Facts About Human Trafficking

A year ago, I was asked to imagine a conference that Johnson University’s School of Business and Public Leadership could sponsor.  Sponsoring an event designed to educate and equip and raise awareness about the issues of human trafficking immediately came to mind.  Last week, a year’s worth of planning, praying, and hard work came to fruition. I’m going to post a series of blog posts about what I learned starting with some facts!


According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline:

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. This crime occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will. Force, fraud, or coercion need not be present if the individual engaging in commercial sex is under 18 years of age.

Notice some key words within this definition:

  • Crime

  • Force, fraud, or coercion

  • Control [of] another person

  • Engaging in - perpetrator or pimp

  • Soliciting - purchasing or participating - john or purchases of online pornography, sex, etc.


According to the Polaris Project, The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally AND that this is a $150 billion industry worldwide

  • 81% of the victims are trapped in forced labor

  • 25% of them are children

  • 75% are women and girls

  • There is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the United States BUT according to Polaris there were >40000 cases reported in 2017. This is considered a low estimate.

    Polaris further reported breakdowns in sex and labor trafficking of three types:

US Polaris Statistics.PNG

What I hope you see from these statistics is that human trafficking is everywhere - including the United States. It knows no boundaries in terms of socioeconomics, rural/urban, men, women, girls and boys.

If you are purchasing sex, supporting strip clubs, going to illicit massage parlors, viewing pornography or other online sex acts - you are committing a crime and contributing to human trafficking and this multi billion $$ supply/demand industry.

Worst of all is the dehumanization and objectification of us all. This is 100% preventable because it is predicated on supply/demand.

See Something Say Something - Reporting

The Department of Homeland Security has published a list of Indicators of Human Trafficking as has the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Human Trafficking Indicators . Please familiarize yourself with the indicators. If anyone you know or whom you suspect may be a victim of human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline. You do not have to be ‘right’ and you do not have to reveal your name, the Hotline is equipped to take information and engage with local authorities to assess possible reported cases.

Human Trafficking Hotline.PNG
IDW Logo.jpg

Public Spheres, Freedom, and Gun Control

Freedom.  Freedom is not anything goes.   Our public spaces dictate certain types of behaviors as appropriate, proper and legal.  Public spaces have a code, a suite of social norms, expectations, and laws governing our behavior.   These norms operate often behind the back – we trust and entrust ourselves to them daily.   When we leave our private residence we have for example, traffic rules (e.g., traffic lights, speed limits, seat belt laws) – all designed to regulate our collective behavior within the public sphere.  We have rules about smoking in public places, spitting and gum chewing, bicycle use, skateboard use – many rules govern our daily life. 

While in a public space, we have a reasonable expectation that someone isn’t going to strike our person or otherwise inflict harm either personally or collectively.  For example, in movies, we see this sort or regulatory action with the silence your cell phone reminders.  People can’t smoke indoors or near public doors; people can’t drink to excess and then drive, etc.   Social groups peacefully live together by their social norms, rules, and laws.  We collectively define what the public experience is like and this definition is experienced as reality, as the way things work and are. 

Collectively, we experience shock and awe following incidents like the Las Vegas massacre.  I experience a deep sadness, grief, particularly because partially what goes through my mind is here we go again.  As a nation, we’ve had many opportunities to grieve, to experience shock, grief, and anger following these sorts of murderous rampages ravaging our public sphere – movie theaters, grocery store parking lot, schools, concert venues, churches – the list goes on and on.  Most citizens say this is wrong and that something needs to be done.  Nothing gets done in part because our collective desperation for safety and security within our public spaces and protections for our freedom to assemble, live, and connect within the public sphere are seemingly secondary to 2nd Amendment protections about the right to bear arms.

Hear me on this – I am not anti-gun or anti-2nd Amendment.  There are many people in the country with guns who use them responsibly with a healthy respect for their distribution and use.  Often though, the default answer to these sorts of events is guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  Well, okay.  That answer is dismissive and one dimensional to the point of being trite especially so in the face of yet another massacre.   The ease with which one can and the freedom to amass weapons regardless of the person’s motive, mental health, etc. creates a scenario by which our collective freedom to publicly assemble and presume safety and security in those spaces is grossly threatened. 

Freedom is not anything goes – it is negotiated within public spaces among citizens using social norms and laws to create a space where all can hopefully flourish.  So, I ask those defensive for gun laws – what are you willing to do relative to gun laws and individual rights that might offer a level of protection, safety, and security for our collective capacity to assemble in public spaces?  How might you balance the freedom to purchase guns with protections that might prevent a person’s capacity to amass weapons that wreak such havoc?  I realize that this is a multi-dimensional challenge – mental health, for example, is important to this discussion.   But it begins with a thoughtful response to gun control and access.   Ultimately, this is a how shall we then live...together sort of question.  

Photo by Diana Feil on Unsplash

Hateful Rhetoric Diminishes Us all

It is cruel, it’s frightening....and the truth is, it hurts.
— Michelle Obama

In a recent speech, Mrs. Obama gave voice to the myriad of emotions, thoughts, and frustrations I've experienced since hearing Trump's sexual assault comments and later dis-mission of those assertions as locker room banter. I am angry for women - sick and tired of sexualized rhetoric that diminishes who we are as persons and of powerful men who persist in thinking this sort of thing is okay. It's not okay. At the same time and equally offensive though is the association of this sort of talk as... something men do. Not the men in my life, not the many men who have supported, taught, mentored, encouraged, prayed for, laughed with, and stood with other women and me. I've been fortunate and blessed with many male colleagues and friends who have regarded me - using regard in the fullest sense of the word. Men who would never think, speak, or act in this way and who would find this sort of aggressive assault and objectification language offensive and demeaning... for us all. Thanks, Michelle Obama for speaking and for the passion with which you gave voice on this issue.

Source: https://unsplash.com/collections/327549/hu...

Alaska Road Trip - Denali National Park

Visiting Denali National Park was a must do on our list of things to visit in Alaska.  We drove from Fairbanks (roughly 3 hours) and stayed at the Denali Park Village in a cabin.  We loved the cabin - a small intimate space, nicely appointed.  But the village itself wasn't our favorite because it had that 'serving a million people' feel.  This is a personal preference rather than an indictment of the hotel itself.  The grounds were beautiful.  

By this time we had been on the road for 10 days, we felt tired and in need of some vegging - we spent the afternoon hanging out in the lodge, people watching, and reading books - it was a great space to have some refreshments and relax.   To explore Denali, we took a Kantishna Wilderness Trail Tour - a full day tour departing from the hotel into Denali National Park.   The tour was great - we had a knowledgeable tour guide/bus driver who was informative and interesting.   

Alaska Road Trip - Valdez

From Seward, we traveled to Valdez.  We allotted eight hours driving time for this trip.  In hindsight, rather than drive from Seward to Valdez - I wish we had taken the ferry from Whittier.  But it was fully booked by the time I realized this was an option.  Our favorite part of the drive was the last hour into Valdez during the approach to Worthington Glacier and Thompson Pass.  One tip:  Fuel up and grab snacks in GlenAllen before heading down into Valdez. 

Artist:  Peter Wolf Toth 

Artist:  Peter Wolf Toth 

In Valdez, we stayed at the Best Western Valdez Harbor Inn.  This was a perfect hotel for exploring the city.  We parked the car and walked everywhere - plenty of restaurant and coffee options to choose from.  

Alaska Road Trip - Seward

We left Homer on our way to Seward.  We allotted around 5 hours for the drive.  It was one of those sunny, good driving days!  

