Martin Jischke

The 10th president of Purdue University talks about how leaders are made and explores his time as an educator and administrator.

Born or Made?

“The notion that leaders are in some sense naturals in it—you’re sort of born with the set of skills and it’s just a matter of time before they’re manifest—or not. I just resent that as an educator.”

Description of the video:

INTERVIEWER: I'm going to ask you one of our standard leadership question. She just cries out to be asked right now, do you think that leaders are born or made?

MARTIN JISCHKE: I think they're largely made. I believe that for a couple of reasons. One, I'm an educator and my soul. So the notion that you can learn things is absolutely fundamental to how I see the world. And the notion that leaders are in some sense naturals and it is sort of born with a set of skills and it's just a matter of time before their manifest or not. I just resent that there's an educator. And second, I think at the heart of the democracy is the notion that there's opportunity for everybody. And I also believe out, and thirdly, I think there are so many different ways you can show leadership, particularly in our very plural, pluralistic democracy. That I think there's leadership opportunities for everybody. But I also believe I would add quickly they have to be developed. And I'm a pretty strong proponent of that development, not being strictly theoretical or if you will, academic classroom kinds of experiences, at least for me, these very practical real life experiences of delivering newspapers and working in meat markets and grocery stores, and ultimately hiring people and firing people and being held responsible at a relatively young age, I think had a big influence on my ultimate development of both leadership interests and confidence and skill. So I'm a big believer in the experiences, but I, I think the notion that there's somehow a natural leader and it happens at birth are genetically, I think it's goofy.

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Leaders Are Readers

Books I Recommend

  • The Cremation of Sam McGee
    —by Robert Service
  • The Shooting of Dan McGrew
    —by Robert Service
  • Don Quixote
    —by Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra
    Fiction, Classics/Satire
  • A Thousand and One Nights
    —by Geraldine McCaughrean
    Fiction, Classics
  • Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman
    —by Merle Miller
    Non-Fiction, Biography
  • Truman
    —by David McCullough
    Non-Fiction, Biography

Find out more about what our leaders are reading