Richard Sands, chairman and former CEO of Constellation Brands Inc., is slated to receive the Dean’s Medal at commencement ceremonies for the University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business on Sunday, June 10, in Kodak Hall at the Eastman Theatre. Sands is a member of the UR board of trustees and the Simon School Executive Advisory Committee. He also established the Sands Leadership Lecture Series to advance the science and teaching of leadership at the UR business school. The following are excerpts from his commencement address prepared for delivery on Sunday:
I believe that in order to be successful as a leader, there are three key qualities that a leader needs to possess: courage, wisdom and compassion.
First, leadership is about having the courage to act differently, to forge a new path. It is courage that keeps leaders from getting swept away by opportunity and not just “following the crowd” down paths of excess. It takes courage to admit you do not have all the answers, to listen and accept information that may point out your weaknesses—areas where you need to change to be more effective.
The second key quality is wisdom. Wisdom is not about what you know; it is not about your previous successes. It means knowing yourself inside and out. What are your perceptual biases, do you get swept away, what are your weaknesses—what type of people should you surround yourself with to complement your strengths? Wisdom is knowing what brings true happiness to you, others and the organization.
The final key quality that a good leader must possess is compassion. This means to stop thinking about yourself. What is it that makes your people really tick? It is so simple: People come to work to succeed, to solve problems and to do good for themselves and the organization. So affirmation of this, affirmation like “Thank you very much” without reservation, or affirmation by really listening—it is all about affirmation. If leaders can change that “me-centric” mindset to “We’re in business to better the lives of our employees, customers, partners and the people that live in our communities,” all will have great success … in business and in private lives alike.
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