Something I liked about driving in Alaska:  road side coffee shops!!!  My love of caffeine was well satiated.  

On the way into Seward, stop at the Trail Lakes Fish Hatchery - we were greeted by a knowledgeable guide who upon learning of my husband's experience in the water sector spent time describing how they treat the water and the challenges of doing so.  

Seward was a fun place to visit - cute shops, scenery, and the Alaska SeaLife Center. 

For my husband's birthday, he wanted to go salmon fishing.  I booked us a room at the Harbor 360 and a charter fishing day trip with ProFish.  The hotel, served a continental breakfast, was clean and perfectly located within walking distance to the marina where we caught the boat.  After fishing, we enjoyed a birthday meal at The Cookery.  An incredible locally owned place that provided a wonderful experience and exquisite food.  

When driving through town, check out the library - beautiful iridescent exterior. 

Alaska Road Trip - Homer and Homer Spit

To celebrate my husband's birthday, we decided to do a driving trip of Alaska.  We flew into Anchorage, rented a car, and spent the next two weeks driving.  It was an amazing trip.  We allotted around 6 hours to drive from Anchorage to Homer.  

Drive from Anchorage to Homer

The good thing about traveling to Alaska in June is you have a lot of daylight to explore.  We arrived into Anchorage early afternoon, rented a car, and started driving.  Coming from Phoenix - our sight was immediately assaulted with a beauty unlike anything we see in our daily life.  Every turn yielded mountains and stunning views.  

Tip:  Stop at the viewing area going into Homer.  We were treated to beautiful flowers and views.  A local gardener working the flower beds gave excellent advice as to things to see and do in Homer and the Homer Spit.

Homer Spit & Homer

What a wonderful place to visit - art galleries, seafood, street art, and incredible views.  We stayed at the White House Inn at the Waterfront, a perfect place for us to explore Homer and the Homer Spit.  This was the scene near our Inn, taken at 1130 PM in June.  Wow!  I heard about the days that never end but didn't realize what it would be like - beautiful hues!  

The Homer Spit is around 4.5 miles long and is a narrow strip of land filled with art galleries, shops, restaurants, and views of Kachemak Bay.

Stop for refreshments at the local Salty Dawg Saloon!

Our favorite locally owned place:  The Bagel Shop.  This was a highlight of our trip!  Serving up bagels with wonderful flavor combined with a divine chew factor...yummy before the fixings were added.  Bagel & Lox with a cup of coffee.  Yummm, wish I had one right now!    A rainy day was perfect for exploring the Pratt Museum, local art galleries, and NOMAR, a local manufacturing company.





A response to Prince EA's Why I Think the World Should End video

A daily prayer: May today be about love not experienced as an emotional response...instead, a fierce commitment one to another characterized by:  an acknowledgment of a shared creator, respect and a sense of responsibility for others, and an orientation towards others infused with an ethic of care calling us to action. 

So thankful my parents were people for whom relationship was the most important thing...

Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/pCZq5tVnbwU

#StreetArt, Literally. Homage to Water and Wastewater Sector via Book: Drainspotting by Remo Camerota

Our built environment is filled with a myriad of sites, images, and infrastructure.   Often overlooked are manhole covers .  A shout out to those serving within the water and wastewater sectors either as city or municipal workers or as consultants.  Okay true confessions - I admire greatly those who work in the water and wastewater sectors.  I have been privileged to provide consulting services to this sector and  have a sense that often times accolades go to City Police and Fire - clearly critical services with little mention of water and wastewater...that is unless there is a main break, boil water order, or sewer overflow - then the doo doo hits the fan and negative press prevails. (big grin).  Water and wastewater services are critical city services providing reliable, safe, drinking water, water for fire suppression and treatment of our wastewater.  We depend on them for the services they provide and I want to say thank you. 

I was thrilled when I found Remo Camerota's book entitled Drainspotting showcasing the highly decorative Japanese manhole cover.   What better homage to our city workers than a book highlighting part of a city's infrastructure.  Camerota emphasized that in Japan, "all objects are created with an aesthetic sensibility" (p. 7).  So it is for the >6000 decorative manhole covers in Japan.  He beautifully curated his selections and captured the spirit of the aesthetic with photographs of manholes organized regionally:  Kanto Area, Chubu Area, Chugoku Area, Shikoku, Area, Kyushi Area, Okinawa, and Disneyland.  He includes photos of historic manholes 50 years or older plus an interview with the president of the Nagashima Foundry.  A highlight of the interview is a description of the process used to design and produce the manhole covers.   

Osaka Prefecture, Japan.  Photo by Andy Smith, Attribution-Noncommerical-noDerivs 2.0 generic, no changes were made, non-commercial use Retrieved from  https://goo.gl/i2WIyg

Osaka Prefecture, Japan.  Photo by Andy Smith, Attribution-Noncommerical-noDerivs 2.0 generic, no changes were made, non-commercial use Retrieved from https://goo.gl/i2WIyg

Hiroshima, Japan.  Photo by Andy Smith, Attribution-Noncommerical-noDerivs 2.0 generic, no changes were made, non-commercial useRetrieved from https://goo.gl/N0dt9b

Hiroshima, Japan.  Photo by Andy Smith, Attribution-Noncommerical-noDerivs 2.0 generic, no changes were made, non-commercial useRetrieved from https://goo.gl/N0dt9b

A beautiful book featuring a part of our built environment often overlooked!  

Other Resources

International Manhole Cover Museum - Italy  http://www.manholemuseum.it/  

Japanese tourism website highlighting manhole covers  http://www.japanvisitor.com/japanese-culture/manhole-covers  

Remo Camerota provides drainspotter's with an online blog resource

S. Morita's Photography:  Manhole Covers:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/28074232@N06/sets/72157612036691185/with/15246489286/  

Strategy, J. (2014).  The beauty of Japan’s artistic manhole covers.  Colossal.  Retrieved from http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/03/the-beauty-of-japans-artistic-manhole-covers/ 

Tata and Howard offers 25 unique manhole covers in the United States.  http://www.tataandhoward.com/2015/10/25-unique-manhole-covers-in-the-u-s/

Note:  City of Phoenix photo via Greg H. - Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic, no changes were made, this blog post is for non commercial purposes.  Retrieved from https://goo.gl/QwOLXl

By Remo Camerota

Reflections on JU's Online PhD in Leadership Studies Being Named as one of the Top 10 in the US

Johnson University's online PhD in Leadership Studies was recently named as one of the Top 10 online PhDs in Leadership.   See List.   This week I had the privilege of interviewing potential students and then working with my colleagues to select and accept the program's Cohort 10.  As I interviewed these men and women and read their admission essays I was filled up with a sense of awe and responsibility for those of us called to coach and guide working adults - people who are already immersed in a full life of family and career.  All of our students are working adults seeking a PhD in Leadership often because they feel 'called' to do doctoral work, have questions that they want to explore, or because they want to enhance their leadership within their sphere of influence.  Today, I find myself quite reflective at the journey to this moment.  

