2006 Conference Keynote Address by Bob Christina
Fostering Leadership: Implications for NAKPEHE
Robert W. Christina
For the past two years the future directions committee of NAKPEHE held discussions with professionals in our field to find out why they are not currently members of NAKPEHE and what NAKPEHE could do to be an organization they would join. Armed with this information, the future directions committee met last may and focused on how to make NAKPEHE the professional organization of choice for those in kinesiology and physical education. A summary of their meeting was published in the september 2005 issue of the chronicle of kinesiology and physical education in higher education.
To move the organization forward quickly, the committee recommended that the board of directors and membership consider an expanded mission statement that clearly identifies who NAKPEHE's constituents are. The expanded mission statement is as follows: "NAKPEHE is an organization for professionals in higher education. Its purpose is to foster leadership in the areas of scholarship, administration, policy, preparation for the professions, and meeting society's needs. This mission is facilitated through interdisciplinary ideas, concepts, and initiatives related to the role for kinesiology and physical education in higher education while respecting diverse social, cultural and personal perspectives." this is NAKPEHE's uniqueness, according to the future directions committee.
The committee also recommended that the president establish a strategic planning committee to oversee the total development of the plan, a draft of which might be ready to be presented at the board meeting following this conference. Further, the future directions committee selected leadership as the theme for the 2007 conference in clearwater beach, florida. As a precursor to the 2007 conference, on wednesday and thursday of this week a NAKPEHE administrator pre-conference was held that focused on "leadership in kinesiology and physical education." quite appropriately, the pre-conference advanced the expanded mission statement by focusing on leadership and served as a sample of the exciting program to come at the 2007 conference. Of course, the theme of the 2006 conference also advanced the expanded mission statement by focusing on the ways in which the disciplines in our field connect and collaborate with each other.
My task this morning is to kick off this session by sharing with you some thoughts about leadership with implications for NAKPEHE's future direction. Before i begin, you should know that i am not a "plant" by the NAKPEHE board of directors or future directions committee. I had no previous conversations with them about their goal to foster leadership. I was simply invited to speak on leadership and they have no more idea of what i'm about to say than you do. Since NAKPEHE plans to foster leadership, i thought it would be helpful to you and to our distinguished panelists who will speak after me to begin this session by addressing several questions that are fundamental to understanding leadership and the implications that such understanding has for NAKPEHE. Let's start with the most basic question, which is, "what is leadership?"
What is leadership?
To an extent, leadership is like beauty: it's hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Although each of us intuitively understands what a person means by the word "leadership," it can have different meanings to different people because every situation and the people involved are so different and complex. Scholars and experts can describe the characteristics of leadership, and they might apply to you, but to no one else in quite the same way. As a result, the literature contains numerous definitions and various theories of leadership rather than just one definition or theory on which scholars and experts agree. Let's examine a few definitions of leadership.
o I'll tell you what leadership is. It's persuasion and conciliation and education and patience." (Dwight D. Eisenhower)
o "Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible." (Colin l. Powell)
o "Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy." (Norman Schwarzkopf)
Although leaderhip has many competing definitions and theories, there is considerable agreement on what it is not! First of all, leadership is not the naked application of power; it is not the authority vested in an administrative position; and it is not management.
If no one definition or theory holds all the answers to successful leadership, what then is the value of the many definitions and theories that have been created? The answer is that the knowledge and concepts generated by the various definitions and theories can provide positive suggestions that make sense to us and our particular situation. They can provide us with a conceptual plan and a language for interpreting and understanding the leadership that we see taking place around us. The knowledge and concepts can serve to guide us toward noticing those variables that are critical in finding solutions to the leadership problems that we often experience in the real world. Thus, although the various current leadership definitions and theories do not always provide us with direct solutions to our leadership problems, they can increase our understanding, which in turn has the potential to help us find the appropriate solutions.
Rather than focusing on definitions or theories of leadership, many scholars prefer to view leadership as a process that involves a series of dynamic relations whose very complexity a static definition or theory cannot adequately explain. Leadership has been studied extensively for many years using both qualitative and quantitative methods in many different contexts. The research findings from these studies reveal a picture of a process that is far more sophisticated and complex than the simplistic view that is often presented in some of the popular books on leadership (northouse, 2004).
