Lightbulbs

In my last week of teaching organizational leadership this semester, my students were asked to make presentations to their classmates surrounding some sort of ethical leadership dilemma. The students were asked to advise the class on what decision should be made by the leaders in the case from an ethical standpoint while paying attention to what made good business, financial, and legal sense. They were then to use the leadership techniques, models, theories, ideas and perspectives from the semester to present a plan of action to address the case.

They did a remarkable job.

In fact, they did such a wonderful job in pulling together all of those pieces, that the presentations gave me new perspectives on a couple of leadership decisions currently facing one of the organizations that I serve as a member of the board of directors. Of course the presentations weren’t perfect. I questioned the accounting on a couple of proposals and some of the ethical justifications were a little weak. Others lacked detail in applying the leadership models we had discussed. All of which gave me one last opportunity to help students make connections to the material as I asked one final set of questions.
And I saw it…

While I was asking those final challenging questions, I saw a couple of final light bulbs come on.

Some were students who had excelled in gathering the information, but had not yet fully put it into practice. Others I had watched struggle to knit the pieces together all semester long. Watching it all begin to click for them is remarkably rewarding. I am so proud in those moments for the students who continue to work until the light finally dawns.

And in those moments, I’m reminded of why I teach leadership. Because they can learn. (Tweet This)

Many of them come with a great deal of leadership potential. Some are naturally influential with their peers. Others are able to speak eloquently and persuasively. Still others think critically and apply ideas readily. But they still need research and theory and practice to really begin to excel in leadership.

Hopefully, my classes give them the opportunity to gain the knowledge they need and to practice in a relatively safe environment.

Though at this point in the semester, I am weary, it is these moments where they succeed in pulling all of the pieces together, that I am inspired anew to

  • Tweak a classroom exercise
  • Find an even better textbook
  • Edit and refine a lecture
  • Try out a new teaching tool or technique

Because I’m not done learning any more than my students. (Tweet This)

So, we’re off to a summer “break” where my reading list is longer than the one I had during the semester.  But maybe I’ll grab a quick nap first.

-ep

Wabi Sabi

Photo Credit: Ⅿeagan via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Ⅿeagan via Compfight cc

It’s nearing the end of the semester.  The air has grown warm, students are reading out of doors and hanging from the trees in hammocks.  In a little more than a week, black caps and gowns will dot the scene as we celebrate a new chapter in students’ colleagues’ lives. A long-anticipated summer break is only a few days away. There’s so much warmth and joy in the air.  Still, there’s just a hint of sadness lingering about the edges of all this excitement.

And I’m feeling a bit wabi sabi today.

Yes, I know that I misuse this term. From my admittedly flawed recollection, wabi sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that sees beauty even (or perhaps especially) when it is mixed with imperfection. I first ran across this proposed use of wabi sabi in Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. She was looking for a word to express that feeling of being both happy and sad at the same time and wabi sabi seemed to fit the bill.

Her use of the term really resonated at the time and so wabi sabi comes to mind occasionally when I encounter imperfect beauty in my own life experience or more often when I feel a great deal of joy mixed with just a tinge of sadness.  As the semester draws to a close, this phrase floated into my mind once again.

There’s plenty of beauty to be seen at the end of the semester:

  •     in the once quiet, insecure, uncertain student who stands to give a strong, thoughtful, and thorough end-of-semester presentation.
  •     in the smile of a senior with only a couple of final exams standing between her and graduation.
  •     in the freshman who says, “I’ve learned how much I really do have to study to be successful.”
  •     and in the student who sits across from my desk with a giant grin on his face and a biology exam marked “A” in his hand, the same student who sank into that chair 13 weeks ago close to tears and wondering how to move forward.

Still, there’s just a hint of imperfection mixed with the beauty.  This time of year calls so many of my students to introspection and reflection on the semester past and it becomes more difficult to gloss over those flaws:

  •     Just a hint of anxiety in the student who is still unsure what direction he’s headed.
  •     A whiff of sadness in the student who is sitting out for a semester because of health struggles back home.
  •     The grief I feel as I read an email from a student who tells me he regrets the level of effort he’s shown and is afraid he might have disappointed the people who care about him.

Yet, even here there is room for hopeThere’s beauty mingled with the imperfection. (Tweet This)

I have hope to share with the student who can’t see his own potential.

I have hope to share with the student who feels that life is on-hold.

