First Person: Leadership Seminar Promotes “the Best in All of Us”

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Dr. Aldena Harris, advisor to the Phi Pi Chapter at Lorain County Community College in Ohio.

Phi Theta Kappans are very much aware of the special nature of our society and the programs and events it sponsors. I was privileged recently to attend one of those programs, the Leadership Instructor Certification Seminar in Pomona, California. I will always remember the experience of the seminar with fondness and appreciation. It was exciting and enlightening that so much insight could be gained from 3 1/2 days of highly engaged dialogue and demonstration.

While participating in the Leadership Seminar, I met individuals who were incredibly knowledgeable but also wonderfully open to sharing. The facilitators, Dr. Lillie McCain, Dr. Jo Marshall and Monika Byrd, were spectacular in their approach to establishing a dialogue-based learning community around the concept of leadership.

Lillie, Jo, and Monika introduced the hope that all participants would adhere to being “active listeners, give freely of our experiences, and maintain each other’s self-esteem.” This was done in a manner that communicated a knowing that we all would accept those guidelines as not only necessary, but also directly aligned with the purpose of the course we had each elected to take.

Specific aspects of the course that I will forever remember include the explanatory skits and team-building exercises. These tasks required small groups to make quick decisions about how to best represent course materials.

I was in a group with two amazing individuals, Beth and Richard, and the three of us were able to come up with very creative, entertaining and analytical ways to involve our fellow course participants in examining characteristics of effective leadership. Similarly, our participation in the activities structured by others within our class community was quite thought provoking and equally grounded in exploring how philosophies of leadership determine decision-making personally and professionally.

Explorations of topics beginning with the virtues of the “Philosopher Leader” led our group at large to discussions about the Power of Beliefs, Guiding Through Conflict, Realizing Change and Empowering Others. These themes resonated so powerfully with me as I reflected on my journey to becoming a professor in higher education. Moreover, I could relate each theme to an aspect of my role as an advisor to the Phi Pi Chapter at Lorain County Community College.

Being in the advisor role has afforded me the opportunity to engage with students in ways that highlight the importance and impact of the varied aspects of leadership. It has provided me with a lens that is discernibly different than interactions relegated primarily to the classroom. It has expanded my horizons and fostered an understanding that leadership requires ongoing examination, exploration and exemplification of the characteristics I aspire to embrace fully for the benefit of my students, my community, my college, my country and the world.

The Phi Theta Kappa Leadership Development Certification Seminar is more than just an academic experience. Yes, it is process of strengthening concepts that many who have spent years in leadership roles find familiar. However, what distinguishes it from the typical professional development experience is the extent to which the participants are asked to represent the consciousness and competencies that are essential to being visionary and leading ethically.

Within our study of leaders with vision, we looked back at inspiring individuals whose leadership fostered human potential and promoted advocacy and coalition-building. The examples provided in the life journeys of leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Cesar E. Chavez and Paulo Freire, show leadership philosophy personified.

Those individuals never waivered in representing leadership to illuminate connections between who we are or aspire to be, what informs us, and how it guides our conduct. In their actions, we as Phi Theta Kappans do not have to look far for representations of leadership proficiency or leadership through service.

To be a servant leader is indelibly connected to the hallmark of service that is a foundation to Phi Theta Kappa. It is who we hope to be grooming our Phi Theta Kappa chapter officers and members to be through our guidance as advisors and mentors. The Leadership Development Seminar is unquestionably a forum for delving into how to best accomplish that goal.

Coming together with others at the seminar was for me a representation of the fellowship, scholarship, service and leadership hallmarks to promote the best in all of us.