how to successfully balance talents and egos to mold a group into success. Lomax emphasized the importance of placing individuals in situations that will most likely allow them to succeed. He added that athletics, and Krzyzewski’s teams specifically, provide a good analogy of how this process works.
Brodhead and Lomax accentuated the importance of education before college. Both agreed that there were significant inequalities in the education system that hinder students who want to attend college. Lomax advocated a system of sending “self-absorbed” student athletes and privileged students that have been the beneficiaries of endless opportunities to low-income areas to inspire youths that they too have opportunities to succeed.
Lomax argued for a need to prepare young students to go to college, partly because that would be the best solution to solving the education gap between whites and minorities, and partly for the interests of the United States in the increasingly internationalized economy.
“How are we going to compete with China where kids are hungry for education?” Lomax asked.
Both Brodhead and Lomax praised the efforts of the Gates Millennium Scholars program for giving students from low-income areas the opportunities to attend college. Brodhead went further in describing the need to reduce costs of college. He pointed to recent statistics that showed a rise in public university tuition as an ominous sign of how even public colleges could only be affordable to the wealthy in the future. He said rising private school tuition costs could often be met with scholarship opportunities for those with financial need, but public schools did not have such an obvious counter to their financial woes.
“If you look at how much this University spends on financial aid, it is a lot. But it’s never enough,” Brodhead said. “The cost of public education has been quite low for several generations. Only recently has that begun to go up. If it were to rise at a 10 percent rate that would mean that it could get to the point where it’s really out of the reach of most people.”
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