President Ruscio LEADs the way

LEAD learns about leadership from W&L’s own leader himself


The 43 members of the LEAD program for the 2015-2016 school year. Photo courtesy of the LEAD Facebook page.

Ashley Faulkner

“Get lots of coffee,” joked President Kenneth Ruscio as he began his discussion on the “Purpose of Leadership” to students, faculty and community members on Oct. 20 in Northern Auditorium.

To Ruscio, leadership is not a sequence of clichés such as “look before you leap.” Rather, leadership is putting the interests of others before yourself and the “discovery of something greater than self,” Ruscio said.

He believes this view of leadership aligns well with the values of a liberal arts education, specifically at Washington and Lee University.

“I think you can get a liberal arts education at any good university,” Ruscio said. “I think it is easier in a liberal arts institution that is intentional about it and focuses on it, and I think Washington and Lee is certainly one of those institutions.”

In order to foster leadership, he believes three key values are necessary: trust, judgment and justice. Ruscio gave anecdotal stories to make each of these ideas clear to the audience.

“I really enjoyed President Ruscio’s candidness in his speech, and the way he described the core attributes of a leader,” Leadership Education and Development participant Bianca Chiappelloni, ’18, said. “His framework of leadership around trust, judgment, and justice, for me, echoed the underlying messages of the W&L honor code, and how clearly influential it has been in his life.”

Ruscio completed his lecture with a question and answer session. During this portion of the lecture, Ruscio offered insights into several topics including: decision-making skills, leadership structures, and his resignation as president this June.

  “We will be sad to see President Ruscio step down after this year, so in a way, this event is a tribute to an influential and effective leader who has had a tremendous impact on our community,” Executive Chair of the LEAD program Harry Lustig, ’17, said.

Many of the students in attendance were participants in the newly launched LEAD program.

“The LEAD Program is designed to expose participants to a variety of applied learning experiences, while encouraging them to think critically, examine their definition and style of leadership, and reflect on their personal development, community impact, and ability to lead with authenticity,” Assistant Dean of Students and Dean of Sophomores Megan Hobbs said.

The LEAD team hosted the event as part of its critical thinking component of the program.

“What better way to start off the Critical Thinking series than with the most prevalent leader in our own community,” Lustig said.

Throughout the year, LEAD participants will also engage in community service, team-building activities, workshops and will hear Ruscio speak again in winter term.

“I hope the students will develop their own philosophy of leadership and their own understanding of leadership,” Ruscio said.