How does leadership begin?
There is general agreement among scholars and experts that the opportunity for leadership begins as a challenge that can be undertaken or ignored. A challenge is anything that looks to the future and aims to make a difference. For instance, the future directions committee and board of directors are attempting to provide leadership for NAKPEHE as an organization. They are responding to the problem before them, which is the gradual decline in the relevance of NAKPEHE as a prominent professional organization in our field. This decline in relevance has resulted in a failure to attract and retain an adequate number of new members, a decrease in the number of regular members, and fewer effective connections and collaborations with key professional organizations inside and outside of our field.
Thus, leadership began with the challenge of how to enhance NAKPEHE's relevance so that it could become a more prominent professional organization in our field. This challenge has been enthusiastically undertaken by the NAKPEHE future directions committee and board of directors who responded with an expanded mission statement, a strategic plan, and a 2007 conference theme that focuses on leadership. Their response qualifies as a form of leadership because it looks to the future and aims to make a difference.
So, there is no question that the future directions committee and board of directors of NAKPEHE are providing leadership for NAKPEHE and for me, at least, it appears to be a reasonable and promising course of action. Assuming that it is, how can NAKPEHE ensure that it will work, that is, what can NAKPEHE do to increase the chances of their proposed mission being successful? To assume that if NAKPEHE builds it, they will come may lead to nothing more than a "field of dreams." in other words, just because NAKPEHE informs professionals in our field who it wants to attract that it is in the process of "remaking" itself is no guarantee that many of those professionals will actually come. I think NAKPEHE's course of action and mission is a very good start, but it is not the end of their leadership, it is only the very beginning. Now NAKPEHE must do the special things needed to bring about the desired results, which reminds me of a story about a minister and taxi driver who both died on the same day. Saint peter took in the taxi driver, but made the minister wait outside. When the minister asked why he had been kept waiting and the taxi driver had been ushered right in, saint peter answered that the taxi driver did the special things needed to bring about the desired results and you did not. Quite surprised, the minister asked saint peter to please explain and saint peter replied:----"when you preached, your parishioners slept. When he drove, his passengers prayed."
For me, the bottom line is that professionals are likely to become members of NAKPEHE if they are getting something they think they want or need relative to leadership in higher education that they can't get anywhere else or from any other professional organization. That something could be finding creative solutions to the complex challenges occurring in department, school, college, and university settings where the call for effective leadership today is stronger than ever. Or, it could be the understanding, practice and development of leadership in academic settings for the benefit of those they serve whether they are students, faculty, staff, or people in the community and beyond. Or, it could be the opportunity to present and publish research investigating leadership problems in kinesiology and physical education. Regardless of what it is, to be successful, NAKPEHE must eventually become recognized as the professional organization in our field that is the very best at helping to understand, build, extend, and revitalize the practice of leadership. At the very least, this will take some time; it will take continued leadership from NAKPEHE's board of directors and future directions committee; it will take increased leadership from NAKPEHE members who are not on the board of directors or future directions committee; it will take insightful strategic planning that accurately anticipates the future; and it will take effective connections and collaborations with the most relevant professional organizations inside and outside of our field.
But how will the NAKPEHE leadership is how will they bring this about? How will they make this happen? To what extent will other professional organizations such as aahperd and aakpe and scholarly groups such as acsm and naspspa be willing to connect and collaborate with NAKPEHE to help foster leadership? Why should they? What's in it for them? In other words, if NAKPEHE is successful at fostering leadership, exactly how do other organizations that connect or collaborate with NAKPEHE stand to benefit? If one or more organizations do agree to connect and collaborate, what exactly does NAKPEHE expect them to bring to the table to help foster leadership? Indeed, the solutions to some professional needs and problems do demand that professional organizations collaborate in such a way that there is a mutual respect for what each brings to the table. Who are these professional organizations with whom NAKPEHE should collaborate, what does NAKPEHE expect them to bring to the table, and how will they benefit? The answers to these questions will be essential for NAKPEHE's success.
What is the vision for NAKPEHE?