I have hope to share with the student who faces regret.

And I feel anew a sense of gratefulness that I teach at a school where we embrace faith as we learn. I don’t have to bite back these words of hope when yet another student drops into my office to share a bit of life’s imperfection.  So, I take a deep breath and plunge ahead, sharing just a hint of this great hope.

-ep

There are no ugly cats!

Not all of my teaching takes place in a formal classroom.  One of the delights of my job is to help create leadership learning experiences for students that take place outside of the classroom.  This past weekend, 60+ students came together at Scottsville Retreat Center for Ignite, our student leadership retreat.

As we plan Ignite, we try to offer learning experiences around 3 different areas: developing in our faith as leaders, practical leadership skills, and foundational assumptions about leadership. So, for instance, this year we considered questions related to living out our calling and preparing spiritually for the tough days in leadership. And this year, for the first time, we explicitly discussed our foundational assumptions about leadership.

A couple of years ago, we sat down and wrote out 10 foundational assumptions about leadership which would guide the leadership development program at ETBU.  When I teach in class, when I select a textbook, when I consider bringing in speakers, I think about these 10 foundational assumptions.

We all have foundational assumptions don’t we?  These are the things we really believe, deep down, and that shape the decisions we make daily.

This year, we asked Dr. Dub to address several of our foundational assumptions during our Campfire & S’mores time at Ignite.  And so, there gathered around the fire, we talked about 3 of those assumptions:

  • Leadership Can Be Learned
  • Leadership is Action, Not Position
  • And, “There are No Ugly Cats!”
Photo Credit: asgw via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: asgw via Compfight cc

Well, that’s not our actual assumption, but I will forever hold the story of Dr. Dub’s grandmother telling him there are no ugly cats as a reminder of one of those deep truths of leadership.  Dr. Dub told the story about a cat of questionable cuteness that wandered past his grandma’s porch one day.  When he commented on its lack of attractive qualities (that is, he called it ugly), her response was, “There are no ugly cats!”

And the truth is, in leadership, “there are no ugly cats.” (Tweet This)  Difficult ones, yes.  Opinionated ones, absolutely. Cats of different colors, stripes, spots, and attitudes, no doubt.  But there are no ugly cats. And when I take the time to sit back and really listen to the differences of opinion and different personalities of all the individuals I’ve had a chance to work with or even lead, I am amazed at the beauty of the differences that God creates in human beings. And they all have the opportunity to bring something to the table.  Each person has something to offer, so long as I don’t deny them that opportunity by believing they are too ugly (or uneducated, or goofy, or traditional, or creative, etc).

Of course, in leadership it’s easier to lead people who all think like you do, work like you do, see things like you do.  But, in the end, are you even leading these people? Or would you all have gone in the same direction anyway?

Yes, my life would be easier if everyone always saw things my way.  But, because I really do believe that there are no ugly cats, I will choose to actively include people in the decision-making process who are quite different from me.  So, thanks Dr. Dub for that reminder…and the mental image to keep it fresh in my mind.

-ep

What Not to Say to Your Professor

One of the things that we talk about a lot in leadership is trying to be empathetic and understand the perspective of those you lead.  I normally have a pretty easy time putting myself in other people’s shoes and I really value diversity, so this is typically a fairly easy exercise for me.  In fact, sometimes I think I make concessions that I shouldn’t make because I feel for the other person.

But today is not one of those days!

Today, I’m tired and busy.  And one too many student has said one of those things that really, really frustrate me.  So, since this is supposed to be a reflective blog…I’m going to reflect aloud to the world in an attempt to gain some empathic perspective.

Here are the things I’ve heard today that have just nearly sent me over the edge (along with my personal interpretation & my attempt at an empathic hearing):

1.  Did I miss anything in class on Monday?

  • What I hear: I couldn’t be bothered to come to class on Monday, but now I’d like you to do double the work by teaching all of it to me again.
  • What you probably mean: I’m trying to make sure I haven’t missed anything and would like to double-check that with you.

2.  I’m not going to be in your class because I’ve got to prepare for another class.

  • What I hear: Your class is not as important as this other class I have.
  • What you probably mean: I’m making the effort to tell you that I’m not going to be there because your class is important to me and I’m hoping you’ll be understanding.

3.  What do I have to do to pass this class?

  • What I hear: I’m looking to do the bare minimum in your class, but want to make sure that I come out okay in the end and I need you to make sure that happens.
  • What you probably mean: I’m just trying to survive!

