Saturday, November 13, 2010

teaching leadership

This past week I began teaching our first MBA course on leadership entitled Leading Self. This five-week, 1 credit course (The Concordia MBA has four different 1-credit leadership courses as a part of its curriculum) will help students begin to wrestle with the question "Who am I as a leader?" What a privilege it is to work with these 40 adults in the discovering of their leadership gifts, talents and passions. This first week focused on discovering one's strengths - and how those can be used in leadership. We laughed a lot as we were surprised at how accurate the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment was in naming our strengths...and we laughed when some students thought that the identified stren gths were not what they thought they should be - but other classmates saw them clearly in each other. We contemplated how strengths can be used in combination for solving problems in our work and communities...and comtemplated what it might mean if we use our strengths as a manipulative force in others' lives. Over the next four weeks, the classes will go deeper into understanding their personal strengths and the strengths of others - and how they can be further utilized in leading people.

As I prepared for classes last week (and am now thinking about preparing for this coming week), the idea of how leadership is taught keeps crossing my mind. The combination of learning and experience is always powerful, so I have to keep in mind how I can help students relate what they read and think about to their day-to-day experiences. The other part of leadership development happens in what researchers refer to as "individual readiness" - that part of one's self in which they are willing to open up to assessment and critique of their leadership capabilities. As students reflect on their leadership and put on paper their individual thoughts about the subject (and about themselves), they are barring their souls to themselves and to others - a scary, yet powerful learning tool in this process.

So here are a few ideas on what I believe about "teaching leadership":
  • lots of interaction - my job is to ask rich and powerful questions which cause the student to think and go deep into what they believe. As they answer these questions out loud, others receive more information that they can them process themselves about what they believe. I keep asking them WHY so they can go to the root of their thoughts.
  • spirited debate - teaching leadership is not about learning more material, but about wondering how the material learned related to the individual. I love it when people disagree with what the author of a book says...or what the assessment shows...or what I have to say. Spirited debate makes the student defend outloud what they believe, which helps to make it more real and personal for them.
  • reflection - thinking about what one reads - what they expereince - what they think about - and what others say is a critical part of the growth process in leadership development. Having students journal and do assignments that cause them to reflect is a critical part of the growth curve in developing one's leadership style.
  • go with the flow - I taught two different groups of students this week, and while the topic was the same for both classes, the discussion went in entirely different directions. Following the lead of the students, I assist them in processing what they are thinking, helping them think through their thoughts and udeas using leadership lenses.
  • energy - I play a lot of music in my classroom and have students move around. I have to be upbeat and moving to keep the energy going. While this has a little bit to do with being an evening class, it has more to do with modeling the energy needed for leadership. As I move among students, engage their thoughts, and keep the energy high, it is a reflection of what leaders do for their organizations and people they serve.
  • deep questions - my role is to ask rich, deep, thoughtful questions so that students are "forced" to consider how they think about leadership and how they might lead in given situations. It is not my role to tell them what to do or how to act - it is my role to assist them in the process of discovering their authentic leadership style that will guide them as they lead and make decisions.

I am sure there will be more blogs on what happens in my classes over the next month - I consider myself a student as I approach these classes. Each class session last week provided for me an AHA moment in which my view of leadership was challenged. I am grateful for this opportunity and thankful for the 40 students who will teach me about myself and my leadership style during our journey together.