Dr. Anthony Clarke: Profile on Leadership

Union Institute & University’s historical commitment to ethical and creative leadership and the insights gained over the past 50 years as a leader in adult learning is the inspiration for the series, Union Leaders.

This month, we feature Dr. Anthony Clarke. Dr. Clarke is one of 27 Union alumni who have served as president of a college or university. Currently president of Southeastern Community College, he was recently appointed as the new president of Guilford Technical Community College. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a bachelor’s in general engineering and military studies. He earned his MBA from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of Louisville. His concentration for his Ph.D. at Union was in organizational behavior. View the list of Union’s notable alumni here.

After leaving the Army, Dr. Clarke spent several years in the corporate field before transitioning into higher education. He taught at Xavier University in Cincinnati and Gateway Community and Technical College in Kentucky before accepting a position as vice president and chief academic officer at Richmond Community College in Hamlet, North Carolina. In 2014, he was named president of Southeastern Community College.

In the Q & A below, Dr. Clarke discusses his views on leadership.

How do you define leadership?

Leadership ranges from collaboration to giving direction. It is the ability A to get B to do something they might not otherwise have done. Some people are uncomfortable with this definition as it is Dahl’s definition of power. Many people think of leadership as positive motivation, but I like this definition because it is neutral in that leadership is exercising power that can be used for good or evil.

Share an example of how you’ve put leadership in action.

The college’s strategic plan is an example of putting leadership into action. The plan took many months and many people collaborating to put the plan into action.

What leader do you admire most and why?

The leader I admire most is James Wolfe, the commander of the British army at the capture of Quebec from the French in 1759. That victory led to British supremacy in Canada. (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica). Although he died at the battle, he solved a difficult problem through persistence and dedication and epitomized selfless service by giving his life and exclaiming, “I die happy,” once he realized his army had won the battle, while he perished on the battlefield.

What is your favorite inspiring leadership quote?

My favorite leadership quote is by Major General William C. Lee when the 101st Airborne Division was activated. The division would play a major role in WWII during the Normandy landings and the Battle of the Bulge. He wrote that the division “has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny”. To me, this quote is inspirational because I think of my leadership experiences as a series of rendezvous with destiny. I must be willing and able to face tough decisions and do the right thing when big decisions have to be made and when you must stand up and do what is appropriate.

When did you first feel that you were a leader? What was the experience?

The first time I felt like a leader was in high school. I was captain of the cross country team and one of my fellow runners had no plans for college after graduation. Every day as we ran we would discuss various situations. One day his mother came up to me and thanked me. She said that because of me her son was now going to college. I had influenced my friend and didn’t realize I was doing so. That is when I realized someone was following me.


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