Southeastern University welcomed another of the nation's most well-known political leaders to campus as the 2013 National Leadership Forum came to a close Friday afternoon.
Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice presidential nominee and Alaska governor, shared a message of hope and resilience as she spoke about the importance of Christians re-engaging culture and taking a stand for the principles on which the United States of America were founded.
"We can't allow the principles upon which this nation was found to be ignored or compromised," Palin said.
She credited Southeastern University for educating the next generation with a Christ-centered foundation. It's Christian morals and principles, Palin said, that will allow America to remain the greatest country in the world.
"Places like Southeastern University inspire me with a sense of hope and resilience, and I want to encourage you to keep up the good work," Palin said.
After her address, Palin sat for a conversation with Christina Gard, SEU's director of student mentoring and a professor in the College of Behavioral & Social Sciences. Gard asked Palin questions about, among other things, her mentors, her motivation, and the way her view of leadership has changed as she has risen the ranks of politics.
The day opened with AmyK Hutchens, CEO and intelligence activist of AmyK, Inc., and a former executive of a billion-dollar global company. She shared her passion for critical thinking and challenged leaders to raise the level of critical thinking in their organizations.
"Leadership happens one conversation at a time," she said. "You are responsible for the quality of that conversation."
Hutchens also outlined the four questions she believes are most important for an organization to ask:
Best-selling author and speaker Jon Gordon followed Hutchens and emphasized the power of positivity when it comes to leadership.
"Optimism is a game-changer," he said. "In business, it's a competitive advantage."
Gordon explained that research has consistently proven that positive leaders get better results than negative leaders. He used an illustration from his book The Energy Bus in saying that positive leaders are better able to get their team on the bus headed in the same direction. He also shared his Five C's that are key in developing positivity in an organization: culture, contagious energy, communication, coaching, and caring.
Dr. Dave Martin kicked off the afternoon session with a humor-filled and insightful overview of some of the traits in his book The 12 Traits of the Greats. He opened by asking forum attendees to repeat this phrase, "The rest of your life will be the best of your life," before explaining traits such as wisdom, responsibility, imagination, and focus.
"Little victories always lead to big successes," he said. "Keep a record of the little things you accomplish because all of that is leading you to where God wants you to be in the future."
He also encouraged leaders to always be learning something new.
"If you want tomorrow to be different than today, then learn something today to make tomorrow different," Martin said.
Phil Cooke, an author and speaker who has worked extensively in film production during his career, centered his message on influence, arguing that it is central to leadership. He said Christians must do better influencing the culture, but that influence must start on an individual level. Cook then laid out seven ways to increase influence, beginning with responsibility.
"You will never generate good ideas unless you take responsibility for your bad ideas," Cooke said.
His other six points were to embrace boredom, not be a jerk, simplify your life, discover your zone, discover your one big thing, and understand the power of your story. The idea of discovering your one big thing was the subject of one of his recent books, and he said the organizations that stand out in today's distracted culture are the ones that are extraordinary at one thing.
"Too many of us are following a dream that we're not wired to do," he said.