Today we continue our consideration of leadership issues discussed during an interview I recently conducted with Dr. Jay Akridge, Dean of the College of Agriculture at Purdue University. This interview was conducted during a leadership retreat I led for Helena The question we will consider today is this:
What are the three most beneficial habits you have developed to help support your successes?
Dr. Akridge: Phil, this question is fairly easy for me to answer. I’ve thought about it lot over the years. I continuously remind myself that it’s not about me! In my current position as a Dean at Purdue University, I have more than 25 people who directly report to me. They’re all smart, high achieving leaders in their own right. In essence, I am a leader of leaders. I need to do all I can to support their efforts, but then I must remember to get out of their way and let them do their jobs. Our College’s success, the success of our faculty, staff and students, is my success.
The second critical habit that comes to mind is that I am constantly working to acknowledge people—particularly their contributions and successes. I try to learn and call people by their names when we meet. I write countless notes—handwritten notes—besides emails to people acknowledging something of importance to them. I do everything I can to go out of my way to affirm the people of our College.
Finally, I have learned to take every opportunity for communication, regardless how large or small, seriously. Every time I am asked to speak to a group, again large or small, even for as little as five minutes or less, I plan and prepare. I will have a specific purpose and a point to make. I try desperately not to take any such opportunity for granted. I try to always remember that people expect no less from someone in my leadership position.
Dr. Akridge outlined three habits that he attributes to being supportive of his personal success as a leader. Those three again are:
1. Remember, “It’s not about me!”
2. Acknowledge people constantly.
3. Take every opportunity for communication seriously.
What about it? Have these same (or similar) habits worked for you or are these good new habits to be developed? Of course, these can’t be the only habits successful people have. What others habits need to be added to this list of three?
The final question I asked Dr. Akridge during our interview was:
What do you tell your children about the keys to being successful?
You will read his answer in my next post. Until then, I would like to know how you would answer the same question. What “success advice” do you dispense to your kids? Does it do any good? How can you tell? Share your thoughts — we would love to hear from you.
Phillip Van Hooser
In my last post I asked readers to think about and respond to this question:
What are the three most important actions you have taken that have positively impacted your professional success?
You will recall that this discussion began based on an interview I conducted with Dr. Jay Akridge, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Purdue University, during a recent Leaders Ought To Know client retreat for Helena Chemical. Dr. Akridge offered the following responses (paraphrased with his permission based on the emphasis I personally drew from his comments).
PVH: Dr. Akridge, you have experienced significant successes in your chosen field at a relatively young age. What do you consider to be the three most important actions you have taken that have positively impacted your professional successes?
Dr. Akridge: First, has been my willingness to step off the proven, planned path that I was traveling. Too often, I think people may become so singularly focused on the task at hand that they may not recognize any number of other divergent paths leading to many other desirable destinations—some of which may be better or more promising than the ones we originally envisioned.
Second, I have tried to be willing to explore and/or pursue interesting opportunities as they were presented to me. When I left for college I expected to get a degree in agriculture before returning home to work in the family business. Along the way, various professors, coupled with varied experiences I was fortunate to have, led me to continue my education at Purdue, before exploring the working academic side of agriculture. I have been willing to explore various opportunities to see what each might hold. It has been a wonderful adventure.
Finally, I have realized the value of having and, when necessary actively pursuing, professional mentors that have helped me grow and progress in my career. A great number of these mentors have helped reduce my professional learning curves significantly. That has been a great professional advantage.
PVH: Okay then, one follow up question. What do you look for when attempting to identify a mentor?
Dr. Akridge: I look for three things in a potential mentor: someone whom I respect for what they have accomplished or for their values, someone who is non-judgmental and someone who is willing to invest time. It’s a rare combination, but there are individuals possessing these characteristics all around us. I have been fortunate to find such individuals at various junctures in my life and career. Their influence on my ultimate career has been significant.
Let’s take a moment to summarize. Dr. Akridge offered that the three most important actions he has taken which have ultimately supported his professional successes include:
1. Flexibility: Being willing to step off the planned path.
2. Curiosity: Being willing to explore interesting opportunities that present themselves.
3. Outreach: Being intentional in pursuing professional mentors.
So what about you? Do you agree with these three? Do you see any that are glaringly absent for you? Or do you just think Dr. Akridge is full of beans—soybeans probably, one of America’s farmers favorite cash crops?
Another question I asked Dr. Akridge during our interview was:
What are the three most beneficial habits you have developed to serve to support your continuing successes?
You will read his answer in the next post. In the meantime, I would like to know how you would answer the same question. What habits are working well for you as a successful leader? These are ideas that Leaders Ought To Know.
Phillip Van Hooser
During a recent Leaders Ought To Know client retreat for Helena Chemical Company, I interviewed the Dean of the College of Agriculture at Purdue University, Dr. Jay Akridge.
Listening to Dr. Akridge one soon discovers that he is not your typical, stuffy academic / bureaucratic administrator type. Born on a western Kentucky farm, Jay’s family owned and managed a very successful independent farm store in the small town of Fredonia, Kentucky (population 400). By the time of Jay’s arrival, Akridge Farm Supply, founded in 1933 by Jay’s grandfather, was being managed by Jay’s father. It was naturally assumed that Jay would eventually take up the reins of the family business, representing the third generation to do so.
But listening to Jay one soon discovers he is not your typical, folksy farmer / agricultural businessman type either. Upon graduating as the valedictorian from Lyon County High School, Eddyville, Kentucky (senior class population of 58), Jay accepted a full Presidential Scholarship to attend Murray State University where he studied Ag Economics and finished his undergraduate education with a 3.96 GPA. But he was far from finished. Instead of heading back to Akridge Farm Supply and a secure future, Jay headed north to West Lafayette, Indiana, to continue his education at Purdue University. In short order he had completed his Masters degree and by age 26 had earned his Doctorate from one of the most prestigious educational institutions in America’s heartland.
Purdue University and the new Dr. Akridge with made for each other. Jay took his unique combination of practical agricultural knowledge, educational intensity and intellectual curiosity and put them to work at Purdue, first as a professor, next as the Director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Business and finally, as the Dean of the College of Agriculture—all before reaching the ripe old age of 50.
I wanted to know how he did it. I always want to know the secret sauce that makes common people uncommonly successful. During the course of our interview, Leaders Ought To Know program participants heard Dr. Akridge respond to a broad range of questions, including these three:
Q1: What are the three most important actions you have taken to positively impact your professional success?
Q2: What are the three most beneficial habits you have developed to serve to support your continuing successes?
Q3: Wanting your children to be even more successful than you have been, what secrets of success do you share with them based on your own individual experiences?
Jay’s answers to each question were candid, thought provoking and to the point. In my next couple postings I will explore each question in depth, sharing Jay’s responses to each along with a few comments by me.
But, first I want to hear what you think. In advance of of Dr. Akridge’s answers, I would like to know specifically: What are the three most important actions you have taken to positively impact your professional success? Feel free to share the question with other successful people in your network. Encourage them to respond based on their own personal and professional experiences. Suggest that they connect with us here in order to engage in the collaborative process of sharing with each other and learning from one another. I look forward to the discussion.
Phillip Van Hooser