Dr. Timothy William Quinnan
Union Institute & University’s historical commitment to ethical and creative leadership and the insights gained over the past 55 years as a leader in adult learning is the inspiration for the monthly series, Union Leaders.
This month we feature Dr. Timothy William Quinnan, the newly appointed president of Richmont Graduate University. Dr. Quinnan is one of a group of 26 Union alumni who are serving or have served as a college president. Learn more about Dr. Quinnan and his leadership skills in the Q&A below.
Q: How do you define leadership?
A: Leadership is the mindful use of persuasion rather than power to achieve a desired goal.
Q: When did you first feel that you were a leader? What was the experience?
A: It was in my late teens, particularly in athletic or social settings, that I first noticed others gravitating toward me for advice, support, and direction, even when there were other team captains or event coordinators. Back then, I wasn’t comfortable in the role and, in fact, tried to avoid it! Which is why it surprised me that I somehow succeeded in almost every instance that I led. In college, more co-curricular opportunities came my way and I began to embrace them, sensing that leadership might be an innate strength. Moving forward to the start of my career in higher education, I consciously, actively sought out opportunites. It was a recognition that I could never reach my professional goals without experiencing the rewards, challenges, and deep learning that attended leadership.
Q: Share an example of how you’ve put leadership in action.
A: I have long held that creativity is the soul of leadership, perhaps above all other factors. Consequently, I strive to promote work settings where innovation is prized as a means to enhance staff performance and organizational impact. An example would be the “Next Generation Initiatives” grant program I launched at the University of Texas at Arlington. Annually, we invited staff, faculty, and students to propose utterly new and experimental programs/services to improve student success by providing seed grants to pilot test them. Those demonstrating high impact were soon institutionalized as new, cutting-edge ‘best practices’ in our operations.
Q: What leader do you admire most and why?
A: Oh my, that’s impossible for me to answer. There are too many leaders I admire to choose one. For me, it’s more about the qualities displayed in life-defining moments or major crises and less about the entire resume of that person. That said, I tend to find historical figures the most compelling. Perhaps this stems from my aversion to a flood of contemporary experts who promise instant leadership success if one buys their book or attends their seminars. Maybe I’m an outlier but I still lean toward believing that leadership is more organic and less learned. Also, I’m awed by those who transformed the very nature of the fields they worked in, from politics, to the arts, to business. Only leaders who lift the worlds they inhabit to new and unprecedented heights have truly achieved their full potential.
Q: What is your favorite inspiring leadership quote?
A: “The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility” T.S. Eliot
Too many in positions of leadership forget how long it takes to get there and how easy it is to lose.