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Remarks: Inaugural Address: "Inspired Leadership"

Date: September 6, 2018 Site: Hamlin Quad, John Carroll University Thank you Chairman Merriman for the kind introduction. Thank you all for coming to University Heights and John Carroll University on this special day for my family and our community. My wife, Jill, and I are deeply grateful for the warm welcome we have received from so many faculty, staff, students, and alumni. I would like to thank Fr. Paulson and the Society of Jesus for entrusting me with the Jesuit heritage and mission of John Carroll as its 25th President. Under our Strategic Plan, Promise and Prominence, the University has focused on four learning goals, Intellect, Leadership, Service and Character. Each year we pay particular attention to one of these goals, and this year’s focus is on leadership. It is a theme that has been embedded in the Society of Jesus and our Jesuit universities for hundreds of years, yet its significance is often lost on society today. While there are many different types of leaders and leadership theories, our values and mission challenge us to lead in a very particular and effective way. Jesuits refer to it as “our way of proceeding.”  I call it Inspired Leadership. Inspired Leadership is a generative process of leading not by the exercise of power, position, or authority, but rather by supporting those around us, leading by example, encouraging excellence, and inspiring others to do the same. Inspired Leadership is the antithesis of “it’s my way or the highway.” It is what many today would call the development of a “high performance team,” a team committed to a common goal, a “tight knit” group that collaborates and innovates, just as Saint Ignatius did with the Society of Jesus so many years ago.   Building on the work of so many, our Vice President for Mission, Ed Peck, and I developed a concise statement that helps capture what we mean by Inspired Leadership. It reads:
“At John Carroll University, we draw inspiration from St. Ignatius Loyola and his Spiritual Exercises to form leaders who are characterized by self-awareness and reflection, effective decision making, inclusiveness, a commitment to the greater good, and a deep care and respect for others.”
Why do we find this statement so compelling?  To start, it captures many of our core Jesuit values and sense of purpose, which distinguishes us in an increasingly competitive marketplace for higher education. It captures the concept of the Magis and our attempts to strive for excellence in all we do. It captures our pursuit of justice with mercy, based on a fundamental concern for those who are poor and marginalized. And, it captures the concept of cura personalis, our respect and care for the whole person. In addition to capturing our values in a concise way, our statement makes clear that these values apply not just to Jesuits or Catholics, but to every one of us! The formation of leaders is a common purpose that applies, for example, to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and people with non-religious worldviews and identities. Leadership inspired by St. Ignatius is leadership that humanizes and empowers all to join in the work of making the world a better place for everyone.  It is inherently inclusive, and is central to our commitment to social justice. While our individual charity and good works are critically important, our commitment to social justice seeks to address the causes of why so many people in the world today need our help.   We heard a quote today from the late Father Daniel Berrigan. It poses two basic questions: how are we to live as human beings, and how will our communities form and proliferate as instruments of change. As a lifelong academic I have watched, with great concern, as the gap between rich and poor in our country and in our world has grown larger and larger. While the US economy has created unprecedented wealth over the past five decades, many Americans have not benefited from that growth. The gaps between upper-income and lower-income families are the highest ever recorded. And that disparity has fallen disproportionately on minority households. Research has shown that the median wealth of white households is ten times the wealth of black households and eight times the wealth of Hispanic households. As we implement our strategic plan and begin to envision what comes after, we must double down on our efforts to understand and work against such economic disparity and enhance our commitment to accessibility.  At the same time, we must continue to develop our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and social justice on our campuses and in our communities. My own life journey and discovery of the core characteristics of leadership has been inspired by the leadership of others. I was very happy leading the life of a professor when the opportunity came to become a dean. I reflected at that time on where my journey had taken me, and where it had yet to go. For the first time I really began to view my life in stages. First comes the investment stage. Early in our lives and careers we are rather focused on investing in ourselves, through our schooling and the acquiring of life skills. Then comes the need to grow and expand our horizons. As an academic, for example, the awarding of tenure allowed me to start working in fields other than marketing and consumer behavior, including quality management and business strategy, and teach to very different audiences. But I had yet to actually lead an organization and allow others to learn and grow as I had been doing. So, as part of the third stage of my life and career, I became a dean to do just that, to lead by serving others and allowing them to reach their own potential and work together for the greater good. Soon after this discernment, I visited a friend and fellow dean, Deepak Jain. Deepak asked me why I decided to become a dean and I described the reflection that I went through and my movement from the investment, to the growth, to the leadership stages of my career. That’s when Deepak reminded me that there is a fourth stage, giving back. The giving back stage is where we focus foremost on serving those around us. Then Deepak added a twist of wisdom that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “Michael, the key to life is thinking forward, and working backward.” That is, don’t wait for the growth stage to grow, don’t wait for the leadership stage to lead, and certainly don’t wait for the giving back stage to serve. So, why has a Jesuit Catholic education worked so well for almost 500 years? I would argue that it works because it calls us to do what Deepak told me, and what St. Ignatius did – think forward, and work backward!   There are some special people here today (and some who could not be with us) who have inspired my own life and leadership. Jill, my wife and partner in life, has made sure that our boys and I live our lives as better people, that “we love and respect all people,” as she likes to say. Lola Lopez, my favorite undergraduate professor at Wisconsin and with whom I published my first paper, who set me on my career path as an academic. Rick Bagozzi, my colleague for so many years at Michigan, who inspired me as the embodiment of a gentleman and a scholar and always gave his time to younger colleagues such as myself. Jim Taylor, another Michigan colleague with whom I travelled the world as a teacher, who always put our institution first. Steve Carvell, my senior associate dean at Cornell, who taught me to put our institution first by putting our students first. Ian Lapp, a member of my leadership team at Babson, who always put our students first. Brad Stone, Cornell alumnus and friend, who believed enough in me to endow my position. And my mentor for so many years, Jay Russo, who early in my career as my dissertation advisor taught me the importance of Magis, that there is no tradeoff for quality, and who reentered my life as a trusted advisor and friend.   But the most inspiring leader in my life was my father, Dr. Robert O. Johnson, who passed away when I was finishing my graduate studies some 36 years ago. My father was a general practitioner in the small farm town in which I was born, where he cared for people who were mostly poor. He was sometimes paid in eggs, or chickens, or not paid at all. He became a distinguished surgical oncologist and spent most of his career working tirelessly for those in the most pain facing the worst odds. He performed surgeries whether or not someone had insurance or could pay. Throughout his career he had the foresight to think forward, work backward, and focus on serving others. With his example in mind, my journey has brought me to John Carroll University. Here, my success as a leader and our success as a community will be measured foremost by our ability to be self-aware and reflective, to make decisions that are in the best interests of our students and institution, to create a more inclusive environment, to care for and respect others, and to live a life of service. Let me end with a short prayer from St. Ignatius, Take Lord Receive, that embodies these values. I invite those of you who know this prayer to pray along with me.

“Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding,

and my entire will, all that I have and possess.

Thou hast given all to me.

To Thee, O lord, I return it.

All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will.

Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.”

Thank you all again for coming, enjoy this beautiful day, and God Bless!