Volume 11, Issue 2 -- Summer 2012

The Impact That We Make

As leadership educators, we often don’t know just how well we are doing until our graduates make us proud. Here is what I mean.  In 2011, Texas suffered one of the worst droughts on record and as a result, one of its worst wildfire seasons.  Almost 4 million acres were consumed in 30,547 fires.  Over 6,000 homes and other structures were destroyed.  Two leadership majors from Texas A&M were literally thrown into this fire.  Melanie and Patrick had just joined the Texas Forest Service (TFS) in the Spring of 2011 as Wildland Urban Interface Specialists (WUIS).  Their job is to educate landowners and communities about how to protect their property from wildfires. But with as many as a dozen major fires burning at the same time, Melanie and Patrick were called upon to interface with the national media, coordinate communications between multiple state and federal agencies, continue to educate communities and landowners not yet affected by fires, while at the same time, helping families and landowners who had lost everything negotiate the many agencies that could provide them with resources.  Their supervisors in the TFS commented that these young people performed admirably and that if we had any more like them to send them to the TFS.

I understand that we (leadership educators) can’t take full credit for how our graduates perform once they leave us, but I like to think that we gave them some of the knowledge and skills that helped make them successful. Patrick and Melanie both came to our department as young people of good character and a strong work ethic. Would they have been as effective in their roles if they were from another major that did not emphasize how to work with others, teach them team member roles, and how to think critically? The TFS definitely saw them as a product of our leadership major.

We don’t always see the fruits of our labors, but I know from the few examples that make their way back to our department that we are producing leaders that are making a difference in their communities.  Keep up the good work.

What is the starting point for most incoming college students in regards to their attitudes and beliefs about leadership? Wielkiewicz, Fischer, Stelzner, Overland and Sinner examine the attitudes and beliefs of almost 4,300 incoming college students. Substantial differences existed between male and female students in this study. His findings may be essential in the scope and sequencing of leadership education and development experiences for these students.

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The philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty subscribed to the dictum that all knowledge is knowledge from a point of view. As a practical matter, there is much to commend studying leadership from a participant’s point of view (or POV). Harter sets forth a simplified model of leadership that presents three distinct points of view of particular interest to students of leadership: those of the leader, the follower, and the investigator, and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each.

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Haber used a mixed-methods approach to examine a national sample 1100 of undergraduate students. Ten themes emerged from the students’ definitions of leadership. From these themes, Haber discovered that women harbored more contemporary understandings of leadership than males and that additional differences existed with the interaction of age and gender. Her recommendations also inform the development of leadership curriculum and instruction.

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Adams, Cain, and Stedman sought to synthesize existing research on leadership behaviors of these investigators in the agricultural discipline. After analyzing thirty-two articles, the authors determined that research should continue to investigate the role of leadership behaviors in primary investigators to continue to improve effectiveness.

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Popular culture is a proven way to demonstrate abstract leadership concepts to students. Wimmer, Meyers, Porter, and Shaw use episodes of the popular television show The Office to demonstrate leadership styles and traits, ethical behavior, power bases, and conflict. The authors describe several themes that emerged from the students’ reflective writings including professionalism, effectiveness, and responsibility. The use of public pedagogy had a significant impact on students’ learning.

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As the growth of leadership programs continues, the question arises,, “Can one set of questions provide proper guidance for all types of leadership programs?”  Sowcikprovides a critique of the International Leadership Association’s Guiding Questions: Guidelines for Leadership Development Programs and, in particular, the five major categories: Conceptual Framework, Context, Content, Teaching and Learning, and Outcomes/Assessment.

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The authors analyzed graduate student blogs to describe the level of critical thinking displayed in them. They found that graduate students use two of Facione’s six critical thinking skills most often when reflecting through blogs: Self-regulation and Explanation. This raises the question: What other teaching methods might trigger students to use other critical thinking skills?

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Many traditional leadership education paradigms are challenged by the transformational nature of globalization.Brown, Whitaker, and Brungardt propose a new framework to be adopted within higher education leadership programs to educate the next generation of global leaders. They introduce a potential framework of learning objectives, reviews strengths and weaknesses of the proposed model, provides sample curricular and co-curricular programs, and discusses recommendations for additional research.

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Stonecipher’s study examines the relationship between the eight values of the Social Change Model of leadership development with a student’s spiritual quest. Finding a consistent positive relationship between the two constructs, Stonecipher discusses the intentional use of reflection in student leadership development programs to facilitate student growth in both leadership development and spiritual quest.

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Striving to understand how leadership is taught and learned is both a challenge and an opportunity facing leadership educators. Moore and Lewis describe the Leadership Aha! Moment assignment used in a leadership theory course to help students recognize the intersection of leadership theories and their daily lives while increasing their written communication skills.

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The increasing shortage of suitable applicants for senior leadership positions poses a significant risk to further education colleges in the United Kingdom. Lambert argues that existing leadership models are inappropriate for further education due to the landscape in which these colleges operate. He assessed the attitudes of principals of general further education colleges in the South East of England and London towards Lambert’s (2011) six elements for sustainable leadership. Respondents heavily supported each of the six elements of Lambert’s framework of sustainable leadership.

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To be effective as a leader in many circumstances requires reaching out and engaging in dialogue with those whom one may fundamentally disagree and may even view as an “enemy.” Effective dialogue, however, requires both skill and will. Perreault describes the concepts and strategies of a university program developed to encourage the will to engage in dialogue.

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Baughman and Bruce assessed the leadership skills of the population of commissioners of agriculture in the United States. Quantitative research methods were used to describe Commissioner’s self-perceived proficiency levels in six leadership skill areas. Qualitative research methods were used to make meaning of the quantitative results. Commissioners identified their greatest strength in Knowledge of the Industry, but felt least proficient in Technical Skills. An opportunity exists for professional development opportunities to address those competencies where Commissioners feel less proficient.

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Leadership educators are constantly searching for new and innovative ways to teach leadership concepts and theories so that their students can retain knowledge learned in the classroom. The use of movies in the classroom combines students’ love for technology with the ability to learn experientially. In this application brief, Porter explains the use of the movie Glory Road to help students identify Tuckman and Jensen’sStages of Group Development.

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The purpose of this study was to discover how students perceived the role of reflection. White explored the function of reflection in the formal classroom setting and co-curricular experiences. Findings reveal students make a deep connection between leadership learning and reflection, prefer contemplation to written reflection, and struggle with “forced” reflections.

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