The books lie scattered across the kitchen floor and ooze toward the hallway like soap bubbles running out of the bathtub and merrily wending their way toward their final destination. Each book is marked in some way: some are underlined extensively; others have dog-eared pages; some have pieces of paper hanging out in various places. These books are treasured; they are the ones with the bookmarks.
The bookmarks are not significant in and of themselves. Most are “scrap” paper: old assignments from students or left over grocery lists. The pages quickly bent back are bookmarks too, as are the notes scribbled in the margins and the phrases hurriedly underlined. But each kind of bookmark is noteworthy. Together, they speak of a task not quite finished, or of significant moments of self-revelation, or of glimpses into the mind of great thinkers. These are the bookmarks of my journey the last year.
My vision statement details my early recognition of my abilities as a leader. But the statement ends where the leadership program begins. We have been told that our final synthesis paper is to be a kind of bookend: The vision statement is the defining “beginning,” so to speak, and the synthesis paper is to tell where the program has brought us and has thus been referred to as the “bookend.” I, however, respectfully wish to use the analogy of a bookmark to define where I am right now as compared to where I was when I began the masters in leadership program just 11 months ago.
What began as a way to earn my masters without having to leave home for long period of time and without adding tremendously to my already full workload has changed significantly as the leaves of this year’s book have turned from one season’s chapter to another. I have realized some of my inherent strengths, but have also identified areas where I would like to improve, not only in my leadership skills, but in my relationships at home as well– something that Goleman would see as highly congruent with research into Emotional Intelligence and leaders.
What book titles would demonstrate the abilities I had before beginning this
program, or recognized for the first time during this program, or strengthened
throughout this year? If my bookshelf was a story of my life right now, one
section might be filled with titles like these:
§ A Visionary: A Story of a Woman Who Looks to the Future to See How to Act in the Present in Order for the Future Vision to be a Reality
§ Real People: Individuals Who Live Lives That are True to Their Emotional Selves
§ Your Natural Energy Level and How it Helps You Lead Effectively
§ Connecting the Dots: Leaders Who Apply New Knowledge to Past Theory and Integrate all Knowledge into Current Practices
§ Living Lives of Integrity in the New Age: Leaders Who are Willing to Stand for Right Though the Heavens Fall
§ Effective Communicators in the Educational Field
The qualities in these books describe things I have realized or confirmed about myself. In reading the actual leadership books—the ones with the literal bookmarks and titles, I have come to learn that these are good qualities for a leader to exhibit.
But there is another part of my life’s library that has books with different
titles, titles such as these:
§ How to Implement Your Leadership Knowledge Into Your Relationships at Home
§ Knowing How to Let Go: A Practical Manual for Leaders
§ Confronting Unethical Leaders in the Most Effective Yet Kind Way
§ Learn to Say No
These books would represent subject areas that I have realized need additional
work. But these are not real books I can learn from; they are simply metaphors
for competencies I see as less than stellar. As a driven person, I desire to
do the best I can in each area of giftedness with which I have been blessed.
Fortunately, there ARE real books that can help me increase my abilities and
understanding in these areas.
What have these books—the real leadership books—taught me along the way? How have they contributed to where I am in life right now? How have they contributed to my competency as a leader? Where will they take me in the future?
I believe the book that impacted me the most during these past 11 months would have to be Clifford Goldstein’s God, Gödel, and Grace. While the reading was not easy, the message was profound. During a difficult time in our family’s life, this book sunk my theistic roots into an ever-deepening foundation. Goldstein’s book, with its introduction to the wild, weird world (www?) of quantum physics, was the perfect introduction to another incredible book (which I have not yet completed): Wheatley’s Leadership and the New Science. I expect this book to have a similar impact, but without the incredible faith-strengthening aspect. Next in line would be Sire’s The Universe Next Door. During LEAD636, I thought my head would burst from trying to wrap my brain around existentialism while trying to “be” Heidegger. In the end, however, I was extremely thankful for the experience, for when many of my classmates espoused theistic existentialist leanings in their worldview papers, I had at least a glimmer of information with which to challenge their thinking—since it didn’t appear to match up with what I knew about them through their discussion on the forum and what I had learned about existentialistic beliefs.