Although i highly commend the future directions committee for their proposed expanded mission statement, i did not find their vision for NAKPEHE explicitly stated. Based on the meeting summary that appeared in the chronicle, i could infer that the first sentence of their expanded mission statement is, in fact, their vision, which is that "NAKPEHE is an organization for professionals in higher education." the problem with it being their vision statement is that it merely describes the current state of NAKPEHE, and not what it aspires to become in the future. Indeed, it is hardly a vision of excellence. However, if i were to change the statement to "NAKPEHE is a nationally recognized organization for understanding and expanding the leadership capabilities of professionals in higher education," we are closer to having a vision statement because it relects what the organization aspires to become in the future. I am not recommending this change as the vision statement that NAKPEHE should adopt. I am only using it as an example to illustrate my point that a vision statement should be a concept of the future rather than the current reality.
The mission statement describes the specific task with which NAKPEHE is charged, that is, NAKPEHE's purpose, scope, and capabilities. But without a vision statement, we have no description of what nakephe ultimately aspires to become. For me, having a simple vision statement explicitly stated is fundamental for NAKPEHE's success to recapture its prominence. It would provide meaning to NAKPEHE's mission. It would reveal what NAKPEHE stands for and how NAKPEHE would create a shared future of excellence with its members. Thus, i strongly encourage NAKPEHE to clearly articulate a vision of excellence that is understood and shared by its membership.
I fear that without a vision, NAKPEHE might find that following the proposed mission statement works for a while, but sooner rather than later, members will start asking, "where are we going? -----which is the question i now ask of the future directions committee and the board of directors----"what vision for NAKPEHE is the proposed expanded mission statement attempting to achieve?"
Vision provides meaning to NAKPEHE's mission. The appropriate vision will enhance effectiveness and bind the enterprise to its core values, which are the fundamental principles that guide the organization in carrying out its mission. If values are implicit to the vision, and the vision is genuinely pursued, and the pursuit of the vision benefits everyone involved, then effective leadership is being exercised.
Another benefit of having a vision is that it can stimulate the type of leadership that is sustained much longer than the type of leadership that is motivated by having to solve a pressing problem. The stimulation comes from clearly seeing NAKPEHE's vision, that is, where we want it to be and telling the truth about its current reality, which is where it is. The gap or discrepency between the two can stimulate leadership that is intrinsically motivated. People who learn how to work with this stimulation, learn how to use the energy it generates to move reality more reliably toward a vision in which they believe. Leadership stimulated by a vision is very different than the leadership stimulated by wanting to solve a problem. In problem solving, the energy for change comes from attempting to get away from an aspect of current reality that is undesirable, such as the current reputation that NAKPEHE has as a professional organization. With a vision, the energy for change comes from what you want to create, juxtaposed with current reality. While the distinction may seem small, the consequences are not. Many people find themselves motivated to change only when their problem is bad enough to cause them to change. This works for a while, but the change process runs "out of steam" as soon as the problem driving change becomes less pressing. With problem solving, the motivation for change is largely extrinsic and persists only as long as the problem does. With a compelling vision of excellence, the motivation for change is largely intrinsic and can persist well after the vision has been achieved in order to maintain its excellence.
If my recommendation is taken and a vision is created for NAKPEHE, the next step is for the board of directors to spread it, and get the members and others to help spread it by any and all means available. After spreading NAKPEHE's vision, we must spread it again and again and again, like a third grade teacher, until people get it right! A great vision means nothing if it is kept to oneself or a few people, or if it is heard and easily forgotten. Indeed, leadership begins as a challenge with a compelling vision of excellence, but it is important to communicate that vision to NAKPEHE members, nonmembers and professional organizations with whom NAKPEHE wants to collaborate in such a way that at least three things are accomplished:
o Everyone clearly knows what NAKPEHE aspires to become in the future,
o Members feel empowered to achieve it, and
o Nonmembers and relevant professional organizations want to share in the quest to achieve it.
Indeed, if we are successful in communicating NAKPEHE's vision to those who are in the best positon to help us achieve it, we will have created an organization with a shared vision of excellence.
In whom should NAKPEHE foster leadership?
