Dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, Ryan Crocker, was the first speaker at this fall’s Conversation in Leadership, a weekly speaker series conducted by the Public Service Leadership Program. The series provides an opportunity for Bush School students to hear from and interact with experienced leaders in an informal setting.
Crocker, former ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon, shared both his personal views on leadership as well as his goals for the coming academic year, but spent the majority of the time answering students’ questions.
Crocker listed civility, humility, sacrifice, perseverance, and the necessity to project confidence, as well as the importance of developing and maintaining relationships with those who advise the leader on key decisions as important leadership characteristics. “Hope and vision” are also keys for successful leaders, he added.
“Leadership is not about you as a leader but about something bigger than you. The best leaders have the smallest egos,” Crocker said. “And real leadership is most evident when things are not going right.”
He also noted that good leaders set a vision for their organization and persevere to see that vision through – never giving up, even when things seem hopeless.
During the Q&A that followed his remarks, Crocker fielded questions on a variety of subjects from the Bush School to his time as US ambassador.
On leadership in foreign policy, Crocker stated that you must have patience in the international community. To be able to serve leaders of both parties, you must be ready, willing, and able to serve whomever the American people elect. “As a public servant, you are working for those who have received the endorsement of the American people.”
When telling students what to do as a leader, Crocker said that being a leader means being able to do multiple things at once. When it comes to what to avoid as a leader, Crocker advised to be aware of the law of unintended consequences, realize the need for transparency, seek counsel, use your imagination, and know what you don’t know and what is fundamentally unknowable.
Concerning the Bush School, he said his goals for the coming year include building on the School’s record of success, carefully allocating resources, and fully utilizing the School’s alumni network.
“We are a school of public service. We are a professional school with master’s degrees,” Crocker said.
He also praised Andy Card’s success during his tenure as acting dean with the School’s capital campaign as well as with growing the School by reaching full enrollment capacity this fall. Students had an opportunity to interact with both the returning dean and outgoing acting dean at the Dean’s Reception this summer in Washington, DC. Current and former Bush School students in the area were invited for a time of learning and networking. Bush School administrators and Congressmen Roger Williams and Bill Flores of Texas were also in attendance.
“I truly appreciated the opportunity to get to meet Dean Crocker in Washington before arriving back at the Bush School,” said second-year Master of Public Service and Administration (MPSA) student Robby Smith. “His excitement to be back at the Bush School and his willingness to make time for students to learn from his experiences in public service were evident as he met everyone and lingered to discuss his plans for the School and his life experiences. It was truly a privilege to be in a room with such inspiring leaders, who have so greatly impacted my career and education. Many of us also appreciated the chance to thank Andy Card for all his work for us in his two years at the Bush School.”
As the academic year progresses, students will have many more opportunities to learn from influential leaders through the speaker series and other events hosted by the School and its institutes.