When a new president assumes the leadership of a university like San Diego State, it’s not uncommon for internal and external stakeholders to wonder about the president’s leadership style. So a common question I get is, “Who are some of the most influential people in your life?”
It makes sense. Our leadership influences can say a lot about our approach to leadership.
“My grandmother”—I quickly answer. She’s the first person who shaped my leadership, though I have learned much from many great leaders and mentors over the course of my career.
Yet, it was my grandmother, a first-generation Mexican immigrant, who helped me develop self-reliance, resilience, determination, and an unwavering dedication to education. Growing up in a single parent household, I was fortunate to be raised by a strong, determined woman who had a knack for making practical wisdom stick.
“Al mal tiempo, buena cara,” she’d say —Put a good face to the bad times. Be positive.
She was always ready to teach through her abundant collection of “dichos” (practical proverbs) to help me deal with the daily challenges of life.
“A fuerza, ni los zapatos entran.” —You can’t force your shoes to fit. You can’t force your way into anything.
She had an unwavering commitment to hard work and education as a pathway to success. She also believed in staying true to our cultural roots. As a result, my mother attended Modesto Community College, and eventually graduated from Berkeley as a teacher. She went on to be a public school teacher for 40 years, working at first with many Spanish-speaking immigrants, long before bilingual education came about.
So I was very fortunate to have a grandmother who instilled in my mother the values that were then passed on to me, values of my Mexican heritage and of the importance of higher education.
Over the coming months, you will observe my leadership style and will learn more about my leadership influences. For now, let me emphasize that I’m a value-driven leader. I strive to exemplify my core values in my personal and professional life, and I challenge those around me to do the same.
Some of the values that have already surfaced during conversations with my staff and leadership team include:
Family, Education, and Hard Work.
Without these core values I could have never experienced the success that I have been able to achieve.
Loyalty and Integrity.
The ability to do all things above reproach. Keeping confidence. Having no tolerance for gossip.
Transparency and Teamwork.
Speaking up and being willing to resolve conflict for the good of the team vision.
Empathy and Respect.
Putting oneself in the other person’s shoes and communicating that from a position of understanding the other person’s point of view. Being proactive to respond to crisis and conflict on a timely basis.
Humility and Gratitude.
Being willing to listen to others’ points of view, even to criticism, without getting offended. Being willing to learn from others and to express gratitude for individual and team contributions.
Vision and Courage.
Ability to stay focused to achieve key objectives, inspiring others to join the journey. Willingness to make tough decisions for the right reasons, despite criticism.
I look forward to sharing more about my leadership influences and philosophy in the near future and learning from the great leaders on this campus.