The Thomas Cronin affair

By Elika Roohi
Sun Star Reporter

Questions Compiled by Jeremia Schrock
Sun Star Reporter

Historian and author Thomas Cronin gave a lecture at UAF Oct. 25 that was titled “The Paradoxes of Leadership.” He was brought in by the Northern Leadership Center as a part of the Susan Herman Distinguished Speaker Series.

Cronin is the author and co-author of 10 books, the former president of Whitman College and currently a professor of American institutions at Colorado College.

The Susan Herman Distinguished Speaker Series was started Northern Leadership Center as a tribute to Susan Herman, who passed away in June 2009.

“We were thinking of way to honor her memory,” said Mark Herrmann, the dean of the School of Management at UAF.  “What she really was passionate about was bringing up these speakers.  So we named it after her.”

“It’s an honor to be part of the Susan Herman series,” Cronin said.

In his lecture, Cronin mentioned six different paradoxes that a leader of anything from a business to the United States of America might face.

“When you’re a leader, you have to be prepared for paradoxes.  Life is full of contradictions, like the microphone system,” Cronin said, referring to the technical difficulties experienced at the beginning of the lecture.

According to Cronin, people want an optimistic leader.

“We want leaders to be dealers in hope… but they also need to be skeptics,” Cronin said.

Cronin explained that this was why people thought so much of Obama when he was on the campaign trail.  However, now they’re a little bit more frustrated with him.

“Campaign in poetry and govern in prose,” Cronin said.  “But don’t promise more than you can give.”

Cronin had some thoughts about the upcoming election.

“This is the third angry election we’ve had in a row,” he said.  “Seventy percent [of Americans] don’t think we’re going in the right direction… and a majority of Americans think the best years of America are behind us.”

During the lecture, Cronin held a poll to gauge where audience support lay for the different candidates.  About the results, Cronin said “looks like it’s a split vote between Lisa and Joe.”

Cronin had more to say about the paradoxes leaders face, after his political poll.

“Leaders have to rely on intuition,” Cronin said. He went on to explain that we wanted our leaders to be risk-takers; we always wanted them to act with information.

Cronin also said leaders had to be “customer-driven.”  Yet, “the customer was not always right.”

Cronin finished off his lecture with one last piece of advice for leaders facing the paradoxes that come inherent with their position.

“They need to have the ability of a jazz musician who recognizes there’s not a script out there, and they have to play off other instruments.”

What makes a great leader?

“I’m not very comfortable with the term ‘great’ in this context–it’s really a value judgment, one that suggests that someone’s actions are good, and different people will interpret it differently. ” – Brian Kassof, Assistant Professor of History

“Patience, vision, having good ideas, good communication skills, good people skills, collaborative skills, analytical skills, logic, strategy skills, and patience. And more patience!” – Sine Anahita, Chair of Sociology

” I don’t think there are formal educational requirements that one must complete in order to lead.  It helps to be of at least average intelligence, to be able to communicate effectively, and to understand well those whom you want to lead.” – Gerald McBeath, Professor of Political Science.

“Understanding how other people feel. The biggest thing is wanting to help people and make things better. [Also], you have to be eloquent to be a good leader.” – Nicole Carvajal, ASUAF President

” You set an example in word and deeds. The quintessential ‘walk the talk’. It’s not enough to just say what you’re going to do you have to exemplify that in your actions. [Also] someone who has integrity.” – Cheryl Hatch, Department of Journalism / Snedden Chair

Who is/was a great leader?

“Mohandas Gandhi was an effective political leader early in his career, but he became less effective from a political standpoint as the Indian independence movement developed; however, he remained an important spiritual leader.” – Brian Kassof, Assistant Professor of History

“Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Burns, Alice Paul, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X [and] Houston Dougharty, a dean I used to work for.” – Sine Anahita, Chair of the Sociology Department

” My favorite is Abraham Lincoln.” – Gerald McBeath, Professor of Political Science.

“I think Barack Obama is really great at inspiring people and motivating people and in that sense, I really look up to him. He was able to energize an entire country and we was able to energized his base the way nobody before him ever had.” – Nicole Carvajal, ASUAF President

“Nelson Mandela, President Obama, my father… Isis, the Egyptian goddess [and] my great grandmother.” – Cheryl Hatch, Department of Journalism / Snedden Chair

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