Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Leadership Theories and Brown's Brownies

We started class today by listening to a fairly recent song called "Blurred Lines," which many of us had heard before without realizing how sexist the lyrics are. It drew attention to how we only had heard the tune, how we don't even notice what we're listening to and what we're consuming. 

Early on in class today, we watched an Army Strong video and clips from Dances With Wolves and Sister Act. Each of them showed a different definition of leadership; as strength, as a communicative democracy, and as authority coming from one person. We talked about how the Army Strong video showed only two women, one receiving an award and the other with the phrase "the strength to get yourself over...and the strength to get over yourself," on the screen as she is being helped over an obstacle.

We talked for a while about the definition of a leader given by our reading assignment: "any person who actively engages with others to accomplish change," and Dean Almandrez brought up the example of Forrest Gump running for no real reason, and gathering a group of followers. Even though Forrest had supporters, he wasn't trying to achieve anything, so he wasn't a leader. 

We listed people we recognized as leaders, then qualities we considered a part of leadership. We then read through the list of characteristics, and had to raise our hands if we felt that the qualities we had given applied to us. As a group, our hands were in the air most of the time. Then Dean Almandrez asked us why we hadn't put ourselves on the list of leaders even though we had traits that go with leadership. I hadn't thought about myself that way, and I wondered why none of my classmates had either. 

The leadership theories that were mentioned in our reading from last night were all posted around the room. We were asked to write definitions or examples on each paper if we could. Honestly, I only remembered solid definitions for about half of them. There was the "Great Man" theory, that people are born leaders, the "Trait" theory, that leaders must have certain characteristics, the "Influence" theory, that leaders must be charismatic, the "Behavioral" theory, that leaders behave a certain way (this is the first theory that stated that leadership could be taught), and "Situational/Contingency" theory, that leaders can adapt and change. There were also the Reciprocal Approach theories (all of which came up after the 1970s), including transformational leadership, servant-leadership, followership leadership, and relational leadership. 

Then we got in two lines and shifted over a place after talking for a few minutes with the person across from you about the program and the Action Plan. We watched Malala Yousafzai (a sixteen-year old Pakistani education activist who was shot by the Taliban but survived) give a speech to the United Nations. In her speech, Malala encouraged world leaders to provide free education to children, because she said that books and pens were the greatest weapons, for even the Taliban feared them. 

Next, we did a "fishbowl activity" in which we divided in half by socioeconomic status (which was chosen to make us uncomfortable, a part of the goal for expanding our comfort zones) and one group sat and listened while the other group finished statements like "my biggest fear as a leader is..." or "my leadership style is..." The group on the outside was asked to write down exact quotes of anything that was said on the inside circle that stood out to us, and later repeated what they had said to the class. It was surprising to find that we could pull quotes that were so intelligent and deep from seemingly average statements. We also picked up on the importance of listening closely to find the message our peers were trying to convey. Dean Almandrez told us after the activity that she often has to remind herself that she has "two ears, one mouth."

Class was over, but the members of the ILC, along with a number of other students, had been invited to a meeting for Partner Scholars about going to college. I decided to go, but there were only about thirty of us in the room, so we had several extra brownies left over and whole quarts of lemonade that remained untouched. In it, four college students spoke to us about their experiences and struggles applying to universities and adjusting to college life. It was really helpful, and from being in this summer program, I can compare and contrast what "real college" is like compared to my Women and Leadership class. It was informative, and I learned a lot. 

Today, I worked some more on my Action Plan essay, and I've been struggling most with the background to my subject, which I've decided is best described as combating depression in hospital patients and nursing home residents. The main issue for me is that I chose to use mostly facts to support my page of background information, and as a West, I can get bogged down with information and wrapped up in details. Once I get past this part, finishing my essay will be a piece of cake, though, so I'm glad I'm almost done. 

This part of class focuses on congruence, commitment, and change in the Social Change Model of leadership. It wasn't as fun for me as the other parts, which focused more on consciousness of self, but I'm still learning a lot, and I can tell that I'll see things differently when I come home. 
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