The Art of Developing Leaders at LSU

Although many students view leadership as a personality characteristic or ability that cannot be developed, Daniel Whitman, Associate Professor in the Rucks Department of Management in the E.J. Ourso College of Business, describes it as something that can absolutely be improved, no matter the person.

“We all have certain styles of leadership that work well for us, but maybe not so well for other people,” Dr. Whitman said about leadership development. “The challenge is for each of us to find that ‘best way.’ The best leaders don’t all lead in the same way. What they do have in common, though, is that they all have developed themselves and know exactly who they are.”

Dr. Whitman explains that the “people who are self-reflective and have looked deeply within and challenged themselves are the best leaders – they’re confident in who they are and authentic in the way they lead.”

One of the driving forces of the new LSU Strategic Plan 2025 is leadership. When asked what Dr. Whitman considers to be the most important factor of being a good leader, he answered without hesitation “treating people fairly.”

“Fairness creates trust as well as the belief among employees that the playing field is level,” Dr. Whitman said. “This creates an atmosphere where hard work is valued because opportunities come fairly to all.”

Leadership is an important part of LSU’s rich heritage as it supports the ideals we value as a campus community. Those ideals, such as being collaborative, culturally adept, creative, transformative, globally engaged, and innovative, must constantly be discussed and emphasized if they are to remain such a strong part of our culture and legacy. Dr. Whitman provided ways in which the values outlined in the Strategic Plan 2025 could be reinforced to students.

“I believe the best way to track or identify performance is to define it and then measure it,” Dr. Whitman continued. “What does it actually mean to hold these values on campus and what does it mean to portray them once you leave LSU? Students would then be able to question themselves more clearly on those types of behaviors – have I been more collaborative? Am I able to become more transformative? What ways can I become more globally engaged?” 

Dr. Whitman continued to say this is why people love LSU—collaboration, creativity, and other values outlined in the Strategic Plan 2025 are treasured greatly at LSU.

After earning his degree in Psychology at the University of Georgia, Dr. Whitman decided to specialize and earn his PhD at Florida International University in Miami, FL.  Dr. Whitman focused on Organizational Psychology, which he describes as “the psychology of the workplace.” After earning his PhD, he came to LSU because of its status as a flagship research institution.

“I came to LSU because I wanted to work at a big time research institution,” Professor Whitman said. “LSU is a bubble of smart, curious, and interesting people working toward the same goal of advancing knowledge.”

Dr. Whitman’s greatest professional accomplishment occurred just recently when he was promoted to Associate Professor and granted tenure here at LSU.

“This is not because of the obvious reasons, but for what it means,” Dr. Whitman said about being granted tenure. “LSU committed to me for a lifetime, and that is extremely humbling to think about. So I want to reciprocate that. It makes me want to do good things for this school.” 

Dr. Daniel Whitman has been with the LSU E.J. Ourso College of Business since August 2010. He conducts research on leadership and teams, and teaches courses on international management, organizational behavior, and human resources in the Rucks Department of Management. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, playing music, and cooking.