Month of the Man: University of Maryland Athletic Director Talks Leadership and Diversity

Kevin Anderson details the x's and o's of success

University of Maryland's athletic director, Kevin Anderson (Image: Anderson)

BlackEnterprise.com presents Month of the Man, where we bring you career features, insights and advice tailored for male leaders of color all over the world.

The University of Maryland’s athletic director Kevin Anderson has more than two decades of leadership experience, and has been recognized nationally as a leader in intercollegiate athletics. Entering his fourth year at the University of Maryland, Kevin has led the Terrapins on a continued path of unparalleled success.

I had the great opportunity to visit with Anderson to discuss his leadership style, diversity and inclusion, and tips for future leaders in intercollegiate athletics:

What leadership qualities do young men need in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century?

I think it is vital to be a servant leader, and in serving those that you are leading, I believe in the old adage of leading by example. Character, belief and faith are all key components to leading others. Being comfortable and assertive in your belief system, but remaining open to change is also important. When I worked at the Xerox organization may years ago, I had a mentor that said you have to inspect what you expect, and I try to live each and every day by that.

When I began here, I had between 15 and 20 people in the room, and this covered all basis of the institution both internal and external. Early on, we struggled with with what our vision and mission was and how we were going to establish the pillars of our athletic department. So, I went around the room and asked everyone, “Why do you work here?” What came out of this was the student-athlete. Our reasons for coming to work everyday is to serve and develop the student-athlete. Our whole strategic plan started with ‘why.’

How do you create a culture where people buy in to your leadership system?

A couple of things: People have told me that I am demanding, but that I am fair. My leadership style, which I talk about with the entire department, is similar to when we are competing. There’s time and score. Whoever is in this organization should know what time it is and what the score is. So if you have to have a difficult conversation with them, it should not come as a surprise.

If it’s a surprise, it’s the leader who is not doing what he or she needs to do to develop a culture that people understand where they are and what they are doing. We do our jobs and constantly communicate the time and score with our people so there is alignment within the organization. I believe those are the best and most successful organizations.

How do we create a more diverse workforce in a more inclusive environment within intercollegiate athletics?

We live in a global society now, far different from when I was growing up. This country is truly more of a melting pot. The only way that you have diversity and inclusion is to live it and demonstrate it. You have to have people see it. If you are able to just do that it becomes common knowledge in your organization that you are going to hire the best people and have the best people look differently. We must be able to except our different experiences, from various situations in life and be able to share that and use that creative energy to be successful. There is nothing better for an organization than that.

What are three pieces of advice you can give to future leaders?

1.  Focus on long-term sustainability. There will be ups and downs within athletics at all levels. You may have 3-5 years when you are winning, and then go through a spell where you are struggling. There is always a way to have short term success but to build for long term success you have to focus on your passion for athletics and the success of the student athlete.

2.  Lead based on who and what you are, not on what people think. Stick to your core values and beliefs. Do not compromise your moral values, integrity and who you are to win. Winning and success is a byproduct of staying committed to who you really are.

3. Go beyond the X’s and O’s. Understand to the best of your ability the type of people you are building your team with. It begins at the top and trickles down to each department, each member of management, each coach and each player. The culture that is built displays itself on and off the court and between the lines of play. Often times this is where we really get to see what type of people we have, and the kind of student athletes we are developing.

Daron Pressley (@daronpressley) is an entrepreneur and former Fortune 500 sales and marketing executive who has been featured on outlets including Fox45 News, Black Enterprise magazine, and The Washington Post. Knowledgeable in marketing and branding, Pressley works with professional athletes, organizations, and individuals to develop strategies to create, build, and grow brands. As a speaker Daron has reached over 20,000 students, and provides dynamic insights on leadership and branding via his Website, DaronPressley.com.

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