ISU president details leadership approach, vision for faculty

September 23, 2018

POCATELLO — Idaho State University’s new president, Kevin Satterlee, shared 10 fundamentals that guide his approach to leadership, vowing he’ll work to make sure the concepts “take hold” among his faculty.

Satterlee, who spoke to the Rotary Club of Pocatello during a Thursday luncheon, explained he includes the leadership tips, compiled from several sources, in a unit he teaches as part of an internal training program.

He became ISU’s 13th president in June, having spent the previous 17 years as a Boise State University administrator. Satterlee said he taught the leadership unit for the first time to ISU department heads just a few days ago.

In his belief, organizations make the greatest strides by building leaders from within, rather than focusing on “the top.”

“When it comes to leadership, it doesn’t matter who the incompetent person is at the top,” Satterlee joked. “What matters is within your organization, do you have a group of leaders who are looking at things from the right perspective and leading their units and departments forward?”

Summarizing the challenge he sees ahead, Satterlee borrowed a quote from the new book “Leadership in Turbulent Times,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin: “In times of apprehension and fracture, leadership takes on a singular urgency.”

“It might not surprise many of you to know I’ve spent the last several months thinking about leadership during turbulent times,” Satterlee said.

For his first tip, Satterlee borrowed a quote from President Harry Truman — though he admits he heard first on the show “West Wing.” “Decisions are made by those who show up.”

Second, he advised passion can’t be faked. Third, he said the world is run by “tired leaders” who give their all.

“If you don’t go home at the end of the day tired, you haven’t been a leader that day,” Satterlee said.

Fourth, he said leaders must be “willing.” He warns every decision finds a critic, so leaders have to make choices for the right reasons. Fifth, he advised leaders to have an unshakable belief that things can get better. His sixth tip warns attitude is contagious, especially bad attitudes. Satterlee said people with bad attitudes often describe where they work as “this place.”

Seventh, he said leaders should bring an “alternate vision for a brighter tomorrow,” offering solutions wherever they see problems.

Eighth, Satterlee said good leaders don’t inspire followers. Good leaders inspire other leaders.

“Nobody at the university needs to follow me, but if I do my job right, everybody in the university will be a leader to move in that same direction.”

Ninth, he said the smallest things done well over time yield fantastic results. Lastly, he voiced his belief that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world.

“Those 10 things I just brought to the table, that’s what I’m bringing to every part of the university, and we will instill that in all of it,” Satterlee said. “And I am firmly convinced that with all of the potential and all of the fantastic things that I see at Idaho State University, when this takes hold, roar Bengals roar.”

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