4.  Is there extra credit?

  • What I hear: I can’t be bothered to do my work, but I’d like you to do extra work to create some way for me to get the grade I want.
  • What you probably mean: Ouch! That test was harder than I expected it to be and I just didn’t prepare adequately.

The reality is that as a teacher or a leader, I often do understand where you are coming from…but I have feelings too.  And sometimes the things that are inadvertently conveyed to me begin to pile up and take their toll.  I think there’s a lesson for all of us here as both leaders and followers:

Think twice about what you’re saying and how it might be received. (Tweet This)

-ep

P.S. And for any students reading this who want to ask the questions above, I’d suggest the following instead:

1.  “I’m going to miss class on Monday (meaning you’ve contacted your professor several days ahead of time), I see in the syllabus that we are covering ___________, how can I best make sure that I learn the material you’ll cover in class?”

2.  Please, just don’t say this.  Prepare early enough for your other classes that you don’t have to tell me that my class is insignificant and unimportant!  Professors do understand what it’s like to balance multiple classes and that everyone has a crazy day, but because we too go to multiple classes & have to be prepared for each of them every day, it’s really hard to hear this from you.

3.  “I have struggled up to this point in the semester and would like to see this through and really learn the material.  How might I adapt the way I’m studying/writing/preparing? And do you think it’s possible for me to get out of the hole I’ve dug for myself?”

4.  Okay, so I can’t think of any other way to say this, so maybe go ahead and ask.  Maybe just don’t count on extra credit all of the time. :)

 

Simon Says

I remember as a child playing Simon Says in the front driveway of my grandparent’s home.

“Simon says take one step forward.”

“Simon says put your hand on your head.”

“Turn around.”

“Ah! Simon didn’t say!”

Many of us initially think leadership looks a lot like a game of Simon Says. (Tweet This) Someone (the leader) tells us what to do and we do as we’re told.

Yesterday in class, my students were reflecting on the leadership of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain who commanded the 20th Regiment of Infantry, Maine Volunteers during the Civil War.  When the 2nd Regiment was decommissioned, 120 men were reassigned to Chamberlain.  Those men refused reassignment so they were taken under armed guard to Chamberlain.  After 3 days without food, General George G. Meade of the Army of the Potomac instructed Chamberlain to “make them do duty or shoot them down the moment they refused.”

Meade believed that threats of harm should be enough to get soldiers to do as they are told.  He believed in the Simon Says model.

Chamberlain disagreed.  He fed the men and then painted a picture. Well, not a picture made with paint on canvas.  But he created a compelling vision of what they could accomplish together.  He used carefully chosen words to help them envision what the future could look like if they all worked together.

Chamberlain told them “Here you can be something.  Here’s a place to build a home.  It isn’t the land–there’s always more land.  It’s the idea that we all have value, you and me, we’re worth something more than the dirt….What we’re fighting for , in the end, is each other….” (Useem, The Leadership Moment, p. 134).

When we discuss different approaches to leadership in class, many of my students make the assumption that military leaders rely on the Simon Says method to get the job done.  While, I must confess that I know very, very little about the military, I’m not sure that the Simon says method is the only one used in the military.

I had the distinct honor of visiting the Army Fires Training School at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma just a few weeks ago.  I met some really incredible men and women.  And I heard many of them talk about the necessity of earning credibility with those they lead.  They spoke passionately about living out the values in which they believe.  Certainly, you want people who are well-trained and can respond to direct commands, especially when you’re in the midst of a crisis.  But, I heard a lot more conversations that sounded like Chamberlain than Meade.  Maybe they could give orders, but they didn’t seem to believe that’s always the most effective way to lead.

Painting a compelling vision is much more challenging than giving orders. (Tweet This)

It certainly requires more time and effort and thought.  But in the end, it’s worth it.  Don’t we all want to be a part of something bigger? Don’t we all want to contribute to something meaningful?  Don’t we all want to invest our time and lives and energy in something that we believe?

I do.

And doesn’t painting a compelling vision support what we believe about how we are to live as followers of Christ? If we truly believe that each individual is created in God’s image and should be treated with dignity and respect, shouldn’t we share the vision rather than just giving orders?  If we are to treat others as we want to be treated (and we want to work toward something meaningful), wouldn’t we help people understand the big picture they are working toward?

