Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Interview with Dr. Ruth Simmons, President of Brown University, on Leadership

Dr. Ruth Simmons, the President of my alma mater, Brown University, will be stepping down at the end of this year. She will have served Brown brilliantly over a period of 11 years.

The New York Times has a great interview with Dr. Simmons, as part of its Corner Office series.

What especially impressed me in the interview, was how she had to overcome some tough times (it was suggested to her to leave the PhD program at Harvard, for example), and how she learned from those experiences. She very much values team-work, ambition in her employees and members of her leadership team and people who are genuinely interesting (physicists who like poetry, for example).

One of my favorite excerpts from the interview with Dr. Ruth Simmons is below:

I keep going back to this fundamental idea of being able to respect other people, especially if you’re in a senior position. You can get a lot more done if people have a sense that you respect them, and that you listen to them. You would be surprised at the number of interviews I’ve done where the person never stops talking. If I’m interviewing someone and if they never stop talking, I will never hire them, no matter how qualified they are. If you cannot listen, you can’t be the site of welcoming, nurturing, facilitating new ideas, innovation, creativity, because it really is ultimately only about you. So I look for people who listen well and can respect the ideas of others.

It is truly amazing what this youngest of twelve children from Texas has been able to accomplish.

Her shoes will be really tough to fill.

I wish the next President of Brown a lot of luck.