How Leaders Add Value to Organizations

On February 23rd, the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows program welcomed Harry Sheehy, the Director of Athletics and Recreation at Dartmouth, in a session titled “Contemporary Leadership Competencies.” The son of two Williams graduates, Mr. Sheehy himself graduated from William College in 1975, after which he played eight years of basketball with Athletes-in-Action. He later became the head coach of the Williams Men’s Basketball team, followed by an appointment to the Williams Director of Athletics position, where he led the school to 17 Division III National Championships. Education, Mr. Sheehy believes, is of utmost importance, particularly in the realm of athletics, something that served as a great motivation for his move to Dartmouth. Sports themselves might be insignificant, “Except for the fact that they’re not,” Mr. Sheehy stated, “There’s more to life than sports, but there’s more to sports than sports.” Athletics are an opportunity to develop leadership, create a vision, and empower members to carry out that vision.

Mr. Sheehy’s session covered four primary areas: adding value to organizations, formal versus informal leadership structures, the role of self-awareness, and the concept of “managing up.” The Fellows first watched the “Monkey Business Illusion Video,” a well-known video that highlights the importance of broad awareness. From this video, Mr. Sheehy emphasized how leaders must constantly take the pulse of the people they lead and trust those people as well. Leaders must also add value to organizations by, for example, contributing to positive office culture, taking customer service to another level, problem solving, being an influencer, streamlining processes that work, being a good listener, being a volunteer, and embracing their role in an organization.

Mr. Sheehy went on to describe the “Commitment Continuum,” which parses out energy takers from energy givers. Energy takers range from resistant to existent, and energy givers range from compliant to compelled. As leaders, we must create a vision and inspire those in our organizations to work toward that vision as energy givers. Following this, the Fellows broke into small groups to brainstorm a formal definition of self-awareness and discuss characteristics, including pros and cons, of formal versus informal leadership structures. From this, Mr. Sheehy highlighted the extreme importance of constant feedback and an awareness of how others perceive us. With this, however, Mr. Sheehy emphasized, “Conflict is a part of leadership. Leaders face conflict head-on.”

To conclude, Mr. Sheehy encouraged the Fellows to take a self-awareness test and discussed the critical role that failure plays in growth. In his words, “Failure is a gift to leaders.” There are inevitably bumps along the way, but we must learn from these mistakes and grow. As leaders, our job is to leave our organizations better than when we joined them while, at the same time, cultivating leaders along the way. Mr. Sheehy’s breadth of knowledge and experience that he shared in this session will continue to strengthen and solidify our leadership presence and self-awareness as we, the RLF cohort, continue to move forward in our time within and beyond Dartmouth.

- Written by Taylor Ng, Class of 2017 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow

This is part of an ongoing series of student reflections about the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows (RLF) program.