Kudos to Chancellor Carlyle Sitterson

By: Jan Bolick
October 12, 2010

Here’s a   great story for National Boss Day Week ….

In a Business Class interview,  Joy Hakan  shared memories about the years she worked with Chancellor Carlyle Sitterson (Chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill from 1966-1972). 

It was during a tumultuous time – Kennedy assassinations, desegregation, Vietnam, Kent State.  She described the Carolina campus with tents and bonfires from South Building to Wilson library.  There were sit ins and lay ins – people actually lying down in front of the desks in South Building and on the stairs, an important passageway to the only copy machine, heavily used to communicate messages from Washington about how to handle the situation. 

I asked her what kind of leadership Chancellor Sitterson provided during those tough times. 

She said he was calm yet firm. 

He reminded those inside the building about the importance of keeping cool heads.  He modeled that calmness inside as well as outside the building.  In so doing, he had a calming effect on everyone. 

When students asked him to come out to talk, he did so.  He listened very patiently to them – not just giving them lip service, but working hard to understand their point of view. 

She remembered a specific time, listening to him speak from the portico of South Building to a crowd that stretched halfway down the lawn to Wilson Library.  

By the time he had finished speaking, the restless crowd had calmed down. 

Powerful lessons in leadership from Joy Hakan and Chancellor Sitterson.

Listening – really listening to those in your lead. 

Being calm yet firm in times of turmoil and peace.

Questions for thought or discussion:

  1. Do you feel like your boss listens to you?  Really listens?
  2. What difference would it make to you if he/she did really listen?
  3. Do you really listen to those you lead?  Really listen?
  4. What difference would it make to them if you did?
  5. What difference would it make to you?


Jan Bolick 

Jan is a coach, teacher, speaker and author who is passionate about performance management and corporate culture.

Her coaching specialty is working with women in leadership to take charge more effectively, make things happen and inspire others to do the same.

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