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County Council President Bud Otis

(11/2017) Profile in Leadership

Recently I was asked to offer some remarks for the inauguration of the 26th President at Mount St. Mary’s University, Dr. Timothy Trainor. It gave me the chance to reflect on what leadership means and many things came to mind: courage, service, patience, wisdom, listening to many viewpoints – especially those which are in opposition to one’s own stance, knowledge, appreciation, learning, experience, application of principles, values, faith, mentoring, humanity, resolve, duty, mission, motivation, humility and most of all - authenticity.

I’d like to share an excerpt from the October 23rd inauguration:

"We met briefly a few weeks ago at Winchester Hall and I was immediately impressed with his demeanor, humility and strong sense of self. He is a tremendous choice for the top leadership position here at Mt. St. Mary’s. … He brings heart, honor and tradition to this post and we are so very fortunate to have him as the guardian of these values. He is also the purveyor of the 10,000-foot view towards the future of this great institution. … Being a retired Brigadier General in the U.S. Army brings not only the confirmation of his leadership abilities, but reflects his devotion to our beloved country. After 33 years of service in the military, he has a brilliant track record of success and the willingness to listen, learn and work with many differing personal and cultural viewpoints. He has the heart of a teacher, and the humility to know his best service is found in service to others."

It is a privilege to shine the spotlight on President Trainor’s tremendous history and his mission towards the future. He is a wonderful example of a true leader and patriot.

This reminds me of a quote from John F. Kennedy: "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." And thoughts from Madame Marie Curie: "You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for our own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think can be most useful."

Over the years many people have become examples, both positive and negative, of what traits a truly great leader needs to possess. It may be easiest to learn from those who project positive management and interpersonal skills, but many lessons may be learned from those whose tactics are less polite. It may be another way of viewing learning, but it seems to me that recognizing the ways "not" to do something may be a powerful tool as well. So, how to handle those not so kind in their approach – with courage. As Ronald Reagan noted: "There are no easy answers but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right."

It is not always popular to take a stand in opposition to others. To be a genuine leader, one needs to honor personal convictions and what constitutes right and just in your own heart. It takes a personal will above worry about political cost. This question is a go-to for many prior to making decisions to consider, "What is in the best interest of _____ (fill in the blank – students, Veterans, citizens, constituents, company X, etc.)".

This is a lesson learned by many who hold public office. The take-away from this is a quote from one of my heroes, Thomas Jefferson, who said, "Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."

As every November we honor our beloved Veterans during a commemorative ceremony on Veterans Day, I think we owe an unfathomable debt of gratitude to each one of them. Not only for their commitment to this great nation, but for their individual pledge of duty to their brothers and sisters in arms. Tremendous lessons have been learned from military leadership and we are truly fortunate as a country to have many men and women with such honed qualities.

I hope some of these thoughts have made you think about your views on leadership, courage, honor, duty, and personal integrity. I leave this message with a final quote from John F. Kennedy, "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

My wife Rose and I hope you have a great Thanksgiving season.

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