Johnson University Campus, April 2016

Johnson University Campus, April 2016

I am humbled and honored to be named to a list of 'Top' - sitting with the esteemed universities who are listed, particularly given the youth of our program and our university in offering doctoral education.  Thinking back to 2010 when I was asked to design the program, I remember distinctly that my intuition alerted that something beyond my imagination was going to happen.  You see, our PhD program began operations in January 2012.  We are a young program, seeing our first graduates in April 2016, so to be in the company of such long standing and esteemed programs is quite an honor.  In some respects, launching a PhD, JU's first, was a BHAG - big hairy audacious goal (smile).   We submitted our design package for accreditation in April 2011 and then waited and prayed, prayed and waited.  In June 2011, we learned that our university was approved by SACSCOC to offer the PhD.   When I learned that there were zero findings or recommendations, I was so moved.  I knew I had put my heart and soul into the design but hey, I'm not an academic.  I'm a business person and consultant who knew, at the time, very little about university accreditation.  I remember the day President Weedman called to communicate our approved status.  I felt giddy and a sense of OMG - in the way one feels when they realize they now have to produce that which they said they would.   

What is it about this program?

Today we have over 70 active students with a healthy applicant pipeline.  I've been asked recently what and why questions.  What are you doing and why do you think you're seeing the growth.  I'll offer some thoughts:

  • Clear organizational vision and design criteria drove the design process.  Criteria included:    
    • Applicable.  The content and degree must be applicable and relevant to leaders serving nationally and internationally within a variety of contexts (profit, nonprofit, and public sectors).  Leadership Studies was chosen as an interdisciplinary topic pertinent to the widest array of people.  
    • Achievable.  Mid-career working adults should not have to leave their context or career for 4 to 5 years to study.   The leave and study approach is costly and inefficient in terms of human and social capital, strategy, and efficacy.  Structure this program in such a way to take the education to students and in such a format that best supports their doctoral journey.  This program is offered 100% online, with no residency requirement so that students may continue living, working, and leading within their sphere of influence.  
    • Affordable.  The program must be affordable.  Part of Ashley and Emma Johnsons' (JU’s founders) vision was to create an affordable learning opportunity because cost should not be a barrier to one’s desire for education.  This is part of our founders' history that we remain committed to.  This program is financially structured in such a way to make it possible for anyone otherwise qualified and accepted to finish the program.
    • Accreditable.  The program must be “accreditable.”  The university including the PhD program are regionally accredited by the SACSCOC.
  • An ethic of care and hospitality undergird our emphasis on creating community.  This translates into a relational approach and commitments to a person first and foremost.  It may seem corny to say we care about people, but we do.  Decisions are made in relation to our ethic of care.  We pray for our students, we acknowledge their accomplishments via social media and privately, we send cards (yes, hardcopy cards!) to honor birthdays, baby births, and anything else we hear about that warrants a card!).  We are intentional about creating a network and a community of scholars and practitioners interested in leadership.  We exist to serve our students, to understand their goals, and to facilitate their journey. 
  • Educational philosophy integrates culture, worldview, and the biblical perspective - not as tack on courses but integrated throughout the curriculum.   This philosophy is a distinctive of JU's educational approach.  I want students to develop the skills to 'see' differently when asking the what is going on here question.  Part of this too is a commitment to faith/learning integration.  We want students who live their faith and who are equipped to model Jesus' example daily.  
  • Fierce commitment to coaching throughout students' journey .  A traditional program can be experienced as a sink or swim approach where the student is left to figure out what to do largely on their own after completing their coursework.  This approach, grounded in an individualism certainly works but I believe a distinctive of Christian higher education is that of relationship.  We are designed as relational beings such that a team approach yields student and faculty benefits that transcend the individualistic approach that can leave people feeling isolated, ill supported, and ill equipped for the task...particularly in an online environment.  We as a faculty early in our first cohort noted the individual approach as potentially inconsistent with our values.  Our program has advisors/coaches throughout:  
    • Years 1 and 2 - an academic advisor + faculty
    • Years 3 - a research coach helps student design a research agenda preparatory to writing a research proposal
    • Year 4 - dissertation chair/committee who work as a team to best support the student in doing their research.  
  • Persistent continuous assessment and improvement.  Our students and faculty communicate what's working, what's not.  Our pioneering Cohort 1 was integral to program adjustments and helping us to understand what aspects of the design needed tweaking, fixing, etc.  We assess every course and have an open door with regard to receiving student feedback.  
  •  Rabid commitment to leadership development.  The doctoral journey certainly is about content mastery and research skills - but more importantly - it is about becoming a "PhDr", about formation and transformation - in my mind, this is the most important thing. I want our graduates to be different people at the end of this journey. And dare I say, this must be a differentiator in Christian higher education - this unyielding commitment to human development or in my world - leadership development. 
  • Leadership conceptual framework facilitates an exploration of individual, organizational and societal leadership with an eye toward moving students beyond 2D thinking (this that; right wrong; black white; public private; etc.).  The issues facing us today are complex and multi faceted - root cause analytic combined with 2D approaches simply don't get us very far.  Instead, we need leaders who can imagine anew, identifying and grappling with the many variables of complex situations including naming those policies, structures, and ways things are that contribute to life challenges, injustice, and oppression.  Further we need leaders who are committed to respect and dignity for all persons...as a starting point.  

Why does leadership studies matter?

I could talk all day about the various design elements incorporated into the design of the program.  Certainly the program design and focus attract seekers to our PhD program and serve to bolster their desire to stay.  Dare I say that another aspect, perhaps less tangible, is a collective sense of urgency we feel for the need for leadership....with certain qualities or commitments.  In thinking about what I wanted to write today, I reviewed the conceptual framework that I wrote in 2011 describing the need for leadership studies and a commitment to leadership development:    

"How do we lead within a pluralistic and diverse setting with multiple worldviews and differing cultural contexts?    Leadership studies is grappling with what it means to be an inter-cultural leader, hampered somewhat by historical conceptions of leadership with their strong ties to a specific person, mechanization, efficiency, effectiveness and productivity. Tasks such as visioning, strategizing, goal and objective setting, work performance, productivity, and partnering are valid and necessary within an organization.   However, to bridge cultures requires due consideration for the visible and non-visible culture with positive practices supportive of transitional spaces. Leadership as usual may not be that helpful; instead, we need to re-orient and re-envision leadership toward the following:

  • Commitment to reflect upon and increasing awareness of our own worldview – Commitment to becoming more self aware and increasing our resilience to and capacity for suspending our beliefs and values, for scrutiny is essential.
  • Mutual acknowledgement and respect of Other – People of differing cultures and worldviews do not just eat and dress differently; instead, there may be fundamentally differing orientations to and meanings associated with the world, their place within that world, and the work each performs
  • Seek understanding rather than agreement - Focus on listening, understanding and striving to see the world through another’s eyes. Seeking agreement often means advocacy and attempts to persuade another to a specific point of view. Instead, acknowledge that we have differences and may not agree. But, we can learn to respect another’s views and use the opportunity to understand their and our own worldview better
  • Hold differing worldviews in truth and respect - One of the dangers of categorization, as in categorizing countries by cultural dimension or leadership preferences or even inventorying worldviews, is the tendency toward hierarchical thinking at the expense of mutual respect and regard.
  • Embrace the necessity of relational dialogue – People make sense of their experiences and construct their. . . reality through interaction with others engaged in conversation and story-telling. Our capacity to bridge worldviews is dependent on our capacity to make sense of the world as it presents itself to each involved and create new, shared meanings. This process involves going down into the non-visible, questioning beliefs and assumptions, and remaining committed to illuminating individual and collective wisdom. A goal might be to facilitate sense making and meaning making by using positive practices within transitional space."

