Published: July 2, 2021 By

Several years ago, CU Boulder students started an ad campaign that grew into the Colorado Creed, a social responsibility code for the campus community. It reminds us to act with honor, integrity and respect. It compels us to be responsible for our actions, take accountability for our decisions and accept our differences.

The students’ vision remains today, evidence of the lasting impact of thoughtful leadership. The subject of leadership has been paramount recently. From COVID-19 to social justice and racism, the lack of recent leadership in the corporate sector, government, political system, nonprofits and, yes, education, will be felt for generations. 

In the face of these events, I have been thinking more than ever about leadership and what it takes to become and maintain being a good leader. Our collective mission is to positively impact humanity, so the stakes are high. 

But how do we build leaders in today’s world? Author Simon Sinek once said, “There are only two ways to influence human behavior: You can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” Our mission at the university is to cultivate leadership through inspiration.

That’s why we have researched and identified the traits of successful leaders across a variety of fields and developed an innovative curriculum to foster leaders for a changing world. 

CU Boulder’s Center for Leadership, established last year, combines 25 leadership programs from across the campus, including our athletics department, schools, colleges and graduate and undergraduate studies. 

By aligning our programs to harness expertise from throughout CU, we’re cultivating moral character and social duty and advancing innovative research on leadership. The vast majority of higher-education leadership offerings reside in business schools, but at CU Boulder we believe that leadership education must be ubiquitous.

Every societal challenge we face and every industry that can address these challenges requires the right leaders for the right moment. Universities can answer the call.

Philip P. DiStefano is the 11th chancellor of CU Boulder. He is the Quigg and Virginia S. Newton Endowed Chair in Leadership, overseeing CU Boulder’s leadership programs.


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Photo by Glenn Asakawa