William Richardson (KIFP H), President and CEO, W. K Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, Michigan.
This article originally appeared in the September 2005 issue of the KFLA Newsletter.
Bill Richardson has been at the helm of the Kellogg Foundation for 10 years and will retire in December. His productive career essentially began, and now ends, with the Kellogg Foundation, while devoting three decades in between to working in health care research and higher education.
While a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, Bill was named a Kellogg Fellow starting in 1964.
”My whole life was changed by the experience,” he says. ”I was headed down one path, but with the mentoring of my Kellogg Fellow Program Director, Andy Pattullo, I began looking into health care for low-income people and went on to explore how institutions respond to disadvantaged populations.”
In leadership roles at the University of Washington, Pennsylvania State University, and as president of Johns Hopkins University and the Kellogg Foundation, Bill has been instrumental in defining critical issues to address in ways that draw people together.
”The issues must be framed in a way that people can find common cause,” he says. For example, ”In health care, you want to de-emphasize discussing Medicare for all versus a private health care system. You start by determining what are the elements of the system we wish to have. And then, lay out ways we can pay for the system and work toward establishing that system.”
Bill has been called upon to lead through a number of crises over the years. He advises:
-”Be completely honest in what is going on;
- Do not put off addressing the issue;
- Put together a team that will be the most effective in solving the issue; and
- To the degree it is appropriate, explain why what seems like a crisis today is actually going to turn out to be an advantage in the years ahead.”
His advice to aspiring leaders is: ”Think at least 10 years out and envision what the area you are working in ought to look like. Imagine what structural and interpersonal relationships need to be accomplished to get there. Next, determine where are the greatest points of leverage and do what you can do to make a difference. Then,” he says, ”test what you do in terms of whether you are making headway toward your vision.”