It was a long time ago when I penned these words and today as I re-read them I am even more certain that the world needs leaders who embrace these values and who are trained to 'see' beyond 2-dimensions.  Our PhD program's ultimate focus is towards leadership development with a clear vision of the qualities we believe leaders should have.  This belief is infused within our curriculum, pedagogy, and ways of interacting.  The picture below was taken April 2016 on JU's campus at a reception honoring our very first graduates from our Ph.D. in Leadership Studies.  Dr. Weedman, president of JU; Cody Christensen, Jamie Franke, Chris Beard, and me.  Our first cohort of graduates, together we took a program from design to operations.  Sometimes exhilarating and sometimes maddening - we learned together how to do doctoral education virtually.  So why does this matter?  These men are different men today and I have to say I'm different too - even more committed to the vital necessity of developing leaders via doctoral education within a virtual community.  



A Leader's Call to Radical Hospitality Graduate Commencement Speech

What a treat to return to my alma mater, Lincoln Christian University, to speak at the 71st ceremony....  An extra special treat because I was the first woman in their history to speak at commencement!   The speech is entitled A Leader's Call to Radical Hospitality (subtitle:  Lessons Learned from a dog named Lovee).      Dr. Green's  Introduction begins at 10:09 and the speech begins at 21:10 through 38:39.


It seems as though we are at a juncture in human history where we must intentionally consider Francis Schaffer’s question of how shall we than live.   Our human tendency to categorize, connect with those like us, and to declare difference as not right but wrong has profound implications in an increasingly pluralist society.  This is our leadership challenge.  Drath (2001), a leadership scholar questioned “How can people who make sense of. . . the world from differing worldviews” work together? (p. 125).  How indeed?   By demonstrating hospitality we might create more welcoming spaces and orientation towards others.  

Now What: Living a Called Life Undergraduate Commencement Speech

What a treat to return to my alma mater, Lincoln Christian University, to speak at the 71st ceremony....  An extra special treat because I was the first woman in their history to speak at commencement!   The speech is entitled Now What:  Living a Called Life.  Dr. Green's  Introduction begins at 15:42 and the speech begins at 18:19 through 35:38

An excerpt:  

Now What: Living a Called Now what?  Indeed, this is an important question filling some with certainty and others with perhaps more questions than answers.  Why is this so?  Part of the Now What question is associated with this idea of Commencement which has a two-fold meaning.  On the one hand – it is a graduation celebration filled with hugs, photos, tears, and high fives and on the other hand, there’s this notion of commencing, to start or to begin.  Commencement, then, represents a transitional moment where we each must determine what our next course of action is once the celebration is over. 

Where were you in 1975-1979? Beware A Leader's Capacity to Lead

Some places fill your pores with a sense of memory, foreboding and wariness. Cheong Ek Genocide Memorial, located approximately 15 KM from Phnom Penh is one of many killing fields within Cambodia.  Tuol Sleng - Site 21 was a site of imprisonment, torture, and murder located in Phnom Penh.  Both are reminders of man's capacity to espouse a hateful rhetoric and afflict horrendous acts upon fellow citizens in the name of ethnicity, religion, profession, and political affiliation.  Male, female, young, old - no one was immune from being deemed an enemy of Cambodia and the Khmer regime.  Pol Pot came to power as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea giving rise to the Khmer regime.  For the Cambodian people this rise to power represented an onset of fear, terror, and genocide within the country.  The horrors of surviving this time period where between 1.5 and 2.5 million people are tortured and murdered affects a people, affects us all, really.    

Both sites have signs posted to remain quiet but the signs were unneccessary - my experience while there was of silence except for birds in the trees and chickens roaming the property.  Walking both sites evoked a seriousness and a sober-ness.  Watching others process, observe, react, cry, leave a room, turn away - somehow observing even in hindsight affects us individually and collectively.  I didn't take a lot of pictures at either site - both felt like sacred ground, like places to be still.  

The Memorial Buddhist Shupa at Cheong Ek is multiple stories high acrylic sides with the lowest level including clothes at the site, next levels include over 5000 human skulls, and the upper levels including other bones - all found at this killing field.   

Signs of beauty and life around the Killing Fields.

Tuol Sleng site...


1975-1979 - Where were you?  What were you doing during these years?  I finished 8th grade and went to high school - meanwhile, seemingly a world away Pol Pot arose to power.   One account indicated that within 3 hours of taking power, people were being excised from Phnom Penh.    The horrors of surviving a time period where between 1.5 and 2.5 million people are tortured and murdered affects a people, affects us all really.   Only 40 years ago! We're not talking ancient history - within our lifetime!  I found myself concerned at how powerful a leader's ideologies are in influencing a nation to ill effect.   Some thoughts on leadership:      

A leaders's actions and communicated ideologies are derived from his or her deeply held values and worldview.

Those with horrific ideologies believe they are 'right' and represent what's 'good' for a country and her people.  

A authoritarian leader may ~seem~ as though they have the common good at the root of their message and eloquently communicate this sense manipulating people to believe they have people's best interests at heart. 

People (some) will follow and enact an authoritarian ideology focused on difference and perceived categories (nationality, ethnic, race, gender, profession, religion...).  For those who inflicted torture and who murdered, I wonder if afterwards in their life there was remorse, a sense of oh my gosh what have I done...

A regime's first act is to categorize, divide, and exclude people (those for the Regime, those who are not) and to communicate that division, always accompanied by secrecy, fear methods (imprisonment, torture, death), and destruction of cultural artifacts, those things that connect a people one to another.  

Once a regime and its methods get established, the system of abuse, torture, and murder instill a fear and a systematization that can be maintained for a while.

Regimes meticulously document their actions through record keeping, logbooks, and photographs.  There were rooms at Site 21 filled with photographs of those who were housed there. 

Time reveals the truth and extent of a leader's actions, but while it's happening it may be unclear the extent of the horror.  However - words are precursors to action and/or provide clues that we should be wary of (exclusion, boundary setting, hateful rhetoric, gross generalizations or categorizations), etc.

Hope.  Despite a horrific history and collective memories around that history, people trust again, they live a hopeful life, and can go on.   


Cheong Ek Genocide Memorial http://www.cekillingfield.org/index.php/en/

Tuol Sleng http://www.tuolsleng.com/

Time Magazine The Legacy of PolPot:  A Photographic Record of Mass Murder.  http://content.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1948150_20http://www.tuolsleng.com/13738,00.html

Unfathomable Grief: Saying Goodbye to Aunt Gin

The Ecclesiastes (3:1, 2) writer noted the  temporality of our life on earth:  "There is a time for everything,     and a season for every activity under the heavens:    a time to be born and a time to die."  Some sayings I've heard said in relation to death:  

  • We all have to die sometime
  • The only sure thing in life is death and taxes
  • She won't have to suffer any more
  • God must have wanted her in heaven
  • It must have been her time

In our trying to comfort we might resort to these or other phrases thought to help and provide an expression of our understanding.  But let's be really real, for those who love a person and are left behind - there is grief, pain, and a sense of loss.  The only expression that really empathizes with those who are grieving:  Death sucks....  

What a difference a year makes.  In the last 10 months, we lost Uncle Bob and Saturday night we lost our beloved Aunt Gin.   My mother lost her brother-in-law and her baby sister.  My cousins Janet and Debbie lost their father and mother.  My brothers and I lost our Uncle Bob and Aunt Gin.  Death sucks....

