Leading through a maelstrom

May 19, 20151 minute read

Fortune magazine recently featured the story of Terry Sullivan, the first woman president of the University of Virginia, as she navigated events of the first four years of her term, including the murders of two students, her resignation forced by the school’s board followed by her reinstatement, an alleged gang rape which was then recanted, and a racial incident. She’s quoted as saying, “We don’t get to choose our adversity.”.

As a Ph.D. in sociology she also said, “sociologists are very suspicious of biographical explanations of leadership” and believes Americans tend to have a destructive overemphasis in the individuals in charge.

She admits to being self-conscious about the stereotype of women being over emotional and says her guiding philosophy through all the turmoil has been, “don’t overreact. Reason my way to a solution. And keep the good of the organization in front of me.”