02/18/2014 05:11 pm ET Updated Apr 20, 2014

Talking Leadership With Georgetown's President

John J. DeGioia became president of Georgetown University in 2001 after holding a variety of senior administrative positions at the institution, including senior vice president and dean of student affairs. DeGioia spoke about the challenges of leading a major university with Tom Fox, a guest writer for On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up their Center for Government Leadership.

Q. How would you describe your leadership style?

A. I aspire to a style of leadership that you would expect in a university, and that is a collegial style -- one that tends to be inclusive and seeks to ensure that we all understand that we are in this together.

Q. How do you maintain collegiality while making tough decisions that may upset some people?

A. There are three really important things. Leadership must consistently authenticate and validate the dialogue process that produces a coherent narrative about who we are, where we are, what the challenges are and what will be required of us to fulfill our promises. Second, every organization confronts constraints to its growth and development, and the responsibility of leadership is to ensure we identify those constraints and subordinate the work of the university to those constraints. And third, it's communicating widely and regularly about the narrative and about those issues that are really constraining us. Everybody needs to be aware of the forces that are impacting our ability to sustain our mission into the future.