Last week, the Humanities and Sciences department played host to Harriet Rubin, Art Center’s first Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow.
Rubin founded Currency, an imprint of Doubleday. She has written for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, was a senior writer and columnist for Fast Company (a “Currency Magazine” prototype became Fast Company), and is the author of Soloing: Realizing Your Life’s Ambition, Princessa: Machiavelli for Women and Dante in Love: The World’s Greatest Poem and How it Made History.
Rubin spent a week at the College spurring discussions both in and out of classrooms; and on Wednesday she presented an Art Center Dialogues lecture titled “The Secret Life of Leaders,” which included a thought-provoking discussion on the nature of leadership and the powerful role that poet-priests play as societal influencers.
Below are highlights from her lecture:
On the word “leadership”:
“Leadership” is a word we use a lot, but it is sounding increasingly archaic, like “zoo” or “Triceratops” or “mini-skirts.” The media, Washington, business schools, colleges all talk reverently about leadership, but why? This Monday I heard two wonderful presentations by students in Gerardo Herrera’s class on marketing Coffee-mate to millenials. And it occurred to me that leadership may be just like Coffee-mate. Maybe that’s what we should do with leadership. We need to rebrand it.
On the actual power of “leadership”:
We’re living in a bottom-up world. Social media undermines centralized power. Flash mobs, Kickstarter, sleeper cells, tribal consciousness, shadow governments. The most-watched TV anchor Brian Williams, the leader in TV news, is revealed as no leader at all. I keep wondering if secretly nobody wants to be a leader. Maybe Brian Williams created the circumstances of his own firing. Maybe he really wanted to get out of his soulless role, and the only way he thought he could do it was by kicking it all apart.