April 18, 2016, by Anthony Casaus, Assist. Dean-Development, via email
New Mexico State University President Garrey Carruthers spoke to College of Business Ambassadors on Wednesday, April 13, 2016. Carruthers spoke to the Ambassadors about the signs of leadership he took note of from his experiences throughout his illustrious career.
Carruthers explained he started to observe leadership qualities while he was a White House Fellow in Washington D.C., serving as special assistant to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz from 1974-1975 during the Richard Nixon/Gerald Ford presidency. Ford had taken over the presidency from Nixon due to the Watergate scandal. While serving as a White House Fellow, he and 14 other fellows had the pleasure of listening to former Nixon cabinet member, Secretary of Commerce, Peter Peterson.
It was then, Carruthers took note of the first leadership sign he would adhere to throughout his career. Peterson pointed out in order to be a leader, you must be “Travelin’ light;” e.g., leaders shouldn’t do anything illegal, immoral, unethical, and have any baggage. Carruthers embraced this leadership message as he wound up coming back to New Mexico and co-chaired the Gerald Ford campaign for President in Doña Ana County while he was a faculty member at NMSU.
Due to his success in Doña Ana County, he would then go on to become the state chair of the Republican Party of New Mexico from 1977 to 1979. Upon his election as the 27th Governor of New Mexico in 1986, Carruthers found an opportunity to bring his signs of leadership to life that had grown since his days as a White House Fellow.
Carruthers became aware of the Corrections Industries, whose inmates in New Mexico built wooden signs and furniture. He took his list of notes on leadership and had the inmates in the New Mexico prison system create wooden signs for him. The leadership signs have since transitioned to appear in PowerPoint format; however, the message behind each sign is just as powerful for him today as it was when he first heard it.
The Signs of Leadership by President Garrey Carruthers:
- There they go — I must hurry and catch them — for I am their leader!
- Travelin’ Light.
- What is it about the word “No” you don’t understand?
- Remember Rule Six.
- It ain’t that I’m wiser — it’s just that I have spent more time with my back to the wall.
- There is no substitute for incomprehensible good luck.
- Yesterday is something I never thought of trying.
- I’ve seen a lot of forests but I have never seen a tree.
- I hear the sound of distant drums.
- The first law of wing walking: Never leave hold of what you have hold of until you have hold of something else.
- No man holding four aces howls for a new deal.
- What we did together beats anything I’ve done alone.
- You can’t lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.
- Ride for the Brand!
The messages behind the signs allude to walking among the people working together as a precision team: Be a visionary for your team to carry out goals and objectives with confidence; Ride for the brand, a reference to the Cowboy Code of Ethics.
Carruthers added, “if you fail in character, you fail in leadership.”
The list of leadership signs continues to guide him as the 27th President of New Mexico State University just as they did while he served as the 27th Governor of New Mexico and when he first heard former Secretary of Commerce Peterson say in the 1970s — you must be “Travelin’ Light.”