Dr. Suarez’s and The Leader of One
Tuesday, 10:45 am
Van Munching Hall
Upon entering the lecture hall, Dr. Suarez immediately throws down the gauntlet. He challenges the class, “Who here will compete with me in an arm wrestling contest?” The mood is curious, and the class remains quiet at first. However, a champion soon emerges in Danny Laurence (Q19). Danny, a former shot put All-American, makes his way towards the front of the class, and the odds look stacked in his favor.
As the pair lines up wrists, Dr. Suarez shoots a mischievous grin…
Dr. Suarez: “Danny are you ready?”
Danny: “Yes Dr. Suarez, I am ready.”
Dr. Suarez: “Are you sure Danny?”
Danny: “I am sure.”
Dr. Suarez: “Ok, so who will say go? This is very important.”
Cat Ashley (Q19): “I can do it.”
Dr. Suarez: “ Ok Cat, when you are ready…”
Danny quickly slams down Dr. Suarez’s hand.
Dr. Suarez: “I win, but lets play again.”
Danny repeatedly slams down Dr. Suarez’s hand, and Dr. Suarez repeatedly “Wins.” However, soon the pattern changes, and the two are slamming each other’s hands like a pendulum. Point by point, they accelerate until they both reach exhaustion.
The Great Theater
Watching the arm wrestling contest that day, I sat engaged but a bit dumbfounded. Luckily, Dr. Suarez’s explanation soon alleviated my confusion. Rather than winning a point when one slammed his opponent’s hand, this competition granted a point to whomever had his hand slammed. Hence, why Dr. Suarez initially kept pulling Danny’s hand down on his. Furthermore, while we believed only Dr. Suarez or Danny could win, in fact, they could maximize their respective point totals by working together. In this instance, Dr. Suarez encouraged us students to challenge our preconceived notions of competition. Rather than let competitiveness restrict our potential, we were urged to create systems that enabled us to maximize both our success and the success of others.
While this lesson remains one of the most memorable for me personally from Systems Thinking (BMGT390), the experience is in no way an outlier for the course, as many will attest. Whether recounting tails aboard Air Force 1, discussing sessions with Fortune 500 executives, or even recollecting experiences with former QUEST students, Dr. Suarez routinely transforms his classroom into a theater for innovative ideas and personal inspirations.
Leader of One
Finally, prompted by students and colleagues alike to codify his teachings, Dr. Suarez has published his first book, Leader of One. Although initially composed utilizing the back of napkins and voice recordings in the car, the book provides an unparalleled, holistic vision of Dr. Suarez’s ideas and philosophies. Chronicling his work with great thinkers like Russell Ackoff and W. Edwards Deming, experiences in Clinton and Bush administrations, and time as Executive Director and professor of the QUEST Honors Program, Leader of One immediately transports the reader back into Dr. Suarez’s theater in Van Munching Hall.
I spoke to Dr. Suarez and asked, “Who is the Leader of One?”
“The title came about from a realization that we are accountable for ourselves, that, at a minimum, we need to lead our way into the future that we want. In my corporate experience, government experience, and as a coach of executives, I hear all the time the notion of “somebody should do something about it.” We begin to delegate that notion of responsibility and accountability, to take action, to people in positions of power or rank. The theme that began to emerge was that we can lead from where we are, and to mobilize others into action we must first mobilize ourselves. The book takes the approach that we begin with ourselves and then we begin to influence those around us, to steer them and to tap into their expertise to advance causes that are greater than any one individual. And the purpose of leadership is to pursue causes that are bigger than any one person—I begin with the person, then the team, then others. The leader of one is the process of first, self-awareness, self-discovery, reconnecting with our aim, our intent, our desires; and then inspiring others to join us and shape the future!” — Dr. Suarez
Leader of One is sure to capture the hearts of readers looking to reconnect with their core values and reflect on ways to shape their future. QUEST students should be warned, however, you may just cross a story or two from your time in the program.