Rose To The Occassion
Leader ship, it's been said is simply a matter of style. Chancellor Ronald Carrier has it. And as president he imbued JMU with it. His boldness, acuity and risk-taking separated Madison College from the sameness of other small, barely-coed teachers colleges of the early 1970s. One need only look today at Radford and Mary Washington to see what JMU might have become under another president. While fine, respectable institutions, they're not JMU in spirit, size or scope.
Through a wily and endearing tangle of tactics, Carrier pushed, pulled, cajoled, captivated and ultimately inspired professors, students, staff members, alumni, donors, and political and legislative powerbrokers to follow him into an unknown but enthusiastic future.
In the process, Carrier - sometimes through sheer force of will and personality - created a dynamic, bursting-at-the-seams James Madison University not unlike himself. Carrier, like Werner von Braun in the heydey of the industrial age, unleashed the power to launch JMU's rocket into the realm of possibility.
It's now up to the university's fifth president, Linwood H. Rose, to navigate JMU's orbit amid the complexities of the information age.
Today's culture, says Douglas T. Brown, vice president for academic affairs, is comparable only to the Renaissance in terms of the cultural changes that lie ahead. "We are seeing a major shift in the way society operates. The nature of work is changing, and ideas regarding commerce are changing. President Rose's biggest challenge will be orienting the university toward this societal change."
No one is better positioned to meet the challenges of a Renaissance-magnitude transformation than a perpetual student, one who is constantly and actively learning, personally and professionally improving, and applying those lessons to the next challenge, which is how Rose has embraced everything he has attempted.
Whether space, resource and technology utilization, finance and funding strategies, marketing and communication, alumni, political and human relations, effective organizational structures, governmental policies and practices or Virginia higher education, in large part that learning style accounts for the steady rise of this diligent administrator through the JMU hierarchy from his start as assistant director of housing in 1975.
No lesson goes unlearned
"I do a lot of evaluation," Rose says. "I think I do a pretty good job of listening to whatever the issue is and of understanding the dynamics and what important lessons are being learned."
And he learns from everyone, explains Mark Warner, vice president of student affairs. "His teachers are people, books and experiences. He is a keen observer. He watches people in leadership roles and watches how they do it. He then asks himself what good qualities he can learn from that person."
For example, in the College of Business' Legacy in Leadership Profiles and Patterns course he taught with Warner, Rose told students that, as he watched then-President Carrier responding to a question or an issue, Rose would silently formulate his own response, then compare and contrast it with the president's. And apply the lessons elsewhere.
"I looked at doing the best job I could in what I was in and expanding my knowledge and skills, and that opened doors," Rose says.
As assistant vice president for university relations, assistant to the president, vice president for administration and finance and chief operating officer he mastered and refined every sector of university operations. As executive vice president, and often before, Rose quietly, astutely and systematically implemented Carrier's bold decisions and ran the university. "We were a very effective team," Carrier says.
In figuring out the how to Carrier's what and through serving as Virginia deputy secretary of education, Rose made a reputation for himself at JMU, in the legislature, in the wider world of higher education.
That reputation rebounded last spring when he was selected by the presidents of Virginia's public colleges and universities to speak on their behalf at the Governor's Task Force exploring alternative fundingmethods for higher education.
"That they would choose Lin, their most junior peer, both in terms of age and incumbency, to represent them, shows their respect for his abilities," says Charles King, JMU vice president for administration and finance. "If another president could have done a better job, they would have chosen that person to speak for them instead. It shows their confidence in Lin's grasp of the complexities and implications of higher education funding and of his ability to communicate and persuade at the highest political level," King says.
Listening is key
More fundamental than the constant learning that has characterized Rose's career is focused listening, which accounts for the sometimes disconcerting silence with which he might appear to greet ideas and input. It is through that silence and listening that Rose processes and learns.
Jeffrey Mark Smith ('90), member of the alumni board and former student member of the board of visitors, keyed in early on Rose's style. "He would ask my opinion when I was a student because he truly wanted to understand an issue from a student's perspective. Through him I learned to value everyone's opinion. That's what I like about him. He can take the great beauty of conflicting voices and make it cohesive."
That, says Warner, is the key to effective leadership today. "The value of work has changed over the last 40 years. People want to get enjoyment and satisfaction from their jobs and they want to feel that they are contributing. … Today leadership styles are about effectively enhancing that quality of life. … When people feel valued they are going to contribute more to their organization."
