Speaker calls for virtuous, capable leaders during talk


“Be someone who does things right and does them the right way.”

That was the message that Kevin Sullivan, former White House Communications Director to President George W. Bush, conveyed during his talk, “Leadership Lessons from the Locker Room, the Board Room, and the West Wing,” on October 20.  During the talk, Sullivan touched on the different traits good leaders should have, both virtuous and practical.

Sullivan began by praising leaders who are humble and are able to practice virtue in the way they lead others.  The best leaders, Sullivan said, are kind and emotionally intelligent. “It’s not about your power as leader as much as it is how you empower others,” he said.

According to Sullivan, there are three qualities that every leader should have, in addition to virtue: be decisive, don’t be afraid of taking calculated risks and be action oriented. Additionally, he said, “Don’t doubt yourself. Have strong principles and go with confidence in all you do.”

Sullivan reminded the crowd of thirty-plus that a leader is not made up of solely virtue; he must also have the “goods” that make successful leaders.  Virtue does not take place of competence; instead, he said, “It’s a matter of balancing EQ (emotional strengths) vs. IQ (intellectual strengths).”

He then talked about his own personal journey about how he went from a kid in college with $400 in his pocket to working in the White House with President Bush. Along the way, he also worked as vice president of communications for the Dallas Mavericks, NBC Sports, and NBC Universal.

Sullivan spoke at length about his interaction with President Bush and his influence as a leader.  He got laughs from the crowd when he told the story of being introduced to Pope Benedict XVI by President Bush as “Sully the comms guy.”

Those in attendance thought that Sullivan’s talk was informative and inspiring. Junior Mitch Plys said, “As someone double-majoring in finance and marketing, I really enjoyed hearing how he was able to use the same skill set for such a variety of jobs.”

Freshman Paul Nick said that Sullivan’s journey from college to meeting Pope Benedict XVI was inspiring to him.

Student Timmy Schlich said, “It was wonderful to hear from someone who not only was in the political sphere, but remained a faithful Catholic while he was in it.”

Sullivan’s talk was sponsored by the Center for Leadership.