Archive for August, 2015

So, gentle reader, what about the second word: ‘Academy’? Here is a definition to consider. Academy: An educational institution for special instruction or training. This definition implies that an Academy will utilize ‘Teachers’ and/or ‘Educators.’ These folks will be ‘specialists’ and will have developed their capacity to ‘instruct,’ ‘educate,’ and/or ‘train.’

Given this, there are a few other words/concepts that might help us if we define them. Consider the following: Institution: An organization devoted to a particular cause or program. Instruct: To furnish with knowledge. Train: To make proficient by instruction and practice. Practice: Repeated performance for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency. Teach: To impart knowledge. Educate: To call forth [Education is rooted in ‘educare’ – ‘to call out’]. Develop: To bring out the capabilities, potentials and possibilities; to bring to a more advanced state.

All of the Academies I have been exposed to (directly or via some other conduit) fit the definition for ‘Academy.’ Some Academies ‘instruct.’ This is their strength. The ‘instructors’ are proficient ‘teachers’ – they are the ‘experts’ and their charge is to impart their knowledge to the participants. Some Academies ‘train.’ The charge of the instructors is not only to impart their knowledge, the instructors are also charged with providing opportunities for the participants to ‘practice.’ A few Academies ‘educate’ and help ‘develop’ the participant’s capacities.

For many years now the preferred practice method for many Academies is to have the participants engage ‘Case Studies.’ There are basically two types of ‘Case Studies.’ One is for the participants to ‘read a Case’ that was published (by the instructor or by another expert) and then to ‘practice’ via ‘discussion’ (there are so many different definitions for ‘discussion’ that I will not even attempt to focus on one). The other ‘practice’ method also employs a ‘Case Study.’ Each participant brings a ‘real-life, real-time’ case that he/she is engaging (or one that he/she had recently engaged or one that in the near future he/she will have to engage). The participants become the presenters ‘consultants’ and help the presenter explore his/her options. If the ‘Case’ is occurring in real-time, the presenter returns to his/her workplace and ‘practices’ and ‘reflect’ and ‘writes’ and then ‘reports’ back to the ‘class.’ The cycle is then repeated.

I have a bias: The second Case Study method is the one that provides the participant with the greatest learning opportunity. It also challenges each participant to emerge a ‘real-life’ problem, paradox or dilemma – one that they are emotionally invested in and one that stretches their skills, talents, abilities and capacities. There is a caution that must be attended to: Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent! Thus it is crucial for the participant to be awake and aware and intentional and purpose-full, and mind-full and response-able when choosing what to practice.

My experience is that the most effective instructors who employ the ‘Case Study Method’ are the ones who ‘educate’ more than ‘teach.’ They ‘call forth’ from the participants more than they ‘put in.’ This is a daunting challenge for the instructor who has been deemed to be an expert and believes that he/she must impart his/her expertise to the participants.

Now, gentle reader, there is another concept that is important (for me at least) and that is the concept of ‘Development.’ I have a bias: I believe that we ‘train’ animals and ‘develop’ leaders. For me, the development of the leader is a process – a life-long process. The leader who believes that he/she has arrived is too often susceptible to being seduced by the evil twins named arrogance and hubris. Development is an organic process. Next time we will explore this concept more fully in relation to the ‘Leadership Academy.’

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I participated in my first Leadership Academy in 1968; I was a participant. Since then I have had the opportunity to observe, read about/study, be a participant in and be a faculty member of many other Leadership Academies. I am currently a faculty member of a Leadership Academy for a large health network; I am helping doctors develop their leadership capacities. Last year I concluded a 14 year experience as a faculty member of a physician leadership college/academy; this academy is part of a school of business located in a large university. A week or so ago I was invited to be a speaker for the third year participants of another Leadership Academy. This invitation stimulated my thinking. I began to think about and reflect upon the idea/concept of what we generically call ‘The Leadership Academy.’

As Charles Handy noted: ‘Reflection plus Experience is the Learning…’ I continue to have the experience and I also continue to reflect upon my experience. Following is some of what has emerged – is continuing to emerge – for me as I reflect upon my 47 years of experience with Leadership Academies. What is emerging are ‘thoughts’ about the concept and contained within my thoughts are, among other things, ‘biases’ that I currently have about the concept. So, gentle reader, I offer you my thoughts to consider – that is I invite you to think about them and see what emerges for you. I will also offer you my biases – which I will name – and I also invite you to reflect upon them and to surface your own biases about Leaders, Leadership and Leadership Academies.

Let us continue, then, with two words: ‘Leadership’ and ‘Academy.’ Who seeks to become a participant in a Leadership Academy? Well, generally, the participants are designated leaders and folks who want to become designated leaders or who will soon become designated leaders. I intentionally use the word ‘designated’ because, as we know, there are also folks who become leaders in response or in reaction to a situation. As far as I know there are no ‘Situational Leadership Academies’ (if you know of one, gentle reader, please let me know about it).