As a leader, I need to paint a picture that allows others to see the possibilities if we all work together.  To return to the image of childhood games, it becomes more like a game of capture the flag than a game of Simon Says.  In capture the flag we all know our roles.  The entire team knows our goal and aim.  We discuss and agree upon a strategy to reach the target.  And when we all know the goal, we can each make split-second decisions as the situation changes.  We don’t have to wait for “Simon” to tell us what we’re supposed to do.

-ep

Divergent

While I normally leave the discussions of movie, tv, radio and the like to my colleague, I’m going to make an exception this week.  Over the weekend, I went to see Divergent.  I’ve read the entire trilogy, so I’ve been looking forward to its release for quite a while. (Yes, I do read young adult fiction.  I can’t read scholarly articles all the time!)

For those of you who haven’t yet read the book (or seen the movie), I’ll give you a quick overview…
In the futuristic Chicago of Veronica Roth’s Divergent, citizens are divided into five factions.  Each faction celebrates and cultivates a particular virtue in its members:

divergent

Photo Credit: prettybooks via Compfight cc

Dauntless  – Bravery
Erudite – Knowledge/Intelligence
Candor – Honesty
Amity – Peacemaking
Abnegation – Selflessness

While Divergent is not the first (and likely won’t be the last) in the recent string of dystopian young adult fiction, I’ve appreciated the leadership discussion embedded within the story.  Throughout the books, there are implicit questions about what characteristics or virtues really make a person fit to lead.

Early in the books, all of the leaders of society come from Abnegation. It’s assumed that those who are humble and selfless are best able to make decisions and allocate resources in a way that will serve all of society.

Some characters in the story believe that the Erudite are best suited for leadership because of their high intelligence, commitment to learning, and diligent study.

There are also a number of decisions by leaders in the book that allow the reader to consider ethical dilemmas of leadership.  They are the same sort of questions we consider in my classes:

  • Do the ends justify the means in leadership?
  • Is manipulation an appropriate tool for leadership?
  • Does the leader have the greater responsibility to reveal all information to followers, or to protect them from potentially harmful information?

These are the same kinds of questions that philosophers and students of politics, history, and leadership have been asking for centuries.  Forgive my over-simplification of these heavy philosophical works, but many of the most significant writings in history have assumed that only certain people should lead or that they should lead in particular ways:

  • Plato designed his ideal society in the Republic with philosophers as his rulers of choice.
  • Machiavelli’s Prince argues that “it is far safer to be feared than loved”as a leader.
  • Locke says no one should be subjected to the will of another and advocates for majority rule.
  • Carlyle believes that those who possess divinely inspired knowledge have the right to lead.

I’m not sure that we consistently ask such deep questions about our leaders today.  It would seem we are often more interested in results, final products, and track record rather than with character, virtue, and ethical perspective when it comes to our leaders. Perhaps we need to reframe the kinds of questions we ask during presidential debates, CEO interviews, and pastoral searches to reflect a deeper kind of thinking about who should lead.

I’m also thrilled that we (as human beings and as leaders) can possess more than one faction’s virtues.  I think I might really appreciate following a selfless, courageous, honest, peacemaking leader who also wants to study to gain additional knowledge and skill.  And while maybe that person is too perfect to exist outside of the pages of fiction, I’d like to believe that our leaders would value all of those virtues enough to surround themselves with co-workers, mentors, counselors, and advisers who supplement their areas of weaknesses.

What about you?  Who do you believe ought to lead?

-ep

More Questions Than Answers

We tend to think of leaders as people who have all the answers.  Maybe it’s because from childhood the people who “lead” us seem to have all the answers:

  • Our parents, who have already survived childhood
  • Our teachers, who have already conquered spelling, math, and reading
  • Our team coaches, who understand the fundamentals of the game

It can be a rude awakening when we find ourselves in a leadership position and realize that we don’t necessarily have all the answers.  But, do we really want our leaders to have all the answers?

This week in class, we were discussing the idea of the leader as coach.  I’m not talking about the kind of athletic or sport coaches that many of us are familiar with.  The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Unlike a consultant or a trainer, a coach helps you to discover answers for yourself rather than delivering answers as an expert.  Our discussion in class centered around the ways that a leader can help their employees to gain competence and confidence by coaching them to find their own answers rather than always offering immediate solutions.

