Life As A Hedgepig
 
Saturday, 2. November 2002
Essay #1 for Leadership Class--Developing Leaders

I am an habitual reader of newspapers; indeed, my fondness for acquiring the news and opinions of the day in printed form is so strong as to almost constitute a vice. Since I started taking this class, the newspapers have been even more interesting. Especially at this time of year, with an election drawing close, the papers are full of examples of leadership or a (perceived) lack thereof in the political arena. There especially seems to be a perceived lack of leadership in politics in recent years; but there are also people and organizations who share a belief that most people can develop the ability to be leaders, and who have made it their mission to aid in that development. Recently The Seattle Times ran a series of articles about Leadership, what it is and also about some people and groups who are working to help people develop their leadership abilities.

I enjoy reading these articles and making connections with what we have been reading in class; the concepts and ideas expressed go right back to Kouzes & Posner and Goleman. I have also enjoyed seeing the connections to be made between the Leadership Practices and Commitments described by Kouzes & Posner, and the Emotional Competencies delineated by Goleman. The more I read, the more connections I see, between the ideas in the two books, but also between the ideas in the books and what goes on in the "real world."

The centerpiece article in the Times' series was by former Washington Governor Daniel J. Evans. Though he was "before my time" having served as Governor before I moved to this state, I am familiar with his name and the esteem in which he is generally held, and I read what he had to say on the subject with interest.

Evans describes what he sees as a malaise in the current political landscape in our state; a malaise that he sees as being caused by partisan politcs and especially a "lack of will and leadership ." Then he refers to Teddy Roosevelt, and says, "He knew the genius of leadership. Speak out forcefully on important issues and use the political capital that comes with election on great causes. Roosevelt reached across the political aisle to build winning coalitions and inspired a legion of followers." Contained in that quote are several of the concepts our books have discussed: "inspiring a shared vision ;" speaking out, which involves finding your own voice, and then communicating your values and beliefs to your followers--that is part of "modeling the way ." Coalition building involves a number of Goleman's "Social Competencies;" using political capital involves others--understanding others, developing others, political awareness, influence, collaboration and cooperation are among the qualities expressed in those ideas.

Evans then describes a vision for the future of our state ("inspire a shared vision"--the man is still practicing leadership) and then says, "If you are dismayed by current policies, work to change them. Write letters, appear before governmental bodies, contact legislators. If you are unhappy with incumbent officeholders, work and vote to turn them out. Run for office." ("Enlist others in a common vision…")

And then, hearkening back to our readings once again, Evans closes by saying, "Leadership must come from those who have the vision to see tomorrow, the intelligence to plan wisely, and the civility to listen to others." Leadership practices and emotional competencies come into play in that view.

Two of the other articles in the Times' series on leadership discuss developing leadership potential in people, through a several different means or organizations. Jan Levy describes a program called "Leadership Tomorrow" whose mission "is to develop informed and committed community leaders ." Her description of qualities looked for in candidates for the program are a veritable laundry list that could have been drawn straight out of Kouzes & Posner and Goleman: "the ability to create a compelling vision and to inspire; being able to easily gain the trust of peers and relate well to all kinds of people; willingness to take risks; and active listening skills ."

Graduates of the program include well known business leaders and politicians, and also everyday community members such as school teachers, policemen, and small business owners, among others. Her description of some of their activities post-graduation sounds as if they are following Governor Evans' prescription above: "Out in the community, graduates are doing everything from taking the time to write their city and county council members to lobby against the cuts in human services, to organizing Block Watch programs in their neighborhoods.

"Above all, Leadership Tomorrow graduates are discovering that everyone has the capacity for leadership, whether or not they ever see themselves in that light, and that they can make a difference ."

The final article I want to mention here briefly discusses two other organizations working towards the development of leaders; these organizations are specifically geared toward potential leaders for what the Seattle-centric Times terms "the Eastside"--communities located to the east of Lake Washington such as Bellevue and Kirkland . The organizations are 'Advance Bellevue' and 'Leadership Institute." The article discusses Eastside community leaders--the Mayor of Bellevue is an "AB" alumnus, and there is a Kirkland City Councilman who graduated from "LI." The article goes echoes the other articles I have discussed by saying, "leaders need not run for office to address an issue and effect change ." After describing some of the other projects alumni of the two programs have been involved in, it again echoes Evans and Levy by saying, "Leadership is everyone's issue, whether you are simply agreeing with an idea, actively working to further its acceptance, or voting on who will move it into reality ."

In a political climate crying for leadership, these people and their organizations offer hope and inspiration for the future, and also confirm the message of Kouzes & Posner and Goleman, that the qualities and practices necessary for effective leadership can be described, sought out, and developed in individuals with the commitment to get involved in their communities.


There were endnotes--about a dozen of them--but Word seems to have eaten the numbers and I am not going to bother digging up the notes and figuring out where they all go right now!

Part of the Essay assignment is not only to write one, and post it for public consumption, but to go and critique one of your classmates' essays.

Mine has received two responses so far:

Response #1--

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your essay, I believe you made great points, stayed focused and supported your main idea throughout by bringing practice and theory together.

I believe your main point comes in paragraph two where you state, "I enjoy reading these articles and making connections with what we have been reading in class; the concepts and ideas expressed go right back to Kouzes & Posner and Goleman." Then you convincingly and easily tie in articles printed in the Seattle which highlight leadership topics to our readings. With interpretations of the practices of exemplary leadership noted in your essay, it is apparent that much thought was put into the analysis of the articles.

Your piece successfully refers back to your central idea as you introduce new examples, and I thought your conclusion was tight, reinforcing the message contained throughout. Great job!

P.S. As vices go ... habitual paper-reading is not a bad one to have!!

Response #2--

I agree with her thesis statement. “There especially seems to be a perceived lack of leadership in politics in recent years; but there are also people and organizations who share a belief that most people can develop the ability to be leaders, and who have made it their mission to aid in that development”.

She backs up this statement with several good practical sources from our readings by Kouzes & Posner and Goleman to statements made by former Governor Daniel J. Evans. Using these sources Ceridwen pulled together a smooth flowing paper that describes some very positive examples of leaders past and present and organizations who are dedicated to helping people learn to be better leaders.

Ceridwen gives us hope that there is help for those who lack leadership qualities but wish to become more effective leaders.


And later, I got a third comment (glad the edit function is available, here!):

Ceridwen-Your essay is well written and concise. The way that you tie the readings into current leadership events proves Kouzes and Posner's theory that leadership theories remain the same over time. Your thesis is clear and you have many examples to back that thesis up. Also, your essay inspires leaders to go out and make a difference for change.


Considering how badly I felt I had done on this paper, I was quite pleased with the responses. Of course, I don't think anybody is really out sharpening the knives preparing to shred their classmates, anyway. I know when I posted a response to one, I looked for one that I could honestly say nice things about. I bypassed one that had a nice point, but the guy is no writer and cain't spel two good, neether. I actually like the guy, and understood his point, but couldn't honestly critique that essay without some mention of the deficiencies, and I couldn't bring myself to do that, so...

I am eager to see what my teacher made of my essay. I assume we will be getting them back in class tomorrow.

 
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