Rose recognizes that, says Richard Whitman, dean of the College of Arts and Letters. It is his "openness and willingness to participate that sets apart his leadership style."
Just days after he was named JMU's fifth president, Rose announced the formation of a 70-member Centennial Commission to help him define the ideal JMU in 2008, the university's 100th birthday.
"There are highly talented people on this campus," Brown says, "and the Centennial Commission is an example of using that talent."
"He was willing to take the time to gather people who will be directly involved and who would be ultimately affected by decisions," says Virginia Andreoli Mathie, co-chair of the commission. And those voices were diverse, including professors, students, alumni, parents, donors, community volunteers, and both business and government leaders.
"It's very important that people feel a sense of ownership about the direction of JMU," Rose confirms. "What is important at this university is that everybody is a part of things and that people feel they can contribute."
"After gathering the Centennial Commission together, he was then able to simply listen to the voices and not micromanage the commission. He let us do our job," Mathie adds.
Rose refines her observation. "Some people would say that I hire good people and get out of their way. I don't get out of their way. I enable them. I make a point of being in their life and in what they are doing, not to control them, but to ensure that they really have what they need to do their job well."
Brown confirms, "The key to successful leadership today is getting smart, brilliant people around you. You have to have a strong team, but then you have to enable them to do the job."
"Other presidents I have worked for are biased in their way of thinking and make decisions without including many people in the decision-making process, and then we have to back up and rethink those decisions after problems arise," King says.
Put it all on the table
Rose's style has led to some frank discussions. "Let's put it all on the table" is his motto, Warner says. "The more information we have and the straighter and more honest everyone is being enables us to make better decisions for the university. We do a better job because of that. … This inclusive style works because we are willing to question ourselves and each other around the table. But we decide what is best for the university as a whole."
"At JMU, before we make a decision you can be confident that all the players had a voice in the direction we are going to take," says King. "We may not all win in every case but we all can feel good about the decisions and that every voice has been heard."
Between the lines of King's comments are clues to the inherent risks of such an open style. But Rose is willing to run them for a greater goal. "There are bound to be people who don't distinguish between input and decision-making and then who will get upset when 100 percent of their ideas are not implemented," Rose says. "I want to be participatory, but you do reach a point where you have to make some decisions."
That hasn't changed in this new era, and may have become even more important, Warner indicates. "Someone will always have to make a decision. It is the way the decision is being made that is different. Lin gets the input and then makes a decision based on that input, so we don't analyze things to death."
But that's not the end of it, Mathie has discovered. "What makes his leadership style so appealing is that he goes back to the constituents and explains how and why he came to his decision. He informs the campus. He is honest in how he operates. There is no hidden agenda, and this establishes trust and community. People are ready for this type of leadership and to commit to it," she says.
By following that process consistently, Rose adds, a leader can build up a bank account of trust and faith that will get him or her through those instances when a situation doesn't allow widespread input.
If not agreement, then alignment
Ultimately, what comes out of this process, if not 100 percent agreement, is a concept Rose calls alignment.
"Any organization can do a much better job of achieving its goals if people are aligned, working in the same direction. That doesn't mean people can't have their own personalities, can't have their own work reflect their personalities, it doesn't mean that everybody has to agree, but ultimately you're going to achieve more with people moving in the same direction," Rose says. "If you align you're going to accomplish a lot more. It's important that people have the support and common understanding of where we're headed."
King says, "With Lin, everyone walks out of the room understanding why we came to those decisions. His leadership style enables good working relationships and makes you a better decision-maker. He always puts the university first. When he makes a final decision, ultimately, it is what is best for the university overall. I have never seen anybody think through a situation as completely as he does.
There is no better public evidence of Rose's style of inclusive leadership than when he incorporated the essence of the Centennial Commission's work into his inaugural address, which announced the strategic blueprint for JMU's future.
Having also pinned JMU's wagon to James Madison's star through a partnership with Montpelier and the creation of JMU's James Madison Center, Rose, perhaps not coincidentally, appears to be conducting business in a very Madisonian way.
Kathleen Mullins, the former Montpelier executive director who served on the Centennial Commission, says she "was struck" by the university's ideal of inclusiveness in leadership and development. "There's a lot of connectedness between the way James Madison felt a country moves forward and the way JMU thinks of itself," she says.
And like James Madison, whose Constitution accommodates both individual liberties and a strong unified nation, Linwood Rose appreciates balance. His version translates into a university that welcomes individuality and individual voices and that ultimately pulls together to reach its potential.