We talked about the reasons that coaching an employee to come to their own solution might be helpful.  My students identified some good reasons:

  • The employee might have more buy-in
  • The employee gains confidence and expertise to work independently

Apparently, though this might sound good in theory, this was a tricky concept for my students to apply.  After some very rudimentary training, I asked them to use a basic process to coach another student in class (on any subject of their choosing).  And off they went!

Initially, I was really getting a kick out of some of the “challenges” they chose to be coached on, but somewhere along the way, I heard a lot of the coaches telling their fellow student what they should do.

“You should open the door if you really want to be a gentleman.”
“You would plant that particular item during late spring.”
“Well, when I study for Dr. Prevost’s tests, I usually…”

You get the idea.

When we debriefed, they confessed how difficult it is to ask questions rather than providing solutions to people’s questions, problems, and dilemmas.  Almost immediately, we default to offering solutions.  Especially as leaders, we are used to be asked to “fix” the problem.

But, is delivery as powerful a method of learning as discovery?

Val Hastings from Coaching for Clergy actually points out in his trainings how often people in scripture came to deep insights from being asked questions. Consider these questions asked by Jesus:

“Peter, do you love me?”

“Which one of these three was the neighbor?”

“Who do you say that I am?”

Perhaps we should learn from this great teacher who has more followers than any of us will ever hope to have.  If you want people to follow, then ask powerful questions.  As leaders, we don’t always have to have an answer.  And even when we have an answer, perhaps we lead people to deeper, more meaningful insights and opportunities when we ask the right questions rather than always giving them answers.

When has someone led you with a powerful question?

-EP

Practice Makes Perfect

task

Photo Credit: Rob Swatski via Compfight cc

This morning, a co-worker and I were discussing how busy our Spring Semester has felt. We talked about feeling as if we are speeding ahead toward the end of the semester, fighting just to get everything accomplished. And sometimes along the way, we struggle to connect with people in meaningful ways.

These two dimensions of our work, being concerned with getting a job done and being concerned for the people involved in the work are highlighted in the managerial grid developed nearly 50 years ago by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton. Though the grid has 81 possible combinations, most of the time we discuss five major styles (Blake and McCanse, 1991):

  • The Impoverished Manager – with low concern for production and low concern for people.
  • The Sweatshop or Authority-Compliance Manager – with high concern for the work, but low concern for people.
  • The Country Club Manager – with high concern for people, but low concern for accomplishing the work
  • The Status Quo or Middle of the Road Manager – with a moderate concern for both people and task
  • The Fully Functioning Manager or Team Management – with a high concern for both the task and the people doing the task

In recent weeks in Organizational Leadership, we’ve been working through various models, theories, and concepts related to “concern for people” including employee motivation and follower engagement.

Creating task-related assignments isn’t all that difficult for me, but I have discovered that it is tricky to create assignments to help students gain skills in working with people. I think many of my students struggle to see the value of these assignments. It seems obvious that we ought to be concerned about people and speak to them in ways that uphold their dignity, so many of us assume that we do so naturally. But communicating concern for a person while also communicating a concern for getting the job done is trickier than it sounds.

This week, I asked students to create a draft of an email they might use to delegate a task to an employee.  I asked them to use what we’ve learned about employee motivation and engagement to create this document. I got quite a few sample emails that told me about the new task that the boss wanted me to do.  A lot of them were straightforward and to the point.  Many of them clearly communicated the new task.  They weren’t rude, but very few of them effectively showed much consideration for the employee.

Last week, I asked students to role-play a situation with an employee where they intentionally integrated one of the leadership practices identified by Kouzes and Posner in The Leadership Challenge: Encouraging the Heart.  As I listened to their role-plays, I heard a lot about the task, but most of my students found it much more difficult to find words to recognize contributions and celebrate victories as a part of their conversations.

While I perceive that some of my students think that role-playing and writing out emails are unnecessary work, I tend to believe that many of us have to actually practice expressing concern for people in the midst of our work.  I know there are some people for whom this is a more natural process, but even then, I think it requires practice to communicate that concern in a way that each unique individual can hear and receive it.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc

We seem to take for granted that practice is necessary for gaining skills in playing basketball or the piano.  But I think many of us mistakenly believe that we are automatically going to be good at the skills necessary for working effectively with people.

Or perhaps we just assume that we get on-the-job experience at these skills, so we don’t need to practice them ahead of time.

That seems a lot like asking someone to attend your oboe recital when you’ve not ever actually picked up the instrument.

