Peter Salovey is the president of Yale University. We can assume then that he is smart not stupid. Still, when he was interviewed recently about leadership, he sounded more bland and boring than brilliant and different.*
• “The first task of a responsive and responsible leader is to recognize that many issues are not bipolar – not black and white.”
• “Responsive leadership involves not only talking to people like ourselves, but also having a particular sensitivity to people who are not like ourselves.”
• “In some ways, responsibility is at the core of leadership. Irresponsible leadership can cause great, great harm.”
This raises the question of why Salovey’s responses to questions about leadership were so unsatisfying. Here three answers: 1) because he was altogether general and not at all specific; 2) because he spoke in the abstract, devoid of the context within which he led, that is, Yale; and 3) because he was in every way conventional and correct – politically correct.
Word to the wise: if you’re president of a great university and you know you’re going to be interviewed about leadership, read up on it. Read Plato, say, or Freud, or Hannah Arendt.
* Q & A, Peter Salovey, Yale Alumni Magazine, March/April 2017.