CSUN Luminaries Share Their Top Reads on Leadership

Leaders from across the California State University, Northridge campus gathered in the Grand Salon at the University Student Union on Feb. 23 to take part in the third installment of Read to Lead.

The panel discussion, which was hosted by CSUN Athletics and the Delmar T. Oviatt Library, invited campus leaders to speak about books that have played major roles in shaping their leadership skills.

Taking part in the panel were Oviatt Library Dean Mark Stover, Associate Vice President for Student Access and Support Services Dwayne Cantrell, President’s Office Chief of Staff Jill Smith and Men’s Basketball Head Coach Reggie Theus.

Stover began the event by speaking on his chosen book, The Road to Character by David Brooks. Stover said the book helped him reflect by showing him that personal failure is a necessary part of life, in terms of building character.

“[Brooks] demonstrates that failure can be a good thing by showing us famous writers, activists and military leaders who all did incredible things, but experienced massive failure along the way,” Stover said. “One of the virtues [Brooks] talks about is how we can never overcome failure on our own — we need others to help pull us out.”

Cantrell spoke about his daily commute from Bakersfield to Northridge, which left him with little energy by the time he got home from work. After reading The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon, Cantrell said he evaluated himself and realized that energy — positive and negative — can have a huge effect on those around him.

“We’ve all had those times where you’re in a meeting at work, and one person walks in the room and changes the energy in the whole room,” Cantrell said.  “What I started to do in the workplace was to create a low tolerance for negativity and do my best to bring positivity so people can enjoy going to work.”

Cantrell noted that since reading The Energy Bus, he’s been able to maintain his high energy outside the office by taking time on his long drive to appreciate the horizon and snow-capped mountains.

Smith began her remarks by explaining what leadership meant to her.

“I’ve always believed that leadership is a journey, not a destination,” Smith said. “Every day, there are new opportunities to do more.”

Smith, who chose It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership by Colin Powell, said she connected with the book because of Powell’s very honest and humble approach to leadership.

Powell, a four-star Army general and former Secretary of State, listed 13 rules in his book that all future leaders should follow. One of the rules in the book that resonated most with Smith was, “It ain’t as bad as you think — it will look better in the morning,” she said.

Theus referenced three books that helped shape him along his journey: The Pyramid of Success by John Wooden, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth am I Here For? by Rick Warren and Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson. Theus credited all three books with helping him find himself after his 14-year NBA career was over.

“These books became very important to me after I retired from playing basketball and was trying to figure out who I was without ‘NBA All-Star’ next to my name,” Theus said. “All three books, philosophically, talk about scripture and how your faith and your spirit is what helps you to become a leader.”

One of the characteristics Theus said all good leaders need to have is the ability to listen.

“I found when people know that you listen, they want to talk to you more — they know you’re going to look them in the eyes, and you’re going to feel what they are saying,” Theus said.

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