Note: This is an address I gave at the Master’s Hooding Ceremony at Fresno Pacific University on May 3, 2019.
Masters – congratulations! My name is Andrew Shinn, and I’m a member of the faculty of the School of Business. I’ve had the great privilege of working with the MBA cohort being hooded this evening.
The accomplishment we’re honoring tonight doesn’t belong to you alone. Graduates: your families have been there to support you through all the hard work, the late nights of class, the weekends of homework, the trips away. They’ve watched or helped as you’ve complained about a professor or struggled with a project. Graduate, please stand up, look back at your family or the people who are here supporting you, and give them a hand. Tonight belongs to them, as well.
There’s another sense in which the accomplishment we’re honoring tonight doesn’t belong to you alone. As people who have earned Master’s degrees, you’ve now been called to leadership. In Leonard Sweet’s Book, Summoned to Lead, Sweet writes that leaders aren’t born and they’re not made; they’re called into existence by circumstance. Those who answer that call are leaders. The path that you conclude tonight is part of the circumstance that calls you. The response that you get to choose is to now walk into and embody that role.
In your professional lives, people will increasingly look to you as the master in the room. You’re now the one who will assume responsibility. Some of you have already had professional responsibility for people’s lives, for budgets, and for the future. Your task in assuming these responsibilities is to walk the fine tightrope between confidence and humility. You’ll need to balance careful decision-making without waiting for perfect information. You’ll need to show a bias for action while still listening deeply and fully to the people around you. You’ll need to live with your mistakes without letting them make you gun-shy. You’ll need to act like Nehemiah from the Biblical book of Nehemiah. He was summoned by circumstance and answered. He went from working in food service to construction management and then military leadership. He was able to balance both the spiritual and administrative aspects of leadership at the same time. He was what Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, would call a Level 5 leader: the kind of leader who empowers those around him or her. The kind of leader that Jesus was talking about when he said that those who would lead need to become the servants of all. You haven’t been called as leaders for your own benefit, but for the people around you. For the organizations and lives that you’re called to impact.
As leaders, you also need a deep foundation. You’ll need a well to draw from. The best leaders bring both proactiveness and depth to their work. This is a pointer toward the source of that depth:
Leadership assumes hope; it acts on the assumption that the world can be a better place, and that we have a role to play in making it that way. The ultimate hope for this world is in Jesus Christ. At the end of all things, the ultimate hope is in the redemption that Jesus bought with his death on the cross and showed with his resurrection from the grave. As a leader, this is the highest hope, and the deepest well from which you can draw. There’s a God of the Universe who wants to know and walk with you personally. I know we come from a lot of backgrounds, but if you want to start walking with Jesus in a personal way, please talk with one of your professors or a friend who can guide you. Good leaders also need to carefully choose people who can lead them.
Graduates, this is your call: there’s a world out there waiting for you to engage: ideas to create and act on, people to teach, new structures to make, new paths to find. Bring your education and keep learning, bring your passion and keep renewing it. Draw from deep, still waters and create a vision of the world that abides in hope. And then get to work making that world happen. Thank you!