The Ability to Inspire

This blog was originally published on Feb. 14, 2008, by Professor Russell L. Weaver.

When I think of the ability to inspire, my thoughts focus on Louisville’s great basketball coach, Rick Pitino. I have heard it said that Pitino can beat you with his players, then trade players with you, and beat you with your own players. Of course, part of what makes a coach like Pitino great is his ability to teach technique and his ability to strategize. Although Pitino is a great strategist (as was Louisville’s prior coach, Denny Crum), equally important to Pitino’s success is his ability to inspire his players. More than once when a Pitino coached team was trailing in a game, he inspired his team to a victory (e.g., note Louisville’s win over then #6 Georgetown last week, and — going back even further — Kentucky’s astounding 31-point comeback a few years ago).

Some deans also have the gift of inspiration. Oh sure, some deans are simply placeholders who accomplish nothing, aspire to nothing, and do not inspire their colleagues. They simply want to be called “dean.” Even worse, some deans have a negative impact on morale and tend to demoralize their colleagues (who, by the way, they would not regard as “colleagues”). These deans have a negative impact on their colleagues, as well as their institutions. When they leave, the faculty fully understands how the French felt when the allies liberated Paris from the Nazis. A chosen few deans are Pitinoesque in their ability to inspire their colleagues (and these deans really do regard their faculty as “colleagues”), and encourage their faculty and their schools to greater heights. In a subsequent entry I will talk about what it takes to “inspire.”

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