Every year we would load up the car to travel to North Dakota and then Colorado to see Uncle Bob, Aunt Gin, and my cousins.  For Mom, this was nonnegotiable - she wanted to spend time with her sister and wanted us kids to know each other.  I heard often about how we're a small family - this is all the family we have.    Things I loved about our time together:

  • Gift of gab, ready conversationalists - We can talk about anything and everything.  And, if we really don't know what we're talking about, we talk about it anyway having a knack for cussing and discussing and a love for hanging out together.  My husband affectionately dubs our family "The Hemingway of BS" for the way we can speak 'authoritatively' about a topic we know nothing or little about.  When together, awkward silences simply  aren't a factor.  
  • Curious with a sense of humor - We love to laugh, poke fun, use sarcasm - laughter is a ready part of our time together.  We aren't exactly demure laughers either - we're loud when we're all together, each with a laugh that comes from the gut.  
  • Obsessive about good food!  - We're the kind of family who over Thanksgiving lunch is planning what to do with leftovers.  Mashed potatoes can be translated into potato pancakes.  Turkey can be BBQ'd.    We love to cook and eat together, share our favorite recipes, would probably punch in the throat a picky eater, and saw the importance of family saying a prayer and eating together. 
  • Good people - I claim this for us.  We're just down to earth, good, solid people.  Hard working, fun, and caring for others and our community.  

Aunt Gin had such a great smile - I loved her curiosity and peacefulness.  We could talk about anything and share a good laugh or sit in silence and be okay.  Yesterday - I cried and cried.  For one thing, she loved the Broncos (grin) and for another this deep sense of loss like I don't quite know what to do, as though something has come unmoored.  Often times when I would call Daddy - about half way through he would say, I thought I was talking to Virginia, he thought our voices were similar.  So many trips to Rocky Mountain National Park with Uncle Bob and Aunt Gin, cooking out, eating watermelon, thinking about food and time together.  I can't quite  get a grip around the idea that they are both now gone...  Death sucks. ...

To my beautiful cousins - no words come.  I don't know what to think or say.  This year has been difficult - I cannot get my mind around this and have no words for my grief.  Surrounding you with prayers, virtual hugs, and all the love I have.    Death sucks...

Uncle Bob used to bring watermelon every time I saw him.  For some reason, I associate Aunt Gin with pimiento cheese spread.  I wonder how often we said something like, "I could eat this whole thing"!  So to celebrate, I am making pimiento cheese spread:

  • 1 4-oz jar pimientos drained and chopped
  • 1/4 pound grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 pound grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 TBS mayonnaise
  • 1 TBS white vinegar
  • Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together, eat with crackers, make a sandwich, or just dip your finger in and get a big scoop.

Our ritual when parting was a hug and a kiss and me saying:  I love you Aunt Gin.  Her reply:  I love you too honey.

I love you Aunt Gin.  Silence.  Death sucks.  And with this silence we are filled with unfathomable grief.  

Adieu Amano Bistro: Loss of a Third Space in South Phoenix

We don't quite know what to do with ourselves on Friday nights.  Our favorite locally owned restaurant has closed - "lost their lease" to make room for a parking lot.  OMG, when I read the Facebook announcement, I felt as though I were punched in the gut.   How many places do you go where an expressed goal is to 'treat you like family?'  Amano Bistro was one - established in 2004 by Eric and Kathy Bower at 16th Street/Baseline in south Phoenix - their vision and philosophy:  

Offer tasty, honest Italian food using the freshest and finest of ingredients. . . do whatever it takes to provide a comfortable and memorable dining experience. . . treat you like family.
— http://amanobistro.com/index.php?p=1_1

Jonny and I found Amano's when we moved in 2008, we were eager to find a locally owned place with good food, you know, a non-chain place to hang out.  After a time we moved from sitting at tables to hanging out at the bar where it was even more relaxing and fun.  At the end of a long work week, physically tired, maybe tired of it (work, people, responsibility, an endless list) - we would often say, let's go to Amano's for pizza, salad, and vino.    Sitting at the bar, we would eavesdrop, observe, hang out, listen to music, talk about food, travel, work, life, cool stuff, stupid stuff....oh yea, and eat good food.  It really didn't matter what the food was.  Food was secondary to hanging out in a welcoming place, seeing people we liked, and sharing in one another's lives. Somehow a night at Amano's enabled us to transcend the week and fatigue associated with it.  Amano's departure and our sense of grief is about a loss of community and connection.  Oldenburg's concept of Third Places offers an explanation why.  

Third Places

Ray Oldenburg is an urban sociologist who contrasted home and work places with what he called “third places” which essentially serve the community, are inclusive, and local (2001, pp. ix, 21).  A popularized Third Place was the Cheers bar depicted in the show by the same name.  Third places are purposeful in the way they bring people from disparate backgrounds together.  “When the good citizens of a community find places to spend pleasurable hours with one another for no specific or obvious purpose. . . there is purpose” (Oldenburg, 2001, p. ix).  The social aspects of informal public gathering spaces are purposeful and meaningful in and of themselves.   Third places contribute a space for exploration and in doing so provide meaning, contribute to a sense of belonging, and provide a release from daily responsibilities.  Characteristics of third places include:

Hospitable, inclusive, and diverse.  Anyone can come, participate, and join in.  Third places offer a cross-section of diverse people with potentially differing backgrounds, ages, concerns, etc.  Oldenburg (2001) described this inclusivity in terms of being a “leveler” because people are able to transcend their social roles and are generally accepted for themselves (pp. 24, 25). 

Neutralilty.  The Third Space is the host, all other participants are guests (Oldenburg, 2001, p. 22).  This distinction is significant with regard to social norms, expectations, and a sense of welcome experienced by those who enter.  

Social Norms.  Regulars, those who seem to know everybody, help to assimilate newcomers to the place including expectations, behavioral rules, andetiquette.  Some of this may happen overtly - grab your menu there or through observation - watching how people move within a space to see what they do.  In this sense, third places serve to unite a diverse set of people and coordinate their actions within a  place. 

Friendship and Camaraderie.  People come to third places because they want to, a context where the “fundamental motivation is neither personal advantage or civic duty” (Oldenburg, 2001, p. 26).  Camaraderie is the goal and conversation is the main activity.

Perspective.  Third places provide a home away from home, a place of experienced connectedness thus contributing to a sense of rootedness and belonging (Oldenburg, 2001, pp. 39, 40, 50-52). 

Play and Laughter.  A lack of scheduling, freedom from responsibility, and independence from the daily routine are all found in a third place thereby providing a place to hang out and simply be (Oldenburg, 2001, pp. 37, 45-48). 

Spiritual Tonic.   Participation in a third place (not home or work) serves to raise one’s spirits, make a person’s day, provides a release from duty and responsibility, and a breaking of monotony (Oldenburg, 2001, p. 55-58).  

Oldenburg noted, “Nothing contributes to one’s sense of belonging to a community as much as ‘membership’ in a third place” (p. xxiii). 

Oldenburg, R. (1999). The great good place: Cafés, coffee shops, bookstores, bars, hair salons, and other hangouts at the heart of a community. New York: Marlowe.  


Upon arrival at Amano Bistro, people said hello, gave hugs, asked how you were, and shared a laugh.  This place oozed welcome and hospitality.  It was a a place where you could slough off your many roles and just be.  It truly was a Third Place in the sense that Oldenburg described.  Within a space decorated with local artist's works:  ready banter, a steady stream of regulars, chocolate pot de creme, and Eric's caramels further characterized our experiences.   We celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, shared meals with visiting friends and family, and truly looked forward to being there.  

