Advice and Whiskey with Clif Smart

Missouri State University President Clif Smart is one of the most popular faces in local education, but he hasn’t always been in the field. We sat down at MudLounge Coffee & Cocktails to talk about the importance of lifelong learning and to learn the lessons he carried with him through a career.

Clif Smart thinks establishing relationships, especially with those who have a different expertise from you, is vital for success.

“I’ve really come to, in the last couple of years, appreciate how important it is to treat people in the way you want to be treated, or maybe more importantly in the way they want to be treated. That’s true in all realms of life and relationships, including people you work with and that work for you. I have come to believe that tone and style and caring for, being empathetic to, others is a really important character trait, and it also makes you a better leader and boss. It’s much easier to bring people along who want to come along, who are excited to be a part of the organization.”

“When I have an opportunity to hire a senior leader, their tone and style for me are the most important things over how long you’ve been doing this, what your degree is in, what your particular expertise is. Because I always think if you have the right tone and style and some general leadership experience and ability, then we can teach you the substantive part.”

“I think it’s really important that the CEO and chief financial officer have a great relationship and spend real time working together and use those people who have an understanding of the numbers—you need to interact with them until you understand them just as well as they do.” 

“Life is about relationships. Never burn bridges—the more relationships you have the more opportunities you have. And if you don’t have those relationships, then it’s a mentor who can help you begin to establish them for yourself.”

“You know, 10 years from now, a third of the jobs are going to be jobs that don’t exist now. So, we’ve got to figure out ways that universities can continue to be relevant to people throughout their lives. How do they continue to get meaningful knowledge and continue to advance in their careers as their careers change? I really do think lifelong learning is absolutely critical in the world we’re living in now, and I also think all universities are going to have to do a better job of helping professionals.”

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January 2018

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