Former UD President Patrick Harker shares tips for leadership success

Patrick Harker speaks at the MBASA Conference.

This article has been republished with permission from UDaily and was written by Carlett Spike.

It started with an unexpected phone call from a friend offering then-University of Delaware President Patrick Harker an opportunity to buy the land of the former Chrysler assembly plant. It took a leap of faith, Harker said, that ended with the University purchasing the 272-acres in 2009. This ultimately led to the creation of the Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus.

“It is one of the best highlights of my professional life to have been a part of,” Harker said. “I applaud President Assanis and his team for all they’ve accomplished at that site and I can’t wait to see what happens next.”

What he learned as a leader at UD, especially in that moment, are the exact lessons he offered the UD audience during his keynote speech at the third annual MBA Student Association Conference in Gore Recital Hall on Feb. 14. The day-long event focused on preparing for the changing business landscape.

Harker, who is currently the president and CEO for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, said he has many others to thank for the leader he has become.

“The best lessons I learned and any wisdom I have to impart comes from other people,” Harker noted. “They say that good artists borrow and great artists steal, and it seems that I have applied that today to my career philosophy.”

He highlighted six lessons of leadership: Keep learning, be a good person, be scared, be adaptable, take leaps of faith and build a good team. Leaders face challenges like everyone else, but what makes them stand out lies in these six lessons, Harker said.

“The most important asset you have and the one thing in life that you can control is your integrity,” he said. “We rarely have a say in what life throws at us and life throws a lot at us, but we do have control. We can decide how we handle whatever comes our way.”

The one thing that people are often confused about is the advice to be scared, Harker said. Leaders are often associated with being fearless, but that’s not what they should strive for. Fear creates a challenge and pushes us to work harder, he explained. That ultimately creates change.

“Never be afraid to make that leap,” Harker said. “When you know it’s right, take it.”

Queen Agboye, a second-year MBA student in the Lerner College, said Harker’s speech was inspiring.

“Listening to someone who moved from one field as a leader into another is quite a change and tells me that leadership is something that is in you,” she said. “It is not just a skill. It’s something that is built in you. Listening to him talk today reassured me that this is definitely something I want to grow into and learn from as I get on in the height of my career.”

The event also included panel discussions and workshops covering topics such as women in business, effective leadership strategies and navigating the changing job market. Various business leaders participated in the sessions including Bob Deutsch, chairman of the J.P. Morgan Exchange Traded Funds Board; Kevin Bannerton, partner of Total Bank Solutions, LLC; Carrie Leishman, president and CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association; Alfred Atanda, director of the Center for Sports Medicine at A.I. Dupont Hospital for Children; Echo Wang, producer of the Planet Money Podcast; Jill Gugino Pante, director of the Lerner College Career Services Center and Kyle Emich, assistant professor of management in UD’s Lerner College.

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