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Dr. Robert Head "Playing From Behind"

Dr. Robert Head came from humble beginnings, but his story is one of patient determination. Dr. Head was the first person from his family to graduate college and went on to serve as president of two Universities, Urbana University and Rockford University. Now, Dr. Head has published a new book chronicling the lessons he learned throughout his successful career in a book titled Playing From Behind.

The book draws its title from a study of college basketball done by two faculty members of Wharton School of Business who found that 60% of teams trailing by up to 4 points at halftime go on to win the game, illustrating that our perceived disadvantages can be transformed into motivational advantage. Dr. Head weaves his professional experience and personal insights together to vividly illustrate that playing from behind can lead to victory.

Through his authorship of Playing From Behind, Dr. Head reflected on the many people who have positively influenced him. While vice president of Benedictine University, Dr. Head had the privilege of meeting C. T. Vivian, the civil rights leader and key advisor to Martin Luther King. Dr. Head reflects, “his impact on me was so vibrant I begin the book by talking about my engagement with him.” Dr. Head now hopes to share his own wisdom with others. He points out that success can be measured in many ways, but a key indicator is your impact on others: “Recognizing we are the benefactors of men and women of courage, intelligence, and imagination, we must repay the debt by making lives better for those who come after us.”

His desire to be a positive influence is particularly heightened during this difficult time in our country. Dr. Head explains, “If you look at the core values of Americans, you would find that 80% of our values are absolutely aligned. There might be 20% we disagree on. If we spent more time upon our shared values and allowed that to lead to communication and collaboration, we’d be in a much better position.” From his experience in higher education, he knows that colleges will be called upon to facilitate conversations around these sensitive issues. Dr. Head notes that, “through focusing on common ground, we can create enough insights and understanding to have civil but crucial conversations around that 20% of differences we have between ourselves.” Playing From Behind includes a chapter that discusses the richness of diversity—and the challenges faced by minorities in America—with wisdom and candor. It’s a message that’s already resonating with audiences. Head has been contacted by leaders in education and business who have shared they are giving the book to leaders in their organization to provide a foundation for discussions around diversity.

Playing From Behind brings timely reflections on the obstacles to the American dream and the agency each person has to surmount them. Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search congratulates Dr. Head on the publication of this thoughtful work. We encourage leaders in higher education to check out the book (available here) and consider the ways it could be useful to foster discussion in your organizations.