“Whatever you do, do it well. All through life, whatever you do, whatever you choose to do, whatever is important to you, whatever turns your crank, that’s great. Go do it, but be sure you do it at a very high level of excellence,” President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 told the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows (RLF) at this spring’s online session on leadership.
Each year, President Hanlon leads a spring session, offering lessons in leadership to the graduating class of fellows. This year, given the COVID-19 pandemic, the session took on an innovative form. Instead of speaking in person, Hanlon spoke with the fellows and answered their questions in a recorded conversation with Sadhana Hall, deputy director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy.
Hanlon has been a regular guest speaker in the RLF program since 2015. As an alum, he offers fellows a personal perspective on the value of a Dartmouth education and what they can expect as they prepare to leave campus and enter the working world.
This spring, in response to the decision by Dartmouth leadership to hold classes remotely, all Rockefeller Center co-curricular leadership programs were adapted to a remote format. Given the uncertainty of scheduling, with many participants scattered across time zones, a video conversation was recorded with Hanlon. Fellows were given the opportunity to submit their questions ahead of time, and Hall presented these questions in a conversation that took place via Zoom on April 9.
The conversation began with Hanlon addressing the unprecedented situation facing the Dartmouth community and acknowledging the disappointment that the fellows have felt at being away from campus during the last term of their senior year.
“I think it embodies one of the things that are really differentiating and distinctive about Dartmouth, and that is the way that Dartmouth seems to produce leaders in sort of an overrepresented fashion. I do think that there’s something about the Dartmouth experience which already grounds that, but, having said that, I think we can take the next step and we cannot just let the Dartmouth experience prepare you as leaders, but we can be intentional about adding to that, and that’s what the Rocky Leadership Fellows program does and is one of the reasons that I find it to be such an exciting program, and why I’m so grateful that all of you have been willing to put the time and effort into it,” he said.
During the conversation, Hall asked fellows’ questions about Hanlon’s experience managing stakeholders with diverging interests, remaining levelheaded under pressure, and learning from past mistakes and challenges.
When Hall asked Hanlon for advice that he would offer the fellows as they prepare to enter the workforce, he said, “First of all, as talented as you all are, you will eventually need the help of others, and probably in ways that you don’t actually expect right now. One thing I would say is make friends and support others in every endeavor you do going forward. You never know who might turn out to be a key person to give back to you if you give to them, and so make sure you help others as much as you possibly can, right from the start of your career.”
Hanlon ended the conversation by reflecting on how his time as a Dartmouth student had affected his personal growth. He challenged the fellows to look back on their own Dartmouth experience and think about how much they’d grown. He reminded them to use their future leadership positions to give back to their communities.
Hanlon was the final guest speaker of the school year for the program, the center’s capstone leadership program for seniors. RLF is a competitive, yearlong experience that attracts student leaders from all corners of campus. It offers participants the opportunity to invest in themselves and the world around them by developing their self-awareness and their ability to work with a team and within an organization to achieve not only the mission of the organization but also societal good.
The program invites guest speakers from around campus, the community, and the country who draw upon their diverse backgrounds and experience to lead fellows in discussion and activities that allow them to examine their leadership qualities and skills and reflect upon how they can apply these at Dartmouth and beyond.
For the latest information on Dartmouth’s response to the pandemic visit the COVID-19 website.
Leslie Wagner is the program officer for co-curricular programs at the Rockefeller Center.