Using strategic partnerships to create lasting impact

Presidential Leadership Scholars Module Three recap

Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, felt like a perfect match for President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush when they were exploring where to build their library, museum, and foundation after their time in office – and it was a fitting backdrop for the Presidential Leadership Scholars to explore his values and leadership last month.   

The institution’s core values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service reflect those of the late president and first lady, said Andy Card, CEO of the George & Barbara Bush Foundation and former Secretary of Transportation, as he welcomed the Scholars for Module Three with a “howdy” from the entire George and Barbara Bush Foundation staff.  

Over the next two and a half days, the Scholars focused on strategic partnerships, a leadership skill that President Bush and his administration used to advance important policies and initiatives during his service.  

Strategic partnerships also remained one of the president’s leadership tools long after his time in office, Jean Becker, author and President Bush’s post-presidency Chief of Staff, told the Scholars. These included disaster relief fundraising efforts with other former presidents to the founding of Points of Light, an organization engaging a wide range of people to make a positive difference in the world.  

Becker also shared personal stories and memories from her time with the president with the Scholars.  

PLS faculty member Eva Chiang then led the Scholars in an engaging session on building, fostering, and even ending strategic partnerships to maximize results for both parties. She facilitated an exercise in which the group mapped their stakeholders using a metric based on their power, influence, and interest in moving an initiative forward. Here are some of the takeaways:   

  • Effective leadership requires strategic partnerships. 
  • Sustaining partnerships requires co-authoring. 
  • Be honest about your own strengths and weaknesses. 

The Scholars also had the opportunity to learn about partnerships from General Mark Welsh III, the 27th president of Texas A&M. 

“Figuring out who your strategic partners are is really important,” he said. “And once you figure out who they are, be sure to get to know them and foster the relationships.”  

Welsh noted that he’s a university president who didn’t come from academia, which gives him a unique perspective. His background presented both challenges and incredible opportunities. But he had confidence in his ability to lead the institution in the right direction.  

“Your confidence in yourself has to be stronger than your fear that people are going to disagree with you,” he said. “What you can’t afford to do is have your decision process impacted by the fear that people are going to disagree with you, because they always will.” 

The Scholars toured the Bush Presidential Library & Museum, the Bush Family Gravesite, and even had a chance to peek at the brand-new Marine One/4141 Locomotive Pavilion, which is scheduled to open to the public early this summer.  

For the final conversation of the week, Fred McClure, Chief Community Engagement Officer at Texas A&M and former Assistant for Legislative Affairs to President George H.W. Bush, also touched on relationship and partnership building.  

“It’s important to always have a level of integrity,” he said. “It’s important to protect it the best we can because that’s the way relationships are developed and nurtured and grown.” 

View photos from Module Three here. 

This month, the 2023 Presidential Leadership Scholars will travel to the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas to learn about decision-making.