Now it is gone and there is a vacuum in South Phoenix where chain restaurants tend to be the norm.   I know, I know - our economic and land ownership sensibilities often indicate that profit and land ownership can (should?) dictate the terms related to our decision making related to land use.  So it is that the owner of this property elected to turn the lot into a parking lot choosing not to renew Amano's lease.  I guess on solely economic terms perhaps this was a more financially viable option.  However, this decision has high social, cultural, and human costs in terms of community, relationships, and connections.  See, Amano's wasn't solely about transactional or functional eating - there's plenty of that to be had at McDonalds, Applebees or a plethora of other chain restaurants at 24th/Baseline.  Amano's was about friendship, family, relationship and community.  No parking lot regardless of the revenue generated can even come close to the relational toll this decision has enacted on our community.

So it is that we are filled with glorious memories and sad, grieving and experiencing a sense of loss.   Thank you Eric and Kathy for your vision and commitment to neighborhood and community - sharing food together was a wonderful experience contributory to our collective sense of purpose, meaning, and sense of connection to place.  Bless you in your future and all you do!  

Prioritizing Strategic Initiatives

As an output of a strategic planning process, organizations often can readily identify a long list of opportunities to improve or new things to consider that are then translated into possible strategic initiatives.  A challenge, then, is how to rank or prioritize the list.  I sometimes suffer what I affectionately describe as a desire to 'eat the elephant.'  

 Source:  Felix Andrews (Floybix) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

 Source:  Felix Andrews (Floybix) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Rarely does trying to do it all at once work.  We need a way to eat the elephant in manageable bites at a time to maximize organizational benefit while modulating costs, level of effort, and risk.  


Some assumptions about strategic initiatives and their prioritization:

  • Prioritization is an informed and methodical questioning and decision making process.
  • Some strategic initiatives offer more benefit and/or are more strategic than others.
  • An organization cannot do all things immediately given available resources including people, $$, time, and/or other materials.
  • An organization and her people may experience fatigue from too many new initiatives at once.
  • There is more than one way to prioritize – key is to question, think, assess, and then put a plan in place.  
  • This process is scalable for organizational, department, program, or process level planning and prioritization.  

Variables to Consider

Generally, the relative value of any proposed strategic initiative can be assessed using a multi-variable framework that includes strategic, financial, business, human, social, and environmental value potential.  For any proposed initiative, ask: If implemented, what would the potential impact be in terms of each value category. 

Strategic Valuehow well this initiative and its benefits are aligned with organizational mission and values including extending the reach of the organization to include new service areas, access to potential customers, etc.  

Financial Value = revenue  or other $$ directly derived from this initiative or has a possibility of contributing to lower costs and/or cost avoidance, etc. 

Business Value = related to process efficiencies or optimization, customer service, or service delivery.  

Human value (Internal) = improvement in work culture, communication, leadership, or other factors related to personnel learning and growth.

Social Value (external) = contributive to efficiently, effectively, and sustainably addressing a social problem or opportunity pertinent to the organization or its context.  

Environmental Value = contributive to sustainable environmental practices related to operations, production, or other initiatives.

Once you've evaluated each initiative to determine its relative value and/or impact, then assess each with regard to potential risk, vulnerability, or impact to business continuity.  

Business Risk Factor = the overall relative complexity of this initiative based on a number of factors including such factors as:

  • Level of effort (# of people required + $$ + Duration) in relation to other initiatives
  • Potential impact to multiple business critical information or other technology systems
  • Multiple divisional or organizational interfaces
  • Extensive programmatic or operational change
  • Potential impact to business continuity or related emergency response function or capacity
  • Vulnerability related to external customer perception or other system impacts

Sample Matrices to Support Decision Making and Documentation

It's important to have a matrix to capture your value assignments and decisions.  I tend to like simple approaches and have found that a matrix or table similar to the sample Strategic Initiative Prioritization matrix presented provides a useful and simply way to document the results of estimated value, risk, and relative ranking.  

The Effort/Impact Matrix and Cost/Benefit Matrices are examples of visual ways to assess strategic initiatives.  Sometimes it's helpful to have a visual way to plot results.  In both examples,

  • Little to No Effort or Low Cost with some impact or benefit may represent those Quick wins, those initiatives that contribute immediate value and/or benefit that should be done now.
  • Low Effort or Cost and High Impact or Benefit = High Value and should be prioritized as such
  • Significant effort or cost and low impact or benefit = Low Value and should be prioritized as such
  • High Effort and High Cost with Significant Impact or Benefit can be a bit trickier.  I tend to assign a high value designation and a higher risk given the significant organizational effort, duration, or costs.  

The sample risk assessment matrix I've included is okay - it's not exactly my favorite way to consider risk because it assumes an analysis of risk in relation to scenarios (thus the probability axis).  If I'm assisting with vulnerability assessments, emergency response planning, or business continuity planning - I'm more likely to use this matrix.  When doing strategic planning, I tend to use a relative range of 1-4 where 1 = low and 4 = high risk, based on the business risk categories identified or a list of categories based on discussion with the client.  


Sample Process

Assuming you have a list of possible strategic initiatives:

1.  Determine your value categories.  Are there other value categories that should be considered or are not applicable for your organization or program?    

2.  Discuss and define low/high values or or other criteria for assigning a low/high value for each category.    I often use a 1-4 ranking where 1 = low value and 4 = high or one of the matrices presented.  

3.  Discuss and define business risk categories including what defines a low/high value for each category.  

4.  Analyze each strategic initiative for each Value Category and then for business risk.   It's not uncommon for the first few efforts to result in a refinement of analysis criteria.  One thing I like to do is have each person on the analysis team do this task independently, then come together to discuss.  This discussion is a great way to learn biases, assumptions, concerns, and values within the team.  Disparity in value or risk assignment provides an opportunity to discuss difference and to determine why or how the differences exist.   

5.  Document your analysis.  In a 3 to 5 year plan, remembering what the process was and why certain decisions were made can fade or be affected by a sort of revisionist history (grin).  A few bullet points here or there can be helpful when confronted with a What were we thinking moment. 

6.  Calculate the Total Value and then assign a ranking based on results.    Rarely do I recommend accepting the ranking at face value.  Instead, I do a sanity check with the team to see if it 'reads right' meaning - does the ranking seem correct based on the team's perception of organizational need.  Are there any surprises?  Is there anything about the ranking that seems out of sync or inconsistent with operational concerns?  

7.  Consider conducting a workshop with those responsible for implementation where the strategic initiatives are presented.  Then give each person 3 to 5 votes to vote for their top initiatives that they feel if implemented would have the largest impact on operations or organizational mission.  The # of votes varies depending on the number of initiatives.  I've used colored dots, #1-X to denote votes.  One good way to facilitate this is to have all the initiatives presented on posters, have each person vote, and then visually you have a pretty easy way to see priority.   Depending on the scope of participation, I've had work groups discuss and prioritize (when there are multiple work groups in the room).  If there are disparities in priority, this can be a great opportunity to discuss differences or if the implementors priorities are different than the original assessment (#6) - then it's important to understand the differences between the two groups.  

8.  Following this meeting, the analysis team should meet to discuss results of workshop and to revise (if appropriate) the table and finalize the ranking.  

This simplified discussion of strategic initiative prioritization hopefully provides some useful considerations for prioritizing strategic initiatives. This is one of my favorite parts of strategic planning because of the If This, Then what type questioning which I find so much FUN!   


Leadership Studies Academic Program Design Tips

Newsflash:  I am a faux academic.  Yep, my initial foray into academia was adjunct teaching followed by an investigation into the feasibility of offering a doctoral degree at Johnson University (then Johnson Bible College).  In 2008, JU asked me to explore the possibility of offering a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies.  Part of this analysis included a desktop review of 97 universities who offered a PhD or DMin in Leadership Studies or related degrees.  An outcome of this process include my understanding of a Leadership Studies Academic Program Design Framework depicted in Figure 1 followed by a discussion of each element. 

