Dr. Wakimoto’s Lessons in Leadership

January 7, 2019 · 0 comments

“One of you is likely to be standing here someday replacing me, “ AMS President Roger Wakimoto told the assembled 600+ attendees of the 18th AMS Student Conference Saturday morning in Phoenix.

The students looked at each other in the North Ballroom, but nobody could figure out who he was talking about. And neither could Dr. Wakimoto.

“Everyone is capable of being a leader,” he explained. “It’s whether or not you want to grasp the opportunity.”

For Wakimoto, who now serves as Vice-Chancellor for Research at the UCLA, this is wisdom grasped from life experience.

“As a student I was never chosen to lead anything,” the famed severe storm researcher told the students. “When they selected basketball teams, I was always the last person they would have selected.”

But at key moments in his life, enough people recognized Wakimoto’s capabilities even when he did not. Wakimoto didn’t plan to go to graduate school, but a professor “yanked me aside and told me it would be an incredible waste if I didn’t.”

Then, while comfortable in the academic enclave of his research at UCLA, people pushed him to try a leadership role, first at NCAR and then the National Science Foundation.

Wakimoto, who had to step suddenly into a now-finished two-year tenure as AMS President with the death of Matthew Parker, expressed the lessons of leadership in three simple words: transparency, integrity, and engagement.

The rest is unpredictable. “Forecasting the weather is easy; forecasting your future is impossible.”