President Connie Ledoux Book discusses Elon's power skill when it comes to strategic planning.
During a recent strategic planning retreat, we discussed a challenge by technology leader Lila Ibrahim, chief operating officer of DeepMind, related to the phrase “soft skills.” Soft skills are typically associated with a person’s emotional intelligence and describe characteristics like a person’s ability to communicate well, work with people from different disciplines and backgrounds and having the curiosity to engage in new thinking. In a compelling essay, Ibrahim argued that what we call “soft skills” are really the “power skills” from which leaders are born. At Elon, we couldn’t agree more. Leveraging a broad education in the arts and sciences, no matter the declared major, our graduates have the power skills and are the leaders who can work with a team to critically consider a challenge and offer creative solutions that engage multiple disciplines.
One of the privileges of working at Elon is that we have relationships with our students and witness the transformation of a student from first-year to graduation. During those four years of engaged and experiential learning in classrooms, student employment, leadership roles in organizations and then tackling the world in internships and study abroad or study USA, the power skills are formed. After graduation, as I visit with our alumni and as you read in the pages of the Winter 2019 issue of The Magazine of Elon, those power skills take Elon graduates on journeys of leadership throughout their lives and around the globe. This is true even when those power skills are formed through unplanned circumstances, such as those detailed by Daniel Hulseapple ’70 in his column on the unexpected value of being a procrastinator (see page 34).
Our culture of inclusive strategic planning is Elon’s power skill and has led to decades of success because we believe that an essential feature of successful planning is to create opportunities for many voices to contribute their own aspirations for the future of the university.
This concept of power skills and the power of a broadly educated student were on my mind when I recently listened to senior Judah Brown perform an essay he had written titled “Foundation.” An Honors Fellow majoring in Economics from Charlotte, North Carolina, he described his journey of learning as “Sometimes you learn by seeing; sometimes you learn by doing. Sometimes you learn from choosing; sometimes you learn from losing!”
Judah’s story is one of rising leadership at Elon, developing power skills, from the moment he stepped on campus — from engaging in our rigorous Honors program curriculum, serving as resident assistant in our residence halls and apartments on campus, to providing organizational leadership as vice president of finances in the Elon Black Student Union and as a student coordinator for the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education. His growth as a leader will continue after he graduates in May and begins his career as an internal audit analyst at AIG.
At any stage of our lives and careers, we can develop our own power skills by learning something new by seeing, doing, choosing or, in fact, losing, as Judah so eloquently wrote. As an institution, Elon can also learn through this same process. This is especially true for us as we enter the final year of the Elon Commitment strategic plan and embark on conceptualizing a new long-range plan that envisions the Elon of 2030. Our culture of inclusive strategic planning is Elon’s power skill and has led to decades of success because we believe that an essential feature of successful planning is to create opportunities for many voices to contribute their own aspirations for the future of the university.
I am confident that a process that synthesizes the ideas of our entire community will result in a compelling and forward-thinking strategic plan.
Please take this opportunity to use your power skills and share your insights about what you hope for the future of Elon — what’s worth doing, choosing or losing — as we work to strategically plan the next decade at Elon and focus on what’s ahead. We know that together our power skills, developed through Elon’s mission of transforming the mind, body and spirit, will chart a powerful course for our future.
Connie Ledoux Book