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Members of the Voinovich Future Leaders in Public Affairs with Sen. Voinovich

Senator Voinovich identifies empathy and listening as important qualities of leadership in interview with WOUB

Daniel Kington
October 27, 2015

On Tuesday, Oct. 6, WOUB’s Station Director Tom Hodson sat down with former Sen. George Voinovich to discuss leadership in front of an audience of faculty, staff and students in Baker University Center.

The formal portion of the interview lasted approximately 50 minutes, after which the audience was invited to ask questions of the senator. Questions in the formal interview varied from topics such as the effect of the length of presidential campaigns on American politics to what qualities make the best leader. Audience questions dealt with topics such as the war in Afghanistan, media biases, and the role of interpersonal relationships in politics.

Throughout the interview, Senator Voinovich stressed the values of empathy, listening and compromise, while affirming the government’s need to “Work harder and smarter and do more with less,” especially given the financial situation of the country.

“I always think it’s worthwhile to sit down and, you know, listen—and see what someone else is thinking about,” Voinovich said. “Hopefully, while you’re doing that, they might listen to you, and through conversation you’ll find there are some things you agree on that you didn’t really realize you agreed on… But I think you have to have empathy with the other side if you’re going to get anything done. I think empathy has got a lot to do with listening.”

Voniovich also called for more public-private partnerships to address the nation’s current problems.

Generally, these themes generated positive responses among audience members. Kristen Riley, a first-year MPA student, said she thought the senator’s most important insight was the need to “do more with less.”

“I think that’s what a leader needs to do right now, in the times that we’re in,” she said. “I think that’s the most effective way to lead the country.”

 Despite having political differences with the senator, Evi Roberts, another first-year student in the MPA program, said she still found his speech very valuable.

“Especially since I identify as a Democrat, to be able to hear a more moderate view from a Republican – who, in the media, is supposed to be kind of like an enemy, someone who is supposed to disagree with me vehemently – was very valuable,” she said. Roberts felt she was able to identify with many of his views and could “see his authenticity and his sincerity.” For her, the interview served as a reminder that “compromise and collaboration in Washington is possible and … that sometimes you don’t need to speak louder than everyone else just to be heard.”

Sen. Voinovich has, in addition to serving on the U.S. Senate, served as Governor of Ohio, Mayor of the City of Cleveland, Lt. Governor, Cuyahoga County Commissioner and Cuyahoga County Auditor. Voinovich retired from the U.S. Senate in 2011, and has since been named a Senior Fellow at Cleveland State University and an Ohio Visiting Professor of Leadership and Public Affairs at the Ohio University Voinovich School.

Read more about the Senator’s visit to Ohio University on WOUB’s website.