Now, I have a bias about the concept ‘Leadership.’ True, there is a person who is a designated leader. This person, however, is only part of the ‘equation.’ The other key part of the equation is the person who freely chooses to follow the leader. Without a follower the leader exists in name only. For me, then, Leadership is a by-product of the relationship between the Leader and the Led (the person or persons who freely choose to follow the leader). Thus, BOTH the Leader and the Led are response-able, responsible and accountable for what we call ‘leadership. Simply stated (and I understand that this is truly a ‘simple statement’): When this relationship is ‘functional’ then Leadership is functional and when the relationship is not ‘functional’ Leadership is not functional. ‘Leadership’ requires both the Leader and the Led.

Given this, the title ‘Leadership’ in ‘Leadership Academy’ seems to me to be inappropriate and misleading. The Academy is for ‘leaders’ and those who want to be leaders and those who will soon be formally designated as leaders. A ‘Leadership Academy’ will, according to my bias, need to include the Led as well as the Leaders. Now wouldn’t that be some powerful Academy?

Now, how about that second word ‘Academy’?

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Virtues and Values. Aristotle focused on the individual and on Virtues. His approach was a person-centered approach. Kant, among others, focused on the ‘duties’ and ‘obligations’ – the acts a person chose to perform; this is an act-centered approach. For me, both of these are important AND they are not enough. As a depth-educator (educate is rooted in the Latin ‘educare,’ which is ‘to call forth’ which is different from ‘teaching’ which has to do with ‘putting in) I am interested in the third leg of this three legged stool. My focus in primarily on the relationship. I am not only relationship-focused, I tend to be relationship-centered (as contrasted with being ‘person-centered’ or ‘act-centered’; thus I am ‘relationship-centered AND person-focused and act-focused).

The relationship is reciprocal; that is, the parent, teacher, religious authority, or ‘authority figure’ is affected, is served, is cared-for, is influenced by, and at times is transformed by the one ‘cared-for’ (the child, the student, the disciple, etc.). This calls for a relationship that is ‘interdependent’ and not one that is rooted in ‘dependence’ (as in, “I am the authority and you will do as I say.”). In addition, for me, ‘educating moral people’ involves more than a focus on Virtues; Values complete the whole – a Virtue-Value whole. Together they are the tap roots that nurture the Strengths of Character that help define the moral person.

What are the ‘Virtues’ and what are the ‘Values’ that are necessary to embrace and integrate (so, in Aristotle’s view they become ‘habits’ – in this case, ‘habits of the heart’)? Ah, here is the rub. There are many Virtues and many Values to choose from. For the child, for example, there often exists a tension – the ‘authority figures’ in their lives do not always agree on the same Virtues and the same Values. Actually, how many authority figures ‘know’ and ‘understand’ the Virtues and Values that they are modeling for a child? How many are intentional and purpose-full when it comes to educating a child to specific Virtues and Values?

I have found it helpful for the authority figures to discern three or four ‘Core Virtues’ and three or four ‘Core Values’ that they want to model and emphasize. ‘Core’ means that to the best of one’s ability one will never compromise the Virtue or the Value (because we are imperfect human beings we will, of course, compromise one or more of them – which is why, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation are crucial; which is why empathy, compassion and mercy are often embraced as ‘Core’).

Now a ‘Core Value’ can be a value that some label as ‘bad’ (think, ‘greed’); a ‘Core Virtue’ is not a ‘Core Vice’ (which we also have, some of us in abundance). A major challenge for ‘authority figures’ is to help the child learn how to deal with the variety and at times the conflicting ‘Virtues’ and ‘Values’ that they will be asked to embrace (if not integrate). As the child develops his/her capacity for mental abstraction it then becomes crucial for the authority figures to engage in depth-searching conversations so the child can choose which Virtues and which Values to embrace and integrate (this process can be threatening to the authority figure – the ‘person’ and/or the ‘community’ – the ‘community’ is the family, the religious tradition, the school, the club, etc.).

Much more can be written about this topic, but for now, these three postings will provide us some ideas to consider, to reflect upon and hopefully stimulate us to explore more deeply.

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In the United States our tendency thanks to E. Kant has been to focus, if not restrict, the moral domain to our ‘duties’ and ‘obligations’ to others. However, like the Ancient Chinese sage Confucius and the Greek sage Aristotle I hold a broader question: ‘How shall I/We live?’ For me, my/our healthy development as fully human beings and my/our healthy development of a moral life are woven together into one seamless whole fabric.

