A Rotaract Interview with Dr. Sethna
An engaging discussion on Leadership:
Jeremy: So Dr. Sethna, what are your thoughts on Leadership?
Dr. Sethna: Leadership has many complex dimensions, but leaders must inspire others. As Burnham said “Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”
At the time of my first few years UWG was still known as West Georgia College and was often compared to Valdosta College. Well Valdosta became a University and that made many people very down. So I decided that we would find fields to excel in and be second to none, even Harvard University. I asked a colleague what the faculty and staff thought of me. He said that half of them think you are crazy. So I asked what about the other half. He said they know you’re crazy. In the last four or five years of my years as president we beat Harvard in debate on the national level.
Another thing I will tell you is communication. When you are in a position where you hire, fire people, if you want feedback, you must create an atmosphere where they can do so. A sort of safe environment if you will. Also a leader must have the humility to know that he or she does not have all of the answers.
Then there is the team. The team is what makes things work. So one must respect and acknowledge other people’s contributions. In the Times Georgian I have submitted altogether three articles with the same title. It was called “Don’t Look at Me, Someone Else Did It”. In these articles I took time to give credit to those who had been making big contributions to the campus. I did not want everyone to think I have been doing all of the work. So when you see these people around campus they know that you as a leader value them and have a great respect as well.
Jeremy: What are your thoughts on hard work?
Dr. Sethna: Two things upset me in the classroom. One of them is not that someone might feel as if they have asked a dumb question. To me there is no such thing as a dumb question. I even put it on my course syllabus “There are no dumb questions”. The two things that upset me are blatant cheating and not pulling your own weight. What I will tell you is that if you are in a team and you find yourself doing all of the work, the sucker if you will. Be the sucker! Be the person doing most of the work. When you do that you gain a reputation as a hard working person who does what is necessary to get the job done.
Jeremy: One last question Doctor. What advice can you give to young people about investing in their future?
Dr. Sethna: Do the right things now. Working hard and investing in education. When I was a boy in India my mother stayed home and my father worked bringing home 500 rupees a month. Later look that up and you will find that is not much in American money. With the vision, sacrifice, and hard work of my parents I am where I am today. With that people should understand what is called delayed and postponed gratification. Do not look for immediate rewards for all of your hard work. So students need one passion, and that is to get a first class education.