As the chief of staff and director for Hispanic outreach for the Division of Inclusion and Equity, Julio Hernandez provides counsel, leadership and support to the University while fostering an inclusive environment for Hispanic/Latinx students, faculty and staff. As a member of the fourth cohort of the President’s Leadership Institute (PLI), Hernandez recently took time to reflect on his style of leadership and what motivates him through his position at Clemson University. Hernandez needed only to look to the shelves in his office in Brackett Hall and how he’s created a grounded workspace for direction.
When anyone visits my office, I want to cultivate a sense of optimism within the space I’ve created at Clemson. On the many days it’s just me here, I want to be motivated by my surroundings. It’s for this reason I have intentionally surrounded myself with “touchstones” to keep me grounded. Whether it is the pictures of many unsung heroes who paved the way for me, the books lining my shelves or the items around my office, these important artifacts remind me how grateful I am for the opportunity to serve Clemson.
There’s a picture of my Mom here. In the picture, Mom is at work, dressed in her custodial uniform with the Clemson Tiger banner in the background. When I see Mom’s picture, I remember the challenges I faced, her sacrifice and the great rewards that came along the way to get here.
Mom has a fourth-grade education. But I would not be where I am without her. Through the example Mom set, I have seen first-hand the vision she fueled with her courage, hard work, commitment and passion. Because of warriors like her, I am at Clemson today. Thanks to Mom, I am able to serve others as they work to make their own dreams a reality the same way she did for me.
Growing up, I recall Mom’s encouragement to continue learning, to live my values and to let love have the last word. My Mother’s example reminds me how leadership is not about the position one has; instead, it’s about having the right attitude. Everyone can be a leader if they have the right mindset.
Beside Mom’s photo are an array of books. Reading and incorporating what I learn into my own experiences keeps me grounded as my career progresses. What I choose to read exposes me to diverse perspectives of leadership, diversity, inclusion, innovation and strategy.
To achieve the right mindset, exploring other diverse perspectives is paramount.
One of the books provides a quote that is particularly meaningful to me and provides a humble reminder. I don’t have to open the book and read MLK’s speech to know that King said, “May I stress the need for courageous, intelligent, and dedicated leadership . . . Leaders of sound integrity, leaders not in love with publicity, but in love with justice. Leaders not in love with money, but in love with humanity. Leaders who can subject their particular egos to the greatness of the cause.”
All the books in my office serve as a reminder to challenge myself on a daily basis. What I am doing to plan for people’s success on Clemson’s campus? Do I have a sense of urgency? Am I thinking BIG? How can I show proper leadership? Am I making a difference?
These questions motivate me to best serve our University’s students, colleagues, and surrounding communities.
A small plaque on my desk under the computer monitor is visible at all times as well. It reads “If SERVING is beneath you, LEADERSHIP is beyond you.”
This simple reminder warns me about the danger of missing important concepts about leadership if I don’t make it about people and the sacrifices needed for the greater good.
What contributions am I am going to make today? Am I keeping my ego in check? This line of questioning allows me to reflect on our positions at Clemson. It’s not about how fancy our job titles are; rather, we should remain focused on making a difference and providing a type of impact that improves the lives of all those around us.
As I continue growing at Clemson, new touchstones are added to continue cultivating the space I wish to create. A recent addition is a journal — a gift from the President’s Leadership Institute that includes the leadership reflections of President Jim Clements and other members of my PLI cohort.
Being a member of The President Leadership Institute has been a gift, and I value every moment of this incredible journey.
As I look around my office and see the picture of Mom, the books lining the shelves, the plaque on my desk and the new PLI journal, I stop and think. As long as I stay grounded and true to the type of leader I want to be, I know the best is yet to come.
Julio Hernandez serves as the chief of staff and director for Hispanic outreach for the Division of Inclusion and Equity at Clemson University. Hernandez provides executive-level counsel and analysis to the chief diversity officer regarding decisions to be made or problems to be resolved. In addition, he provides leadership and support to the entire university on inclusion and equity matters regarding the recruitment, retention, advancement of Clemson’s faculty, staff and students and for fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for Hispanic/Latinx students, staff and faculty.
The President’s Leadership Institute is a nine-month leadership development program designed to support and develop professional and personal leadership within a diverse and inclusive community of faculty and staff at Clemson University. The institute will enable Hernandez and other participants to build individual effectiveness, understand the power of critical thinking and communication, learn directly from President Jim Clements and embrace their own ability to lead within the Clemson community. Each cohort consists of 25 faculty and staff members nominated by University leadership. Learn more.
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