What makes a good leader?
Departments throughout the university strive yearlong to foster excellence in every field for generations to come. The University of Colorado Boulder Alumni Association presented four individuals during a panel on leadership qualities at Folsom Field on Friday, Oct. 25.
Extreme skier and TV commentator Chris Davenport, Vail Mountain Senior Vice President and COO Chris Jarnot, CU ski team head coach Richard Rokos and CU freestyle ski team head coach Palmer Hoyt all shared their thoughts during the Back to Boulder Luncheon.
The two-hour panel in the large conference room on the club level of the stadium was part of a series of events organized by the Alumni Association for this years’ homecoming week.
Chris Davenport graduated from CU in 1993 with a degree in history before setting out to become the world’s best extreme skier. He was the first person to ski all of Colorado’s 54 fourteeners in less than one year in 2007 and has been featured in more than 30 ski film productions.
Davenport works as a mountain guide today, a job that brought him to the roof of the world – the summit of Mount Everest – in 2011. He used this episode of his action-packed life to illustrate his perception of leadership during Friday’s panel.
“There are four stages of risk management: avoid the risk, accept the risk, mitigate the risk or transfer the risk, which is just a fancy way of saying ‘You go first,’” he said. “Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith in order to be successful.”
As a leader, “you have to build up as much information as you can in order to make good decisions,” he said.
Before Davenport took the stage, Hoyt, Rokos and Jarnot had already talked about their approaches toward leadership.
Palmer Hoyt graduated from CU’s Leeds School of Business with a degree in finance in 2005. Instead of pursuing his original plan to move to London and to dive into the financial market, he chose powder snow and has worked as a freestyle skiing coach at CU ever since.
“Every one of us has the chance to be a leader, to guide other people,” he said.
Hoyt explained his three key principles of leadership with the help of three sticky acronyms: CARE, SMILE and WIN.
He said a leader needs to be compassionate, articulate, responsible and encouraging (CARE). A smile, for him, is the simple method inspiring learning effort. “When you smile, you let others know that you care,” he said. “Whenever I’m Needed” (WIN) is another principle he abides by.
University officials tried several times to recognize CU ski team head coach Richard Rokos for his excellence in leadership by nominating him as coach of the year. Rokos, a former member of the Czech military, declined every single time.
“It is my firm belief that I can do it, but I can’t do it alone,” he said, referring to the camaraderie between soldiers. Rokos has led CU’s ski team to seven national championships and 32 individual titles.
Chris Jarnot, senior vice president at Vail Mountain, is responsible for all operations at the Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts and needs his team every day in order to be a successful leader.
Jarnot said it is a daunting task to be willing to constantly elevate a business to growth, change and development while trying to overcome the obstacles the day presents you with. But he used filmmaker Woody Allen’s words to encourage young leaders to take small but consistent steps towards excellence.
“80 percent of success is just showing up.”
Contact CU Independent Guest Writer Lars Gesing at email@example.com.