Interestingly enough, a tidbit from Alaby’s dissertation had a significant impact on me. Alaby introduced me to the term “praxis,” which described what I felt I had been doing most of my life as a parent, a leader, and a teacher. I have read and listened to theory (in the form of practical advice from wise parents; good counsel from excellent teachers and mentors; theoretical knowledge from the pen of researchers, scholars, theologians, and the like), evaluated the theory based on my theistic worldview, as well as my previous experience, attempted to implement the theory, and evaluated the resulting effects. Then, I have taken what has worked in my practice and held that up to the theories – both new and old – to see how theoretical knowledge stands up to practice…and vice versa in a never-ending pendulum. Since learning the term “praxis,” I have been able to share it with others in various situations as I go about my tasks as a leader (parent, teacher, church leader, community member).
The idea of “praxis” brings me to another book that is significant in my path of learning this year. I would dare say that a person with a high “Emotional Intelligence,” or “EI,” would desire to have a strong base of praxis as he/she discovered the emotional reality in their “tribe,” and then seeks to find solutions in theory (emotional intelligence competencies) to strengthen the group and create an atmosphere where change – and success—can occur. The pendulum would swing back and forth from finding what is WORKING (or in many cases, NOT working) to implementing theory, and then from new realities based on the application of theory to new theories. It is little wonder that the field of leadership continues to grow. The number of possibilities for successful leader/follower combinations is endless. The process of building a resonate atmosphere in which all members of a group can thrive would be different in every organization because each group has it’s own emotional foundation. It would be safe to say that while Goleman doesn’t seem to mention the term “praxis” in his book, the ideology contained in Primal Leadership supports that concept.
While I enjoyed reading Sire’s The Universe Next Door and Gaandner’s Sophie’s Choice, and found Stevenson’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Philosophy to be simple to understand (unlike Goldstein’s book), my favorite book among these three was Sire’s. As I have read subsequent books, and even listened to current events and theories roaming about the airwaves, I have been able to connect these to worldviews to current thought in a way that I never could before. In fact, prior to reading all of these books, I had little knowledge of any worldview outside of theism and New Age (which I have studied previously). I now believe that each subsequent worldview past theism has been some method for people to feel good about what they are doing, without being accountable to any God that has a metanarrative. In other words, be able to do as we please while often professing a belief in a God who loves us – but who couldn’t care less what we do with ourselves.
The last book that has profoundly affected me is Harari’s Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell. I have been an admirer of Powell for some time now, and reading about his methods and theories has been inspiring. Powell is a man of integrity, a leadership trait that is pretty much universal (Wren and Yukl both have numerous places in their books where integrity is mentioned as a strong and necessary leadership trait; see reflection sheets for LEAD638 for a more detailed discussion on integrity). This quality is fundamental to who I am as a person and a leader.
The leadership program has identified six core competencies that they feel are significant for any leader to possess. Throughout the course of a participant’s involvement in the leadership program, the competencies are to be developed, strengthened, and backed by theorists. Books are to be read; seminars are to be attended; regional groups are to be utilized and maximized. Throughout each experience a participant encounters (be it through reading, listening, cooperating, mentoring), connections are to be made to his/her own leadership experience. In order for me to accurately describe where my personal bookmark is, I need to portray at it through the lens of the competencies and how this leadership experience has molded and changed me in these specific areas.
I began the leadership program as a nominee for teacher of the year for the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. My abilities as a teacher were being recognized by others in my field as well as by my students and their parents. How, then, have I been changed as a teacher by my experience in the leadership program?
My theory of excellent teaching was challenged first by something Dr. Tucker discussed during one of his sessions in orientation. He talked about a theory of three elements necessary for good performance: Time, quantity, and quality. While the application was made to production of some commodity, I made a significant and lasting connection to my teaching. As soon as school started, I discussed this theory with my students. “There are three elements we will look at as we deal with assignments in this class: Time, quantity, and quantity.” We then went on to talk about due dates, communication with the teacher if the student needed more time to be able to produce the quality desired, or the quantity required. Then, throughout the year, as students would ask for exceptions to or extension of due dates, we would go back the theory and make application of it to the present circumstance.
