One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for August 26, 2015.
My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.
Today I had a conversation with another university’s president. We talked about searches that were taking place on his campus. He repeatedly wanted to know why he was finding his best leaders for various key positions from athletic circles. Former coaches, athletic directors, and athletic fundraisers were all moving up at his university. We talked about a skill set that people in athletics seem to get a grip on early and that is the ability to do relationships.
In the end that is what leadership is really all about relationships. Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. That means it is by nature relational. Today’s generation of leaders seem particularly aware of this because title and position mean so little to them. They know intuitively that people go along with people they get along with.
One leader from the athletic world that knows about the power of relationships is Kris Dunbar. I met Kris while we both served on the NCAA Management Council from 2011-2013. Kris is currently the Athletic Director Lake Superior State University a NCAA Division II member but they sponsor the sport of Ice Hockey on the Division I level.
For those of you that are challenged geographically Lake Superior State University is located in Sault Ste. Marie, MI. It is a town of about 14,000 people located on the upper peninsula of Michigan. The red push pin shows just how far north it is located. There is a bridge in Sault Ste. Marie that takes you across the St.Mary River into Canada.
If you want to learn about this unique city click on video link below:
So when my president friend mentioned to me it seems all his best leaders come from an athletic background I thought back to Kris and the challenges she has overcome. First off Kris is a female in an occupation that has far too few female leaders. There are 43 female athletic directors in Division II and 128 in Division III. Kris lives in a part of the country that has its challenges due to its remote geography. She also has to maintain sports in two NCAA Divisions. I like to think that the daily commitment to excellence that Kris lived with as a player, assistant coach, and head coach is the reason she was ready to lead. She learned all about relationships in those roles. They do transfer.
Kris had success as a coach at Lake Superior and that led to the opportunity she got to become an administrator. During her eight-year stint as head women’s basketball coach and senior women’s administrator, Kris led the Lakers to a 154-72 record, including five straight 20-win seasons and five straight NCAA Tournament appearances. She has more wins than any former or current basketball coach at LSSU. Dunbar was named GLIAC and Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year in 2002, and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Michigan College Coach of the Year in 2003. She was also named the GLIAC’s top coach in 2005 after winning her fourth straight GLIAC North Division title. She led the Lakers to GLIAC Tournament titles in 2003 and ‘04. The Lakers reached the NCAA Midwest Regional finals in 2004.
Kris is not the only female leader that comes out of upper midwest with an athletic background. Kris has a friend on the NCAA Management Council named Karen Stromme.
The Friend-KRIS DUNBAR
The Friend of the Friend-KAREN STROMME-picture with her husband Gary
Coaching and Ice Fishing
I have met some funny people in my life but Karen Stromme from the University of Minnesota at Duluth can hold her own with anyone. She can look at any situation and find a way to get people to laugh about it.
Karen is someone that I also got to know thru serving on NCAA committees. Karen was the chair of NCAA Management Council in 2014 and Vice-Chair in 2013. It was on the Management Council that I got to know her well.
Karen like her friend Kris Dunbar learned volumes about leadership thru coaching. The winningest coach in Minnesota Duluth basketball history, Karen spent 21 seasons directing the UMD’s women program before stepping down in May 2005 to take on a full-time administrative role in the athletics department.
She compiled a 440-184 overall record and posted 21 consecutive winning seasons while also guiding the Bulldogs to 12 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference titles, four of a possible five NSIC Tournament championships, eight NCAA II North Central Regional playoff berths and seven appearances in the NAIA National Tournament. The women is a winner.