Aristotle was concerned with virtues, character and morals; this is one powerful legacy he gifted us with. First, Aristotle defined these in terms of behavior; second, he defined these in terms of feeling; and third he defined these in terms of ‘reason.’ Children learn first by observing others and second by having the ‘parental/authority figures’ in their lives guide and direct them regarding the behaviors they choose and the feelings they experience and share. As a child develops then he/she is able to develop the capacity to ‘reason.’ As Aristotle noted, ‘we become what we think and do; we become our habits.’

Following Aristotle’s suggestions, parental/authority figures ‘teach’ the child and as the child develops and is able to ‘reason’ more fully the ‘habits formed’ become affirmed by ‘reason.’ Parents know that the ‘lesson’ must follow immediately from the experience; the greater the gap between the experience and the ‘lesson’ the less likely a child will remember the event or be able to make the connection (they are ‘concrete beings’ and ‘abstract thinking’ is not easily available to them). If the parental/authority figures mainly rely on coercion they might well obtain ‘compliance’ from the child and instill ‘fear’ as a consequence (over time the child becomes his/her ‘fear’ and the consequences of this are dreadful – an understatement I know).

Children are more likely to develop a healthy habit in response to a parental/authority figure’s intervention (think, ‘teaching/educating’) if the relationship between the two is rooted in deep caring (reciprocal caring) and trust (the child unconditionally trusts the parental/authority figure). The caring/trust relationship comes first; then the teaching/education.

There is another aspect involved in all of this. Certain cultures have a belief: ‘It takes a community to raise a child.’ So it is when it comes to educating moral people – it takes a community. In our case, it takes a family, a neighborhood, a school, perhaps a religious community and/or a ‘social community’ (a club, for example). So choosing which communities to entrust their children to is a major moral ‘duty’ and ‘obligation’. How many parents intentionally and purpose-fully choose these as communities that will powerfully impact the moral development of their children?

The challenges in choosing these communities are legion. For example, what ‘values’ do we want each community to espouse/model/teach? What ‘virtues’ do we want each community to espouse/model/teach? What guiding life-principles do we want each community to espouse/model/teach? What attitudes (think prejudices, stereotypes, assumptions, perceptions, etc.) do we want each community to espouse/model/teach? This is enough – my mind is reeling as I strive to think about my responses to these questions. A brief reflection will begin to uncover the many conflicts possible: value conflicts, for example.

How well does our culture help potential and young parents engage all of this? O.K. this is daunting. Let’s just focus on two of these: Values and Virtues. Even when I narrow the list to these two I am still feeling whelmed over and I have been thinking about these for more than 40 years. I can imagine what the young potential/actual parent will feel if/when he/she contemplates this challenge.

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School is In. Once again I am thinking about our obligation to, our duty to, educate the young. For me, as an educator, the age range of the ‘young’ is expansive. Currently the age range is from five years of age through twenty-one years of age. I often narrow this range to include Grade 1 through Grade 12 (in our system here in the United States).

Here is a question I hold: How do we develop a ‘better world’? Consider that the way to a better world involves helping better people develop more than developing better principles to live by. How might we enable better people to develop? One way might be to establish ‘conditions’ that are likely to encourage ‘goodness.’

The ‘conditions’ include, but are not limited to culture, subculture, environment, climate, metaphors, attitudes, guiding (not prescriptive) life-principles’ virtues, certain behaviors, and certain attitudes.

‘Goodness’ involves reciprocal caring, reciprocal serving (e.g. addressing one’s highest priority needs), acting morally and ethically (some equate being moral with being ethical; I do not), being tolerant, being empathetic, being respectful, and being unconditionally response-able.

NOTE: Before I continue it is important for you, gentle reader, to understand that ‘principles’ are important. However, for the most part, it seems to me anyway, the prescriptive use of principles has not been effective. My experience is that moral people, people of good character, seldom consult abstract principles when they act morally. Why? Consider that our motivation to act morally arises from within the person or from within the relationship/interactions between two or three people (why one, two or three; why not more than three – I refer us to Reinhold Niebuher’s powerful book, ‘Moral Man and Immoral Society’ for an insight into this ‘why’).

Moral people also reason well. Developing our capacity to reason well is crucial, thus developing our critical thinking skills, abilities and capacities is a necessity. AND, as we know by experience, ‘reason alone’ is not a motivator for moral action. We all have heard about highly educated people, people who are well trained in the arts and skills of reasoning who choose to perform unethical and immoral acts (some with frequent repetition).

We also know that as human beings we learn by observing others – especially those we ‘label’ as important to our well-being. We also know that children who are cared for by people who consistently (not perfectly for none of us human beings is perfect) model moral behavior are more likely themselves to develop into moral human beings. Children observe, model and learn from the adults in their lives (and siblings that are at least five years older than they are). Reasoning is important – modeling, it seems to me, is more important. This is where we educators play a crucial, if not defining, role when it comes to educating moral people.

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