Situational factors – leadership development

Setting the stage: For my unit I am going to put together a leadership training unit that I actually want to use with a student association executive board.   I have tried, admittedly less successfully than I had hoped, to incorporate these themes into our F2F meetings.   The time we have together is limited and the priority at meetings needs to remain on conducting business.   To address this issue and still bring in more formal leadership unit, I have considered doing a weekend leadership retreat, but for a variety of carefully considered reasons, don’t think this is the best route for this particular group.     An online asynchronous unit with the occasional check in and discussion during meetings, seems to be the best route to deliver the content.

Context and Learner Characteristics: This group is different every year but will always have approximately 5 students.   Mid-year turnover happens, so we will usually have students at different points in the unit.       This is a mixed group of traditional and non-traditional age commuter students.   The current group ranges in age from 20-50, all work in addition to to their course loads and campus service.   Time, is obviously an enormous challenge for us.   Additionally, they will not receive a grade which is a huge challenge to keep them motivated, especially as the demands of the semester increase.

Expectations: Many participants will come with an idea of leadership is that is largely based on a business model. However, we will be working with an academic model of leadership that is based on social change.

Nature of the Subject: Each person in the group will approach this topic from different levels of experience and must discover their own definition and style of leadership.   They will need to find personal ways to use very different personal talents and strengths to come together as a team.

Teacher Characteristics: There are three modules within this unit.   The first two modules (know thyself and know thy team) I am very familiar with and feel adequately prepared to teach.   The third module (creating social change) I have been working with for several years, but have not put in my own formal study of.   I am less confident initially in teaching the third module, but pretty confident that I will gain confidence quickly.   This will be my first attempt to teach this topic in a blended/online format.

Special Pedagogical Challenge: I see three significant pedagogical challenge   with this course.   One will be in sustaining motivation when outside demands   on student time get overwhelming.
Second is the variety of ideas about what we are talking about when we discuss the term leadership.   And third, the possible turn-over and trying to maintain a group process with a fluctuating group and folks continually at different points in the process.

3 thoughts on “Situational factors – leadership development

  1. Hey Kim, really interesting topic here! Leadership is something we spent considerable time with in Business school, as it has everything to do with the outcome. Ernest Shackleton said “loneliness is the penalty of leadership.” I have found this to be painfully true, for as soon as a the leader becomes “one of the guys/gals” they have lost much of their authority and respect, which is a necessary component when asking an employee to do an undesirable task or something that may conflict with their personal agenda.
    For your first challenge, I wonder if it would be possible to offer letters of recommendation or resume building accolades to keep motivation up? Your observation that a lack of quantifiable merit poses challenges in spot on. Students expect a return on investment for their efforts. An A in a class is one way to get this return. But you may have other motivational tools at your disposal. Every student is thinking about how this work and this degree will lead to a job outside school. Try to offer something to that end- I would focus on tangibles such as the one I suggested above. Maybe tie those rewards to successfully completing the entire semester; this could help combat turnover as well.
    Also, I think society has many expectations of school leaders, some of which may incorporate business principles and approaches. Principals and other school leaders are constantly in the hot seat. It may be worth fleshing out some of the external expectations (from parents, state boards, business leaders, grant managers) so your learning goals can be tailored to address these.
    Cool topic, look forward to reading more.

    1. You basically stole my comment, Craig! I guess we had the same things on our mind. Should’ve been here earlier.

      I agree that in a professional setting , especially with business-types, professional motivation methods might be best. Even if it’s as technically pointless as “most improved” (etc.) – people really latch onto that kind of thing.

      In line with someone else’s thoughts this week, on gamification, it might not be a bad idea to break the semester course up into smaller modules, each with their own smaller incentives, so that your participants have something to work toward that’s closer to them than the end of the semester.

  2. Hi Kim,

    I agree with your assessment of your three main challenges. You might consider adding a 4th potentially as well with your diverse age/background of students. Leadership exercises might mean different things to 20 year olds vs. 50 year olds?

    Motivation is always tricky, particularly given your likely lack of cohort cohesion. You might consider a non-linear design or a linear design on a smaller scale. For instance, you could have a list of 15 tasks (5 for each module), and it doesn’t matter in which order they’re completed. Some students could be working on X while others choose Y and Z, and everyone is sharing their experiences. Or, you could have everyone present in a given week working on L, and the following week, everyone works on O, without a particular point of entry. These kinds of designs sound super-modern, (there’s a bunch of hype around non-linear design) but the ideas are old. Scouting for instance has long featured multi-pathed approaches (with badging) toward learning outcomes.

    It sounds like you’ve been thinking about this for a while which is always helpful. I look forward to seeing this evolve!


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