News and Events

On Campus: The impact of one

May 8, 2014

Written by Mark Keller, director of college advancement
Featured in"On Campus" in the Medicine Hat News

The name at the top of Medicine Hat College’s organizational chart will change in the next few days as we say farewell to our interim president this week while preparing to welcome our new leader a few days after that.

This is an important transition and the process is a good reminder of the impact and value of leadership in our organizations and communities.

Absolutely, it is fair to expect that the senior leader has significant responsibility for the organization they represent. After all, the person at the top often sets the tone and leads the agenda.

But I sometimes think that it is far too easy to place massive expectations on our leaders – on campus, in the city, or beyond – with the risk that we forget our own role in building the environment and outcomes we hope for.

I’m sure that on occasion we’ve all found ourselves affected by what I’ll call the, “They or We” syndrome. You know how this works. When you personally agree with a decision or direction or the company, the city or the country, the language you use to talk about it includes the word “we.”

For example, I’ve often found myself saying something like, “we just increased access to apprenticeship programs.” When I use that kind of language, I’m making myself part of the decision and happily accept at least some of the accountability for the results.

The obvious flipside might be, “they decided to remove some trees at the college.” This time the language – consciously or not -- is intended to separate myself from a decision and its consequences.

I’d be willing to bet that the organizational health of a company or college could be measured based on the language used at the water cooler or coffee pot. The more people attach themselves to the organization with the word, “we” the higher the rating. At the individual level, the use of “we” might also be a strong indicator for a sense of attachment and commitment to work.

For the record, I think Medicine Hat College is a “we” sort of organization. We do care about students, we do want to serve communities in the region, and we believe in the value of education. Our leaders, formal and informal, have all been part of this success.

It has also been a privilege to work with interim president Bob McCulloch for the past six months; his style has made “we” a very natural part of the campus vocabulary. And on May 15 we’ll welcome “our” new president Denise Henning. We have a lot to look forward to.

Visit to learn more about your college, contact Mark Keller with your questions at or follow him on Twitter @mark_mhc.

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