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Bill McKendree addresses students at the leadership conference.
Below, Ylaiza Perez '16 (Lawrence, Mass.) takes notes.
(Photos by Saadia Ahmad '14)

Values-Based Leadership Conference focuses student attention on ‘being’ leaders

More than 125 students from colleges and universities in Rhode Island gathered at Providence College for the third annual Collegiate Conference on Values-Based Leadership sponsored by the PC School of Business.

The featured speaker was Bill McKendree, founder of The Clarion Group of West Hartford, Conn., a consulting firm that advises clients on organizational structure and business strategy. McKendree discussed the values that define him and shared four “moments of truth” in his life that shaped him.

During the last portion of his presentation, he asked that the doors in Slavin Center ’64 Hall be closed for privacy, then invited students to follow his example — to stand and share “the moment when you decided to write your life’s script.”

After the morning program, students were able to choose from among a dozen afternoon workshops on topics that included “Athletic Experience and its Application to Values-Based Leadership,” “My Values, My Job? Learn How Personal Values Drive Job Fit and Happiness at Work,” and “Giving Over Gaining: Skills for Values-Based Networking with Impact.”

Students attended from PC, the University of Rhode Island, Salve Regina University, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University, Johnson & Wales University, and New England Institute of Technology, among others.

The conference also represented the launch of PC’s Student Leadership Fellows Program, an initiative led by Dr. Matthew Eriksen, professor of management, and Patricia A. Goff, director of the Career Education Center.

Through the program, the College selected 36 sophomores as student fellows and matched them with staff and faculty mentors to develop leadership skills for the next three years. The students will meet throughout the semester and attend an overnight retreat. The program was made possible by a donation from Lisa DelPriore Bonalle ’85, managing director with Argus Information and Advisory Services in White Plains, N.Y.  

Ruling life by intuition

The Values-Based Leadership Conference was co-sponsored for the second straight year by the Alex & Ani Evolutionary Leadership Institute, and two executives from the company also attended to present afternoon workshops. 

During the morning session, the institute's president, Dennis Rebelo, told students that while everyone wrangles with the definition of leadership, “it’s in the doing that you show your beliefs.”

Rebelo had students watch a Levi’s commercial and identify the values they observed in it, which included risk-taking, adventure, appreciation of beauty and excellence, curiosity, and ambition.

In introducing McKendree, Eriksen said the most fundamental aspect of leadership is the idea of “being” — the “authentic becoming and service of others.” He said McKendree is a mentor to him and said the way that McKendree runs his company is “amazing.”

“You’re going to hear my story,” McKendree said, and made good on his promise. He described how, after graduating from college, he was a research geologist with NASA, working on a project that involved 12,500 people. He realized “I was not a geology researcher at all,” but was interested in organizational behavior, which he then studied in graduate school.

VALUESSECOND.jpgYears later, working in the corporate world and managing 3,500 people worldwide, McKendree again had a change of heart.

“My soul was suffocating,” he said, and he realized he wasn’t modeling for his children all the possibilities that he believed work offered. That led him to start his own company, The Clarion Group.

“Overall, I rule my life by intuition, rather than by my head,” said McKendree. “I work really hard to be true to who I am and to be authentic. The doing is activity ­— it’s the being that makes the difference.”

Parts of McKendree’s story were deeply personal. He talked about the moment as a child when he first felt the presence of God, and discussed how he moved beyond his childhood home where “alcoholism and sexual abuse were a pattern.” Later, when his company was successful, he realized it needed re-shaping because the people he hired were more interested in showing how smart they were than serving clients.

“It’s more important to hire people for their values than their skills, because the latter can usually be taught,” said McKendree.

A time for personal growth

The conference drew the largest number of students in its three-year history. Anamaria Arteaga, a student leader and sophomore at Salve Regina University, said she came because the title “intrigued” her. She wanted to better understand what values she has so that she can incorporate them in her work and help students realize their own values and what influences them, she said.

Andrew Hooks, a junior at Johnson & Wales University, said that when people speak about leadership, “I sometimes come in defensively, wondering what qualifies a person to speak, especially when the topic is so broad. But (McKendree) was very humble, and very much about letting others share their ideas.” 

Stephen Beck ’16 (Wilton, Conn.), a PC finance major, accompanied a friend to the conference “for a chance to reflect on values. It’s a good experience to be here,” he said. “It’s a time for personal growth and to discover who I am as a person.”  

At the close of the conference, Eriksen led students in a session to capture and share what they learned throughout the day. For a complete list of workshops and presenters, visit http://www.providence.edu/business/leading-with-values/Pages/default.aspx .

 

— Vicki-Ann Downing

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