Leadership lessons: Vision and values for a new generation

April 21, 2015
  • AACRAO Connect
  • Career Navigator

A distinguished panel of experts participated in a "Leadership Lessons" session at the 2015 AACRAO Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD.  Panelists included Louise Lonabocker, Executive Director of Student Services and University Registrar, Boston College; William Haid, University Registrar, University of California, San Diego;  and Christine Kerlin, formerly the Vice President for the University Center and Strategic Planning at Everett Community College. The session stemmed from an AACRAO publication of the same name that compiled a series of stories from AACRAO leaders describing their career paths and conveying insights into their values and vision.

Louise Lonabocker discussed the origins of the book, which she called a "labor of love," and talked about her career, a journey that began on the campus of Boston College, where she arrived with an associate degree and two years’ experience in the corporate world. After serving three years in two support positions, she was given responsibility for transfer admission.  Three years later, she was moved to the registrar’s office, where she served as assistant registrar and then associate registrar.  She simultaneously pursued her undergraduate and graduate education and in 1981 earned a Ph.D. in higher education administration from Boston College.  

Privileged to work with leaders and mentors who went on to be nationally recognized experts in the higher education field, Lonabocker has become an illustrious professional in her own right. Here are some of the insights she shared:

  • Develop your staff - Leaders advocate for staff, support their development, capitalize on their strength and encourage them to take on new challenges.  Leaders find creative ways to retain the best employees.  
  • Embrace change- Stay on the prowl for the next technological edge.  Social media, digital computing, data marts, open source, cloud computing, and mobile applications are agents of significant change in higher education.  It is critical to be up-to-date on trends and innovations inside and outside of higher education. 
  • Keep looking for ways to improve – Continuous improvement is something we should aspire to all the time.  Lonabocker prepares goals for the office for the upcoming year, links them to the university’s strategic goals, and shares them with staff. 
  • Data driven decision making – Nothing is as persuasive as data for proving trends or identifying patterns, as in enrollment, retention, advanced placement, etc. If requests are supported by data, you increase the likelihood of achieving desired outcomes. 
  • Get involved – Lonabocker joined her first committee in 1981 and quickly discovered that by becoming more engaged, I could get to know people who had developed expertise in a wide range of areas.  Joining committees and task forces not only brought me into contact with leaders in the profession but also deepened my knowledge by requiring me to prepare presentations, write articles, and research institutional practices. 

After 40 years in higher education, she still looks forward to going to work in the morning, staying engaged within emerging trends in higher education, collaborating with colleagues, and contributing to the shared goal within higher education of improving student success. 

William Haid reflected on his career and emphasized, in his self-effacing style, that “you cannot lead without the help of others.” 

Bill’s philosophy of leadership is grounded in respect.  He believes it is important to show respect for personal beliefs and treat people in a dignified manner across the hierarchy of an organization.  His leadership is driven by the core values of dignity, individual worth, and the belief that everyone is valuable.  He seeks to build up others so that they can become the best versions of themselves in work, service, and relationships.   The following principles and practices equipped Bill to serve and lead throughout his career:

  • Treat people respectfully.  Learn their names and use their names often.  Protect the dignity of each person to others and to the individual.  Never demean or joke about another person. 
  • Listen to others and consider all opinions valid.  Invite the opinions of others.
  • Give the credit for success to others, and every organizational success is attributable to the work of many. 
  • Every failure is an opportunity to learn and improve.  Let those involved with failure be a part of a successful recovery. 
  • Tell your team what your organizational goals are so they share your plans and work towards overall goals. 
  • Empower people with the tools and permission to do their jobs. 

Bill has lived these principles and applied them at work and volunteer activities.  His final pearl of wisdom: if you want your staff to give good customer service, you have to provide good employee service, and the best environment you can for your team. 


Dr. Christine Kerlin retired as the Vice President for the University Center and Strategic Planning at Everett Community College. Before joining Everett, Dr. Kerlin was the Director of Admissions and Records at Central Oregon Community College, as well as the Director of Admissions at The Evergreen State College.

Quoting Wayne Childs, Kerlin said, “You don’t need a title to be a leader.   …. You become a leader by virtue of who you are.”  It’s really about the impact that someone has on the people around them.  Dr. Kerlin cited the work of businessman Warren Bennis, whom she greatly respects.  She feels that leaders need to have a guiding vision (begin with the end in mind); passion and love for what you do  (making a difference); integrity and maturity; and the ability to accentuate the positive and raise the morale of your team. 

Vision is the result of your own education and experiences, your values and relationship with others.  Most have several visions that guide us.  We live in a complicated world where the ability to adjust, change and transform is critical. 

The power of the essential elements of passion, integrity, self-knowledge and excellence produces a leader who becomes a servant.  In the end, this is the role of the leader.  The leader knows that he/she can’t be the only one with the vision or passion.  The leader builds a shared vision and fuels the passion of an entire organization.  Further, leadership is situational since a leader slips into different roles since at times a leader can be a follower, manager, and team member.  Each role has its challenges and requisite skills.   These essential points inspired Dr. Kerlin throughout her career and have proved relevant to the situations she has endured. 

The session touched upon just a few of the stories shared by the three distinguished panelists.  For more stories on leadership from the AACRAO session and publication, browse the publications website



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