Other applications I have made of theory to my practice as an effective teacher have been in actual content of what I have presented in my role as an educator. As we discussed deism in our reading of world history, and later as we talked about New Age, I was able to utilize additional insight I had gained from Sire, Goldstein, Stevenson, and Gaarner as I helped my students apply our yearly theme, “Buck the system: Go light your world!” to everything they read or were exposed to. I have always believed that it is much more important to help students discover and assimilate broad concepts rather than minute details about any given subject, and to view everything to which they are exposed through the lens of God’s word and what it means to them. After being exposed to these theories (theism, deism, naturalism and its extreme nihilism, existentialism, etc.), I had new insight to share with my students and a stronger basis for my own belief.
Because I believe an effective teacher should always be looking for new ideas to keep his/her instruction fresh and relevant, I am excited to learn more about Wanner’s theories in On With the Story as I complete that book. Again, I will take what I learn, turn it over in my brain, look for connections to my own practice, and modify my practice as necessary and expedient. Then, as I try out this idea, I will modify my own theory – which may be very close to the original theory – and put this new theory into action in further practice. The theories described in On With the Story align perfectly with what I already believe about learning theory, based on Glasser and McCarthy’s work, which in a nutshell is that students learn better when content is made relevant to them. I have already experienced the excitement generated when students have a chance to view the content through their own eyes. I often have my students journal as if they were involved in the history they are reading. For instance, this year they journaled as if it were the current date, but that everyone had projected that Jesus was going to come the day before. How did they feel? Was their faith shaken? Were people treating them differently today than they did yesterday? Here is the journal prompt for another journal entry: You are a Chinese student in studying in Beijing. You have been listening to some student speakers talk about their complaints with the current political system and their thoughts for change. It's now June 4, 1989, and you are part of a rally in Tiananmen Square. Write about what the speaker has been saying and what happens today in the Square. (To be able to effectively journal today, you will need to have read chapter 33 in your history book, and you may want to do an additional amount of research.) The students were asked to journal as if they were a soldier in the German army, or as if they were present when Ellen White gave a challenge for youth to study languages in order to prepare for foreign mission service. In most cases, their journaling was also an assessment because their reflections would indicate whether they had read the assignment material or not. In this manner, as an effective teacher I was able to raise the level of interest of my students in the subject matter. While I may have had some instinctive ideas as to how to get students involved in their learning process, my reading of Glasser and McCarthey gave a foundation of structure and research to my ideas. (By the way, I did receive the "Teacher of the Year" award in the fall of 2003.)
As a leader, I have been instrumental in small and large changes. Perhaps the most significant thing I have done throughout my experience in the leadership program in the area of being a change agent is to work on the Adventist LEAP proposal. In more than one instance, I was able to immediately utilize information I was reading from Wren and Yukl as I presented this new idea to important potential “players.” (See Reflections for LEAD638.) As a change agent, I organized material, effectively communicated information to appropriate and influential individuals, and perhaps most important, researched information to document my findings and beliefs. The research I did preliminarily in this area was able to communicate a sense of urgency (Kotter) to the greater group of individuals who would potentially work on this project, thereby propelling them to see a need for change and begin implementation of a plan. As should be the case, many competencies were utilized to create the climate for change, and when the Adventist LEAP program is fully functional, it will be a big change indeed, furthered by my participation in the leadership program and the new insights I have gleaned.
Organization has always been something I have enjoyed. However, I have come to realize that organization in leadership might take the form of not just organizing papers, projects, and concepts, but of organizing people and ideas for success. I have connected the EI (Goleman) competencies to organization by recognizing how a leader can make or break his/her organization by failing to put the proper tasks in the proper order. Isn’t that organization? If a leader puts a plan into motion without first assessing the culture of the “tribe,” the chances for a successful change initiative are decreased. This is really an organizational step: leaders need to organize thoughts, ideals, plans, and theories before even presenting the change process to followers. This would be as true in education as it would be in business. As I listen to Goleman’s ideas (on CD), I continue to make connections between his EI competencies and my leadership profession of teaching. While the concept of organization is not the main thrust in Primal Intelligence, connections can easily be made to that leadership competency.