As I mentioned previously, the proposed expanded mission statement holds that NAKPEHE's purpose is to foster leadership. But in whom is NAKPEHE planning to foster leadership? Is it only in individuals who are current administrators and those aspiring to become administrators? I sincerely hope not because that population is too limited and would exclude such groups as faculty who are undregraduate and graduate program coordinators, directors of teacher education programs and physical activity programs, chairs of promotion, tenure, and merit committees, chairs of search committees, faculty mentoring committees, future directions committees, and curriculum committees, and faculty who are interested in studying leadership in our field. I would argue that in addition to current and aspiring administrators, NAKPEHE attempt to foster leadership in everyone who is interested because to some extent anyone can be a leader, every person has some gift for leadership, and every faculty member is involved in leadership decisions.
Leadership experts no longer accept the view that leadership is contained in a set of personality traits that some people have and others don't. Leadership can be learned and that leadership involves a complex set of relationships that can obscure distinctions between leaders and followers. It would be helpful for NAKPEHE to consider acts of leadership separately from individual leaders. If given the opportunity, any faculty member can step forward and provide leadership even if he or she doesn't want to consider him or herself a leader. Similarly, if a faculty member has a leadership role in one part of his or her professional life, often he or she is a follower in another.
To what extent can leadership be fostered?
It is generally agreed that leadership can be learned through experience, but to what extent can it be learned when taught and thereby fostered? Some think it can, others are not so sure. Many institutions depend on the assumption that leadership can be learned when taught.
For example, the prestigious center for creative leadership, which was founded in 1970 in greensboro, north carolina, provides thirty years of strong evidence that leadership skills can be developed. The center's success has led it to become one of the largest institutions in the world focusing solely on fostering leadership. The center's programs impact some 20,000 leaders and 3,000 organizations each year.
Another example are the united states military academies, who are dedicated to teaching leadership skills to young recruits and teaching them to become leaders. The question is----to what extent does their teaching result in the recruits learning leadership and becoming leaders? Some would claim that their teaching of leadership results in considerable learning. However, others would argue that such teaching results in less learning than one would think largely because the young recruits, who are selected based on their potential for leadership, already have special leadership traits and abilities before they are exposed to the teaching of the military academies. So, which position is correct?
Any traits traditionally associated with strong leadership such as being charismatic, ambitious, aggressive, confident, passionate, or having high self-esteem appear to be largely genetically determined and affected little by teaching and learning. However, this only closes off certain leadership roads for those of us who weren't fortunate enough to be born with such traits. Indeed, learning how to communicate effectively, how to build relationships, how to facilitate the learning of those around them, and how to get results by working with people and through conciliation are leadership skills that can be taught and learned.
Developing as a leader is a day-by-day, lifelong learning process that is built on continued self-examination, introspection, and self-searching honesty. As one pursues the goal of becoming a leader, he or she learns from failures, acknowledges wrong turns, and makes amends when necessary. It is a learning process that begins and ends with oneself. In the process of developing leadership skills, people have to work with what they have, learning to refine their strengths and work to improve their weaknesses. And in the process of learning how to lead, they have to learn to emphasize their strengths and work around their weaknesses. Thus, there is no doubt that many leadership skills can be learned when taught and thereby fostered. Also, there is little doubt that while many leadership skills can be taught and learned in a classroom setting, some of the aspects of leadership are more effectively learned through experience.
This has serious implications for the aspects of leadership NAKPEHE chooses to foster and the ways in which NAKPEHE attempts to foster them. The traditional lecture method where a teacher stands in front of a class and imparts information is limited for fostering leadership. It can pass on information about leadership and tell about the theories of leadership, but is less successful in teaching people how to lead, which is learned best through experience.
In summary, there is considerable evidence that leadership skills can be learned when taught, which is a prerequisite for NAKPEHE to successfully achieve its mission to foster leadership. However, because some aspects of leadership are more effectively learned through experience than in the classroom, NAKPEHE will have to focus on leadership skills and variables influencing the development of those skills that can be effectively fostered. Also, it will require NAKPEHE to carefully think through the ways in which their future programs attempt to foster these leadership skills. Indeed, selecting the most appropriate leadership skills to foster and the most appropriate ways in which to foster them will determine the extent to which NAKPEHE is successful in achieving its mission.