Figure 1:  Academic Program Design Framework

Figure 1:  Academic Program Design Framework

Leadership studies theoretical framework – Clearly define what you mean by leadership studies.  Few colleges or universities published their definition of leadership studies on their website.  Some underlying biases and assumptions were revealed when examining the program description, organizational placement and the required curriculum.  However, leadership studies as a field of study would benefit from more intentional defining of the term.  Practically, your definition of leadership studies and associated biases and assumptions about the topic influences every facet of your program design including purpose, curriculum, goals, and objectives.  Through conscious and deliberate definition and understanding you lay the baseline from which decisions are made throughout the design and implementation of your program.  Key questions include:  How do we define leadership?  What dimensions of leadership are we most interested in such as leader as self; leader within organizations; leader in society; other factors?  What are our underlying philosophies of teaching and learning and how do those philosophies influence (if they do) our theoretical framework?

Statement of purpose – Create a unified vision and statement of purpose, one that is reflective of your leadership studies theoretical framework.   The key remains a concisely worded statement of purpose:  “The purpose of this program is to XXX.”  Key questions:  What is the purpose of this program?  What are the desired outcomes?  What will a graduate of this program look like upon completion?  

Five programmatic elements are derived directly from the Leadership Studies Theoretical Framework and Statement of Purpose:  organizational placement, target audience, delivery methods, degree requirements, and curriculum.  Key questions:  What is the rationale for design decisions within each element?  How does each design decision align with your Leadership Studies Theoretical Framework and your Statement of Purpose? What criteria will be used to evaluate each element?

Organizational placement – I have no data to support this but I suspect that organizational placement sometimes occurs because a person with the idea is matrixed to a particular School, College, or Division.  This may be okay considering academia’s tendency toward associating with persons of similar interests (said tongue in cheek).   Theoretically, the person or people with the initial idea and who develop the theoretical framework are most likely to develop a theoretical framework in keeping with their particular School, College, or Division.   Warning:  my thoughts that follow, admittedly, are “ideal” rather than how I see things usually working.  Ideally, though, a decision to add a new program is a strategic decision, one undertaken with deliberation toward key questions such as:  Where is a leadership studies program of this type best placed given our theoretical framework and our statement of purpose?  Where in the college or university as a whole can we best meet our goals for this program?  Do we need to create a new school, college, or division? 

Target audience – Defining your target audience is closely coupled with your Statement of Purpose.   Inherent in defining your purpose,  whether overtly or covertly, is a to who question.  Consider two differing purposes such as: (a)  prepare students to teach and do research, or (b)  develop or equip professionals or practitioners to lead.  Two different purposes, two different target audiences, each with potentially differing delivery methods, degree requirements, and curriculum.  Key questions:  What kind of students do you want to participate?  What do you envision students doing with the degree?  Do multiple purposes exist with differing target audiences?  Who do you imagine them being post-degree?  

Delivery method – Devise delivery methods best suited to your Statement of Purpose and target audience.  Consider multiple delivery options (e.g., classroom, online, hybrid) and/or creative scheduling if your target audience includes working adults.  Key questions:  What are the best delivery options given our Statement of Purpose and Target Audience?  What creative alternatives exist for face to face instruction and scheduling?  How much face to face interaction is desired in addition to classroom (e.g., mentoring, residencies, regional meetings, etc.)? 

Degree requirements  - Outline degree requirements best suited to Statement of Purpose and Target Audience.   Consider each element (required core and elective coursework, candidacy or qualification process, dissertation or project) in relation to your Leadership Studies Theoretical Framework and Statement of Purpose.  Key questions:  What is the relationship of course requirements to Leadership Studies Theoretical Framework and Statement of Purpose?  What is the role of and best approach given the role of candidacy or qualification?  What is the role of and best approach for the dissertation or project?  What other requirements are necessary to meet purpose?

Curriculum – Align your curriculum requirements within your Leadership Studies Conceptual Framework and your Statement of Purpose.  A broad concept of leadership studies emerged around the topics or themes of:  (a)  leadership and leadership studies; (b)  organizational studies, (c)  interpersonal behaviors:  team and group dynamics; (d)  communication; (e)  culture, global society, and policy; (f)  ethics, (g)  research, (h)  dissertation; and (i) other special topics.  Within each topic or theme, there was much variation.   Clearly, leadership studies isinterdisciplinary and broadly defined.  This illustrates the importance of your Leadership Studies Theoretical Framework, a clear definition of what you believe becomes the roadmap for developing your curriculum.   Key questions:  What must a student know given our Leadership Studies Theoretical Framework and our statement of purpose for us to meet our goals and objectives?

Be intentional and deliberate in defining your terms and translating that definition throughout all elements of your leadership studies program.  Your clarity and rigor in decision making to always go back to your Leadership Studies Theoretical Framework (what we’re about) and Statement of Purpose (Why we exist)when defining the Organizational Placement, Target Audience, Delivery Methods, Degree Requirements, and Curriculum (how you participate) translate into clarity, coherency and alignment within communication.

Communication – Craft communication that is carefully considered, aligned, clear, and coherent.   I recall one website where a definition of leadership studies was not provided, statement of purpose was “develop professional leaders”, target audience was business professionals, and the core classes were Introduction to Business and Economics.   I experienced a disconnect wondering how I was going to be developed as a leader studying business and economics.  By aligned, I mean all the elements fit together because they have been rigorously designed through intentional validation against the Leadership Studies Conceptual Framework and Statement of Purpose.  Clear simply refers to the overt manner in which you describe each element of your leadership studies program and clarity with which a reader can review your purpose, requirements, delivery methods, etc.  For websites, in particular, pay attention to the ease with which people can find information in a logical manner.  A subject for another day is college or university website design.  It was maddening at times trying to find information on websites!  Finally, coherency is a goal worth striving for.  By coherency, I refer to the human response to reviewing information about your leadership studies program and seeing how the pieces fit together, how they relate, and the ability to visualize themselves within that program.  Key questions:  What might potential students want to know about this program?  What are the messages and methods for communicating our leadership studies program that contributes to alignment, clarity, and coherency?

Continuous improvement – Set goals, objectives, and target measures.  Obtain and assess feedback.  Take action to continually improve your leadership studies programs.  Continuous improvement serves to:  (a)  focuses attention on key issues, (b)  clarify expectations, (c)  facilitate decision making, and (d)  emphasize learning and improving.  A successful continuous improvement framework provides appropriate consideration for improving practices, strategies, and decision making.  Measuring performance provides the means for assessing change and growth in each areas.   Define goals , objectives, and target measures for your leadership studies program so you have key information to:  prioritize and allocate resources; make needed adjustments or changes in policy or program directions to meet goals; to frame actions toward success in meeting performance goals; and to improve quality.  Key questions:  To meet our Statement of Purpose, what do we need to know generally?  What do we need to know programmatically (within each element)?  What do we need to know about our students?  About our alumni?  For each, what are potential goals, objectives, and desired outcomes?  How will we gather information and assess?

Reimagining Faith: A Leader's Orientation Towards Responsibility

Beyond technical competency and business acumen, leadership increasingly faces questions of responsibility.  One of the many things I am curious about is why people are responsible, where responsibility leads to decisions and action beyond a profit motive to consider people, planet and consequence of actions.  This curiosity led to an exploration of faith - where faith is not a synonym for religious belief, but as one’s definition of and orientation towards reality guiding one’s sense of purpose, responsibility, and action.