Communication is one of the key skills for a collaborative consultant. During orientation, we were introduced to Isaacs’ book, Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together. I pondered his idea of setting up a “container” as I planned a future dialogue (perhaps a better word would be “confrontation”) with a leader whose actions had proven unethical. I can see where this concept was beneficial, but also where I needed more practice in this area to be more effective if my role as a leader included more of this type of communication. Goleman and Isaacs both have a lot to say about listening, and that is one of my leadership skills that has been most affected by the theories and exposure I have had in the leadership program. I have been impressed that I need to sharpen my listening abilities to become more competent in this area. I seek to create a resonate atmosphere in the arenas where I lead. I believe I do a better job of this in my official “job” as a teacher; my students would tell you that I listen well, and that I create a positive environment where learning can take place. (Actually, in order to ascertain the accuracy of that statement, I should really obtain a 360-degree evaluation!) However, I’m not so sure my family would say the same thing. It is in this arena that I desire to implement the theories I am learning from Primal Leadership. I fear I may be too much of a “pace-setter,” and occasionally a “commanding” leader. Increasing my effectiveness as a communicator will go far in raising my EI and will result, I believe, in greater cooperation (collaboration) in our family.
My abilities as a researcher have increased during my participation in the leadership program. I have been able to work on my passion – creating a dual enrollment program for Adventist education – while learning how to conduct and report research. This is indeed one of the great strengths of Andrews’ Leadership program, and one prime reason why I chose this program over any other that I researched. I am thrilled to be able to use my leadership skills, in combination with heightened researcher skills – to be able to impact something that I love dearly: Christian education.
The competencies that I have demonstrated throughout this program are all founded on one thing: My firm belief in and love for Jesus Christ, the Savior of my life. It is here that I find who I am, and it is this part of the leadership program that has affected me the most. Perhaps this scholarly quest into leadership foundations, and more specifically, worldview theories, affected me so profoundly because I have a son who is struggling with who God is, or if He even exists. All of who I am is summed up in who God is to me. I cannot separate the two. Seeing my son grapple with these huge issues has been almost more than I can bear, strong as I am, and studying the various worldviews was somehow very cathartic to me. All of the books that I read, reviewed, skimmed, or listened to, have affected who I am to some degree or another. But Jesus Christ is so central to my life that this particular aspect of the “competent scholar” competency solidified my core beliefs and gave me peace in the midst of a veritable earthquake.
When I look at the competencies as a whole, I see them all converging in the “effective teacher/mentor” competencies. Perhaps that is because I feel that is my star competency, but maybe all the competencies are influenced by this one because the leadership program originates from the education department and is staffed by some of the best educators around. Here’s how I see it: The process of being an effective teacher/mentor necessitates change. No teacher would be effective if he/she DIDN’T influence those whom they teach to change! This effective teaching requires organization. Without some level of this competency, all the plans and ideas of the effective teacher will be rendered ineffective because they will never get implemented! Furthermore, an effective teacher will utilize the best practices and theories he/she can find. Cooperative learning has been proven to be one of those “best practices,” so effective teaching will encourage and foster collaboration within the students they teach, as effective teachers themselves collaborate with other professionals. This collaboration would include both reading and conducting research, and thus the effective teacher is also a reflective researcher. Scholarly work seems to be the “ends” of the educational process, and each step along the education pathway pushes the recipients of the knowledge to higher levels of scholarly work, exposing them to greater ideas and deeper thinkers.
Where will I go in the future? What doors will be opened for me because I have completed this program, because I have come to this “bookmark” in my life? God is in charge of all these decisions, just like He is in charge of my bookmarks. It can truly be said that only God knows the future. But that is enough.