Fostering an environment that’s open to discussion and provides the ability to see the long term goal are just some of the crucial components in being a visionary leader.
These are the words of Darroch “Rocky” Young, who was the Pierce College president from 1999-2003 and the namesake of Rocky Young Park. He spoke on the subject of visionary leadership to a group at the Great Hall on Monday afternoon.
The topic of his recently published book “A Walk Through Leadership” discusses the tools and tips that could benefit leaders in any arena.
Young, who also served in faculty and administration positions at Santa Monica College and was Chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), said the idea for the book came from his consulting work.
“I would be called into a college to help solve some narrow problem,” Young said. “And we would work and we would solve that problem but it was clear that it would only be a matter of time and there would be another problem because the real issue wasn’t the specific problem we were solving. The issue was the leadership.”
To combat the narrow way of looking at problems, Young developed the idea of visionary leadership. The concept is to take into consideration where you currently are and envision where you want your position and the circumstances of the entity you lead to eventually be.
“We live in a society that’s very short term oriented,” Young said. “We don’t think long term whether it’s congress, or the board of trustees, there are tendencies to think in very short term segments and as a result there is not a lot of encouragement to be visionary.”
Having a vision was essential to Young’s message. Whatever organization one leads, the idea is to develop a big picture of how to make that organization distinctly better. That means, according to Young, not just improving what is there but standing out from other similar institutions and having them copy your solutions or innovations.
Young provided ways to become a visionary leader and one main component was time management. He said his time as the Pierce College president showed him that the people who come to the president’s office are the people with complaints, and problems are what take up your time.
“You’ll never have enough time in a single day to do everything you want to accomplish,” Young said.
By recognizing this and practicing time management you can begin tackling problems in a more controlled and focused manner Young said.
Lizette Perez, 18, is a psychology major hoping to work with children.
“I think it’s important to manage your time, your students, and your work load,” Perez said. “I want to be a counselor and making time for everyone is something I always want to remember.”
Utilizing what you have available to you is one way to get around the common problem of things like underfunding or limited resources. Student success is linked to the well being of a community college and being able to have an open dialogue and work with institutions before and beyond a community college is essential, according to Young.
“I ways relished a radical idea,” Young said. “I thought I didn’t have a complete vision if I didn’t have at least one really radical idea in there.”
Young discussed cultivating an environment in which any idea could be brought to the leadership. Listening and genuine caring were some things Young highlighted in his speech.
“You’re trying to get to a place that welcomes ideas,” Young said. “If someone comes to you with an idea you can usually find something in it to support.”
Barbara Anderson, the dean of Academic Affairs and coordinator of the event, hinted at an idea that she and Donna Accardo, chair of the English Department, have in the works.
“I think that thinking about things that you can do with the resources you have is great,” Anderson said. “A visionary idea that we have that English and math are working on is called the Pierce promise. When students assess most of them assess in one or two levels below 101.”
“We are creating a program that will allow students to successfully progress through English and math sequences more easily,” Accardo said.
More information on the program will be revealed at a later time. The tips and insights discussed by Young can be found in his book, which is presented in a more narrative style with a grandfather, retired from his career, walking with his granddaughter, who is just beginning hers, discussing the idea of leadership.
“I’m both of these characters,” Young said. “Just at different times in my life.”