How can NAKPEHE capitalize on its collective genius?
As NAKPEHE moves forward in quest of its mission, much of its success will depend on the extent to which it can capitalize on the collective genius of the members in its organization and the leaders in other relevant professional organizations. One way for NAKPEHE to do this is by spread opportunities for leadership throughout its own organization and other key professional organizations. Under these conditions, leadership is not confined to particular administrative positions such as the president or board of directors of NAKPEHE. Often leadership is exercised more effectively by those who are not in such administrative positions (clark & clark, 1996). The old view that leaders exist only at the top of an organization is far from reality and fails to take advantage of the leadership capabilities of others in the organization. This old view is analagous to the buffalo paradigm of leadership. Buffalo will follow one leader blindly, which was one of the reasons settlers found them so easy to shoot and kill. If you kill the lead buffalo, the others will stand around helplessly until they get shot, eventually destroying the entire herd. Certainly, this is not an effective way of leading any group, animal or human. Conversely, the more contemporary view, which spreads the opportunity for leadership throughout the organization, is analagous to the geese paradigm. As we all know, a flock of geese fly in a "v" formation. The hardest job is in the lead, but the geese rotate that position, each taking the lead successively thereby spreading the opportunity for leadership throughout the flock.
However, i prefer not think of the geese paradigm as empowering followers to participate in leadership but instead, to think of transforming leadership from an individual property into one that redefines leadership as a collective practice where everyone has the opportunity to provide leadership, not serially as in the geese paradigm, but concurrently and collectively (raelin, 2003). I am not proposing that people in administrative leadership positions in NAKPEHE should do less, but rather that all of the members can and should assume the responsibility as citizen leaders to do more (matusak, 1996).
Quite often, members who are not in administrative positions are effective at initiating and facilitating change for the very reasons that an administrator's efforts can backfire? I think one of the most interesting paradoxes is that "no power is power." precisely because people have no administrative authority in NAKPEHE, they are free to move about the organization relatively unnoticed. For example, when the president of NAKPEHE or its board of directors or the future directions committee say to us, "NAKPEHE members need to support the proposed expanded mission statement to foster leadership," everyone nods. But when a NAKPEHE member with no administrative authority begins inquiring to see which members are genuinely interested in supporting the proposed mission statement to fostering leadership, the only ones likely to respond are those who are genuinely interested.
And if the NAKPEHE member finds another member who is interested and asks, "who else do you think really cares about these things," he or she is likely to receive an honest response. The only authority possessed by such NAKPEHE members comes from the strength of their convictions and the clarity of their ideas. This is the only legitimate authority when deep meaningful changes are required, regardless of one's administrative position in the organization. NAKPEHE members who are not in administrative positions have the paradoxical advantage that this is their only source of authority.
The point I am trying to make is that, if given the opportunity, leadership can come not only from those who have administrative authority in NAKPEHE, but also from members who come from many places within NAKPEHE. Certainly, those in administrative positions can move some much needed changes quite effectively, as i think the future directions committee and board of directors have done by advancing the proposed, expanded mission statement. However, much of the leadership is now in your hands as NAKPEHE members, and you will decide the extent to which you support the proposed mission and precisely what must be done to successfully achieve it. Indeed, you will determine its fate and the future of NAKPEHE.
In summary, leadership comes from NAKPEHE members who are genuinely committed to deep, meaningful change in themselves and in their professional organization. Some of these members are in administrative positions, but most are not. They provide leadership through the strength of their convictions, the clarity of their ideas, and their ability to communicate them.-----and if all members are given the opportunity and encouraged, leadership can come from many places within NAKPEHE and not just from those with administrative authority. Providing leadership and future direction for NAKPEHE is everyone's business, not just the business of the board of directors or the future direction committee. If leadership comes solely from those who have administrative authority in NAKPEHE, then it is only in one place in the organization. However, if leadership also comes from NAKPEHE members without administrative authority, then it comes from many places and it is everywhere in the organization. Only then, will we capitalize on the collective genius of everyone in NAKPEHE and maximize our chances of developing NAKPEHE into one of the more prominent professional organizations in our field.