In McCall Lecture, Hewitt examines leadership examples from political leaders

Communications Staff — November 10, 2014

20141106_5764Successful leaders need a strong will and disciplined life, said broadcaster Hugh Hewitt in the fourth annual Duke K. McCall Leadership Lecture at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Nov. 6. The lecture, Hewitt said, is important because of the mission of the seminary to send out leaders into the world with the Great Commission.

“I know what the mission of this institution is: it’s a volcano of leadership and it throws out leaders across the world,” he said. “Long it’s done that and long may it do so.”

McCall, the leader whom the lecture honors, was Southern Seminary’s seventh and longest serving president (1950-1982). Hewitt, a broadcast journalist and lawyer, hosts the Hugh Hewitt Show with more than two million listeners each week, lectured to the seminary community about the need for strong leaders in today’s society. He examined three leaders he esteems as important, and considered character qualities that he believes make each of the men good leaders. Hewitt knew some may not agree with him, so he asked the audience to suspend their judgments on the individuals he lectured about.

Early in his career, Hewitt worked on Richard Nixon’s writing staff. He noted that even though Nixon’s presidency ended with failure when he resigned following the Watergate scandal, he was able to provide counsel to world leaders up until his death. This, Hewitt said, exemplifies failures do not have to define a leader.

“There is no setback that is final; there is no permanent failure,” he said.

Hewitt, who also worked for President Ronald Reagan as assistant counsel in the White House and special assistant to two attorneys general, also discussed the leadership qualities of Chief Justice John Roberts, his officemate during his time with the administration. He praised Roberts’ humility despite the accomplishments and intelligence demonstrated by his work in the White House. Hewitt said Roberts showed courage and conviction in the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, an unpopular decision among conservatives.

“Leaders do what leaders have to do even when they know that those upon whom they’ve counted for support will not be there for them,” Hewitt said. “Leaders must be ready to get hit from behind.”

The third leader Hewitt examined was Mitt Romney, 2012 Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor. Although he disagrees with his Mormon faith, Hewitt described Romney as a man committed to his family and faith, emphasizing the importance of family in leadership roles. It is not inconsistent to live faithfully toward a family, Hewitt said, and Christian leaders need more of this in their lives.

“I’ve seen too many leaders lose their leadership because they first lost the love of their spouses and children,” he said.

Hewitt also offered students five practical tips for growth in leadership qualities: be physically prepared to endure the hardships that accompany leadership positions; spend ample time with spouse and family because leaders can never do it too often; read consistently and widely, both for growth and enjoyment; embrace social media with discipline and purpose; and be deeply involved with politics. He gave 10 suggestions for good citizenship, including several ways to support schools, politicians and community.

Hewitt closed the lecture lauding President George W. Bush and his leadership during and after his presidency. He illustrated Bush’s humble leadership with several stories including his private encouragement during his last week in office to radio talk show hosts to give his successor, Barack Obama, a chance as the new commander in chief.

“The best and worst thing about being a leader is you get to decide,” he said, emphasizing that the president, no matter who he is, makes difficult decisions on a daily basis that affect a whole nation, which is why it is important to cultivate good leadership skills.

Audio and video from the lecture is available online at

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