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The importance of leading through listening

Oct 18, 2017
by (Photo) Zach Thomas, ‘00

I love listening. It’s not only one of the most important traits a leader should have, but it’s also one of the favorite parts of my job. As the new president of Flagler College, it’s a joy to hear stories of students, faculty, staff and alumni who are doing incredible and inspiring work.

Like the Flagler students who helped local residents recover from last fall’s devastating Hurricane Matthew. After the winds died down and the waters receded, the first thing they did was start cleaning out flooded houses, picking up fallen tree limbs and helping organizations get back on their feet. No one asked them to do this — they did it because they saw people in need.

Some of these same students are part of a student-led club called Flagler College Volunteers, and you will read about them in this issue. They are feeding the homeless and getting students involved in the community through days of service.

Since my first official day of work, I’ve heard many stories like these. Students traveling to Germany to study the 16th-century upheaval that redefined the Roman Catholic Church, and others whose research on oyster reefs critical to our local waterways has been published in an academic journal.

I’ve also heard about alumni like Terri Samson, a teacher at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind who was recognized by Florida’s governor for her contributions to education. You will read about her in this issue, too.

Listening to these stories makes me even more proud and excited to be president of this great college, and it gives me a sense of gratitude for this opportunity.

Leaders in higher education are grappling with many complex issues, which makes it all the more important that we lead by listening.

That is why I want to hear from you. What inspiring work are you doing? What makes this college special? What does greatness look like at Flagler?

This last question is especially important as we look at the next steps for the college, and collectively develop a vision for the future. I encourage you to reach out to me at, and I am excited to meet many of you over the coming months.

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