Alabama State University President Dr. Quinton Ross believes that to be a true leader, one must serve others first.
Ross delivered the keynote address Saturday during the second day of the 2019 Leadership Conference Celebrating African American History Month.
“If you can serve, you are a leader,” said Ross, the 15th president in ASU’s history. “It is not about having the title, it’s about the work that you do. That’s what we have to teach our young people, that we are not beyond doing the work.”
Serving others builds trust, and it’s trust that forms the hallmark of leadership.
“When you think about leadership, it’s a partnership with yourself and with others, and there has to be trust in that partnership,” Ross said. “It is trust that allows us to remove walls, remove barriers, remove friction between ourselves. Trust is essential for a flat world. If you run a company, you might have an IT guy, but the IT guy can make or break you. Is he just the IT guy to you or is he a valued colleague and coworker?”
Focusing on the students in attendance, Ross said building trust requires honesty and commitment to one’s vows.
“I tell my students you have two things, your name and your word, and if you can’t keep your word, then your name is no good,” he said.
Using the principles of good leadership, Ross said, can help lead America out of its current “racial discord and political divide.”
“I liken it to the immune system in the human body,” he said. “When we prevented people from voting we were sick. When we would not allow each other to go where we needed to go in life, it was an infection. The people — all of us — were the medicine that was needed in order to fight the infection. We can do that. And we’ve done it before.”
Ultimately, Ross said, true leaders need to have three things: integrity, good intentions and results.
“You have to make sure you produce results,” he said.
Prior to becoming the 15th president of Alabama State University, Dr. Ross had begun his fourth term in the Alabama State Senate, having first been elected in 2002. In 2015, he was elected as the first African American male to serve as Senate Minority Leader.