The Courage to Lead with Humility and Conviction
Last week, Dusty Staub, best selling author of The 7 Acts of Courage, spoke with Dr. James L. Hudgins, President Emeritus of the South Carolina Community College System about developing the confidence and capacity of young leaders so that they can make a meaningful difference in our world.
This is their conversation…
Dusty: Thank you for speaking with me, Dr. Hudgins. Would you tell our readers a bit about you and your service in the world?
Dr. Hudgins: I am an educator and a leader who has now concluded more than fifty years of working within higher education, the last ten years at the University of South Carolina. My life’s work has been to lead an exemplary Christian life and to help everyone with whom I work to be his or her best self.
Over the past fifty years I have received recognition and many awards for my contribution. Yet my greatest contribution, since I had to choose one, and what has been most rewarding to me, is leading the South Carolina Leadership Academy for the Community College System. This program enrolls the top twenty-five high potential emerging leaders from South Carolina’s sixteen Community Colleges in an intense year-long emersion into leadership practices and system procedures. The program has become a virtual launching pad of future leaders in the community college system in South Carolina.
For example, thirty-five of the graduates have gone on to get their doctorate degrees, three have become presidents of colleges and more than thirty have become vice-presidents in the system.
Dusty: What has been the greatest accomplishment in your career and what is the legacy you will leave behind?
Dr. Hudgins: As word of my retirement this month has gone out, I have been receiving statements such as: “I knew you cared,” “You were a great friend,” “You were warm and approachable,” and “You made a big difference in my life.”
It is immensely rewarding to watch those I have mentored both succeed and grow not only in their careers, but also in their lives. To see people develop in their confidence and capacity to make a meaningful difference is the best legacy anyone could have.
Dusty: As a leader in Education and a Legacy Builder, where have you most needed courage in your life?
Dr. Hudgins: I wish I’d had your book The 7 Acts of Courage back in the 60’s and the 70’s. It is an outline of the lessons I have learned in the school of experience. I lacked self-confidence and didn’t believe in myself. For me, low self-esteem was the opposite of the courage described in your book. (Where were you 30 years ago?) I turned down two key job offers out of that lack of confidence. This was a very big issue for me.
For example, I turned down the first Presidency offered to me because of my self-doubt. It took three years for me to step up and find the courage to lead at a senior-most level. I became the President of Sumter Community College and then it was off to the races!
The greatest use of courage, I believe, comes when you face a crisis and you have to step forward and do the right thing at the right time. It is easier to have people like you, to be popular and take the safe rout than to have the courage to confront issues and to take action.
Courage, for me, came out of growing my self-confidence, of developing my inner self. After all, leadership is from the inside out. I have helped those I have mentored and coached to develop their inner life and to access the courage to do what is right.
Dusty: What are the core building blocks of a successful leader in life?
Dr. Hudgins: This is the easiest question for me to answer. In my graduate leadership course, at the end of the yearlong session, I put on the board what I have found to be the four traits of successful leadership. These traits are:
- Integrity – This is the most important one and without it there can be no trust and it always leads to failure when it is absent.
- Vision – This means believing in a better future, not accepting the status quo, being willing to stretch and reach for what is highest and best.
- Influence – You have got to step out and engage others to get anything major done. If you can’t influence others, then you are not leading.
- Relationships – Even if you have integrity, vision and influence, to successfully move down the road to a better future you always need to develop meaningful relationships with other people and across systems. You cannot do it alone.
- Courage – With these personal qualities in place, a leader needs the internal fortitude, the Courage to Act (lead).
I summarize this simply as:
Dusty: What are 3 or 4 key pieces of advice / earned wisdom you would like to share with our readers?
Dr. Hudgins: That is simple also. My life has been incredibly enriched by the following four guidelines:
- Practice integrity, honesty and truthfulness 24/7, every day of your life. This means knowing who you are in your heart and being a truly genuine person in relating to others.
- Care more about others than you do for yourself: show true compassion and love.
- Ask guidance daily from my Heavenly Father. You will be amazed at what grace can flow into your work and life when you open yourself to a higher order of loving and being.
- Be willing to set an example for everyone around you in terms of modeling courage to dream, act, confront, learn and grow, to be vulnerable and open in your relationships and interactions.
Dr. Hudgins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More in the Legacy Series
Consciously Creating Your Legacy: Living a Life of Continuous Value
Creating a Legacy of Wealth: How to Stop Chasing the Transactional and Create a Life of Exponential Wealth