MOORHEAD - Ethics. Values. Leadership.

You'd think those concepts would fit hand-in-glove for our leaders. After all, shouldn't all of our academic, business and political leaders behave ethically, morally, legally?

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Sadly, those ideals aren't always met in reality.

Concordia College's Lorentzsen Center for Faith and Work takes up the issue on Oct. 12, with a luncheon program, "Public Institutional Leadership in Challenging Times," headlined by Philip Austin.

The North Dakota native, now a West Hartford, Conn., resident, built an impressive resume of leadership in higher education, including serving as a former president of the University of Connecticut and chancellor of the University of Alabama and University of Colorado systems. He's also served in many other leadership roles in government and business.

Here are some of his thoughts:

Q: What is the most important quality of leadership to you? Is it the ability to make a decision? Is it having people skills, emotional intelligence? Or is it acting ethically in personal and business life?

I think it's all of the above. ... It's an interesting challenge to try and put together an agenda and get everybody (politicians, alumni, students, faculty) involved to support that agenda. And then make decisions day in and day out which are going to offend at least some of those people. And still keep the enterprise moving ahead.

People have to trust you. And if you start saying one thing to one group and another thing to another group, you lose them. ... Leadership is a matter of working with the group to enunciate a vision and then sell that vision and get everyone enthused.

Q: If someone were to ask you, How do I create an ethical culture, in my firm or ... at my school, at my university system, what would you would tell that person?

A: You have to agree on the values of the organization. Fundamentally, you know in a research university, we're going to teach the truth, we're going to try through research to discover the truth, and through instructional activities, you disseminate the truth. It's the pursuit of the dissemination of knowledge. And do so in a truthful way, and do so with integrity, and do so with honesty. And that's where you create the trust. Without that, there's just no forward movement.

Q: What is the most important attribute, to you, of an effective, ethical leader?

A: Insist on all members of the community being truthful with each other. We deal with facts, and ... you should welcome people disagreeing with you. That's the nature of education and growth ... the insistence on the people speaking honestly.

Q: Lots of sports figures don't want to be role models, and to some extent, some CEOs may believe the same thing, is it fair, is it right, to put responsibility on leaders of organizations to be role models for their employees?

Yes, absolutely. ... Whoever is going to represent the firm, in my view, it's their responsibility. ... Serving as a role model is fundamental for the CEO and those who would surround the CEO, because that is going to be the reflection, that's what puts a face to an organization.

If your top person is engaging in behavior that's not consistent with (a high ethical and moral standard), then all of the good work that other people in the organization do behind the scenes, and without a lot public notice will be jeopardized.



What: Lorentzen Center for Faith and Work luncheon

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12

Where: Barry Auditorium of Concordia College's Grant Center.

Tickets: Tickets are $25 and available through Oct. 5 at


Austin returning to roots with Central Cass dedication

CASSELTON, N.D. - Philip Austin, a hometown boy who found great success in the world of higher education leadership, is returning to his roots. Austin, 76, grew up and attended school in Casselton, graduating from Lincoln High School. The West Hartford, Conn., resident is scheduled to speak about ethics and leadership at Concordia College in Moorhead on Friday, Oct. 12, but he will also be in Casselton for the Thursday, Oct. 11, dedication of the $29 million expansion and renovation of Central Cass School District's elementary and secondary school buildings. "I'm double pleased that (Central Cass) Superintendent Morgan Forness has invited me to participate in that venture. I very much look forward to it," Austin said. The dedication ceremony begins at 2:30 p.m. in the BankNorth Theater, 802 5th St. N. A guided tour of the facility follows at 3:15 p.m.