 

So, I’m going to keep looking for ways for my students (and myself) to practice effectively demonstrating concern for people without losing sight of the task at hand. Maybe you’ve got some ideas.

How do you help students “practice” new skills in your classroom?

Be Careful What You Wish For

On Sunday mornings at my church, I’m currently teaching a class called “The Story of the Church” where we look each week at what our brothers and sisters in Christ have been doing since the close of the New Testament.

We’ve seen some good days and some not so good days and we’ve definitely seen a whole host of leaders march across the stage of Christian history in the process.

Last week, we took a look at the Crusades. While I won’t go into all the (bloody) details, I will mention just a few of the disasters left in the wake of the Crusades:

  • The massacre of Jews in the Rhineland
  • The wholesale slaughter of men, women, and children as the Christians entered Jerusalem
  • Intensification of the split between the Eastern and Western church

And it all started with a sermon.

Well, perhaps that is a bit of an understatement.  The history leading up to the Crusades is nearly as messy as the Crusades themselves.  But Pope Urban II’s sermon seems to have been a tipping point.

Christianity Today reports his words as follows: “A horrible tale has gone forth. An accursed race utterly alienated from God … has invaded the lands of the Christians and depopulated them by the sword, plundering, and fire.” In his “altar call” he plead, “Tear that land from the wicked race and subject it to yourselves.”

And his listeners set out to do just that…for several hundred years.

Was that what Pope Urban II had intended? I suppose we cannot read his mind from our viewpoint and I’m not even sure that with hindsight we can see with 20/20 vision in this case.

But I think as leaders, Pope Urban II’s story leaves us with a heavy burden.  We must be careful what we ask our followers to do. It can be easy to underestimate the influence of mere words when our title, position, actions, or character have granted us the trust of followers, listeners, or employees.

We have the power to shape the culture of our organizations, businesses, and teams.  Research from Edgar Schein says that a leader has several (embedding and structural) mechanisms for shaping culture among those mechanisms:
•    Attention
•    Reaction to crises
•    Role modeling
•    Criteria for allocating rewards
•    Criteria for selection & dismissal
•    Stories, statements, and rituals

Our stories and statements help to shape the culture where we serve. And as leaders, we must carefully consider all of the implications of an action we ask our followers to take. We carry a heavy responsibility as we call people to action.

As Schein has pointed out, sometimes we don’t even need words to call people to action.  The ideas that gain our attention or our rewards, the things we measure and evaluate, the things we model for others.  All of these actions send a signal that these are the things we want people to do. We are calling people to action. Even if we never open our mouths.

And the results can be long-lasting.

So be careful what you wish for.

In-Credible!

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc

For the past couple of weeks in my freshman leadership class, we’ve been discussing the idea of credibility in leadership, although most people who walked past my door today would have thought that we were discussing academic integrity or research skills, and frankly, we were.

In 2013 alone, plagiarism scandals hit the news no fewer than five times. Politicians, writers, actors, and even preachers have been charged with claiming others’ work as their own. Others have been found guilty of making up facts to support their ideas –sometimes when a little research would have uncovered real facts they could have used.

Apparently, our national leaders could use a recording of my 9th grade English teacher’s rant on the evils of plagiarism and shoddy research!

I think the easy accessibility of information has blurred some of the lines regarding our use of intellectual property. (An idea which I first seriously considered after a discussion with Karen Wiley in our Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness.  Thanks, Karen!)

When information is so readily available with the click of a mouse, I think it has become easier to assume that free ideas are to be freely used.  The idea of what constitutes intellectual theft has become a little fuzzy in many people’s minds.

And so, this conversation about plagiarism isn’t just something to discuss as we read through the academic integrity policy as we read the syllabus. This isn’t just a discussion for the classroom; it’s a reminder that impacts our daily life as leaders.

Because when people can’t trust what we say, our credibility as leaders gets damaged.

James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner point out that after 30 years of research, they consistently hear that “credibility is the foundation of leadership” (The Truth About Leadership, 2010). Even Aristotle pointed out that if you’re trying to convince someone of your idea, then you’d better be credible.

If our leaders want our commitment, support, and efforts, then apparently, we want to be able to believe what they say.

And so, we devote an entire week of class to talking about the leaders who fail to do their research or cite their sources and then lose credibility. And I find myself sounding more and more like my 9th grade English teacher!

-EP