Photo Creative Commons Zero https://unsplash.com/license 

Photo Creative Commons Zero https://unsplash.com/license 

Faith Described in Literature

When we move beyond associating faith solely as a synonym for specific religious beliefs - we see this wonderful vibrant, complex and animating principle motivating people to action.  Specific qualities of faith as described in the literature included:  

  • An essential, unique personal, human quality – everyone has faith in the sense of having an orientation towards being and reality    (Cox, 2009, p. 37; Fowler, 1981, p. xiii; Smith, 1979, pp. 8, 129; Tillich, 1957, p. 7)
  • A verb – engagement and full participation in life and the universe    (Fowler, 1981, p. 14; Smith, 1979, p. 5; Tillich, 2000, p. 23)
  • Response to something beyond and bigger than oneself - e.g., God, Being, connectedness, etc. (Dubay, 1985, p. 35; Fowler, 1981, p. 4; Pratt & Ashforth, 2003, pp. 322, 323; Smith, 1979, p. 12; Tillich, 1957, p. 10)
  • A way of knowing – not rationally or objectively.  Words used to describe faith include:  flow, awe, mystery, ‘the way things are’; a way of seeing   (Cox, 2009, p. 35; Fowler, 1981, pp. 11, 25; Niebuhr, 1989, p. 15; Smith, 1979, p. 12; Tillich, 1957, p. 7; Tillich, 2000, p. 25)
  • Purpose – what is to be done and how?    (Pratt & Ashforth, 2003, p. 323)
  • Meaning – a way of making sense of reality and one’s existence. (Fowler, 1981, p. 4; Smith, 1979, pp. 3,12)
  • Coherence – faith provides a sense of order, how and why things hang together to constitute reality and truth (ideology).   (Dubay, 1985; Fowler,  1981, p. 4; Pratt & Ashforth, 2003, p. 323)

Faith, then, can be seen as an essence of each human where this essence is experienced as reality, a sense of the way things are.  Used as a verb, faith moves us beyond belief to action.  Faith is related to spirituality, where:      

Spirituality is an experience and awareness of a Higher Power, a sense of inter-connectedness between and responsibility to self, other, the planet, and the Higher Power.  These fundamental beliefs about reality constitute an integrated foundation upon which individuals or groups view the world, derive purpose and meaning, and experience certitude.  Our values, qualities, motivations, and actions derive from our spirituality. . . . A sense of responsibility to self, others, and the planet are more akin to moral obligations so integral they are to one’s beliefs about inter-connectedness of all things.. .. Spiritual people have a multi-layered understanding of the relationship between the physical and meta-physical worlds.  (Crumpton, 2011)

 [I realize citations are a bit nerdy...my training demands I give credit where credit is due (big grin).]

Photo Creative Commons Zero   https://unsplash.com/license

Photo Creative Commons Zero https://unsplash.com/license

Three examples

The excerpts below arose out of casual conversations with some friends on separate occasions over coffee.  In part I wanted to understand more fully what made them tick - all people I observed leading beyond a profit motivation to something more.  As I listened to their stories, I realized that each had a personal spirituality with a faith that translated into a unique outlook, values, and actions.  Allow me to introduce you to three friends (names changed):

Susie - a former lawyer with a prestigious firm stopped practicing law to open an art gallery.    Her rationale:  Art is a means by which we connect with our deeper selves.  By providing a space for artists to present their art, we (used collectively) have an opportunity to enhance our community and each other.  We are all interconnected, I have a choice and a responsibility to focus my energies towards those activities that connect and make a contribution to our community and to the lives of those whom I encounter.    I want to positively contribute to community and I just realized that I could do so by merely stopping doing one thing and doing another.    I’m not religious, it’s just not my thing.  My focus is art and artists.  I just believe that by focusing on enhancing community the human home is improved, people are respected, and we weave a life together.   

Jake – owner of an architecture firm committed to using earth friendly materials, affordable housing, having a positive work place, and community service.  His rationale:  We’re all in this together.  It’s the butterfly thing, small things I/we do matter and contribute either positively or negatively to the environment, our community, and each other.  I feel a sense of responsibility to be intentional and to do the best I can and believe that my firm and my contributions are part of a bigger picture with a lasting impact.  I was raised in a Christian home but do not consider myself religious – I tend to be more spiritual with an unshakeable belief that we all contribute to a greater aspect of life…something perhaps un-seeable yet palpable.   I stay focused through my Bikram yoga practice – I look in the mirror, see my face, and know myself.

Bob – president and founder of an IT consulting firm. His rationale:  As a Christian, I believe the planet and humans share a common creator.  We are all connected and this connection requires that I be responsible, a good steward.    My firm is about providing service, by creating a positive work place and by responsively providing client value.  As a workplace we are committed to community service, being green, buying local where we can, and creating client relationships.    People and the planet deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.  God directs my life and I seek His guidance through prayer, but I have free will to act.  

Reflections on Faith

The three stories are but three - I suspect as you're reading this you can identify other stories of people in business with commitments and actions that transcend profit.  Places where a person’s faith creates a deep awareness and sense of connectedness and relationship to something bigger.  In some, this sense of Being is related to God as creator, with others, this sense is related to a big picture ordering and coherency.  One’s identification with and experience of connectedness provides coherency and serves as an anchoring or orientation towards a much bigger picture.  Values associated with faith included things such as:  

  • Our purpose is to serve others and the planet.
  • People should be treated with dignity and respect.  
  • People should be valued for who they are.  
  • We are all interconnected.  
  • Our responsibility is to promote the common good (defined in various ways).

Further, a person's actions matter and contribute in some way to the larger experience of life on the planet.  A person’s sense of agency is undergirded with a sense of responsibility, an ethic of care, and reciprocity (e.g., the Golden Rule).  Responsibility, then, is a recognition of the relationship of ones' actions and impact on people and planet.  To not act responsibly would be inauthentic and violate a person’s sense of right and wrong. Leaders guided by faith are driven by a perceived reality and deep sense of interconnectedness, an imperative if you will, to act responsibly.  This imperative translates into a strong sense of agency to act dissidently (against prevailing views) guided by a sense that actions matter.    


Click on the book or article title to discover more about a specific reference.  

Berger, P. L., & Zijderveld, A. C. (2009). In praise of doubt: How to have convictions without becoming a fanatic. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Cox, H. G. (2009). The future of faith (1st ed.). New York: HarperOne.

Crumpton, A. (2011).  An exploration of spirituality within leadership studies literature.  Paper presented at the Interdisciplinary.net 1st Global Conference on Spirituality in the 21st Century:  At the Interface of Theory, Practice, and Pedagogy.  March 20-22, 2011  Prague, Czech Republic, 2011.

Crumpton, A. (2011). An exploration of spirituality within leadership studies literature. In J. L. Hochheimer & J. Fernandez-Goldborough (Eds.), Spirituality conversations for the 21st century: Inter-Disciplinary Press.

Dubay, T. (1985). Faith and certitude. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Fowler, J. W. (1981). Stages of faith: The psychology of human development and the quest for meaning. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Gunther, M. (2004). Faith and fortune: The quiet revolution to reform American business.  New York: Crown Business.

Maak, T., & Pless, N. M. (2006). Responsible leadership. New York: Routledge.

Maak, T., & Pless, N. M. (2006). Responsible leadership:  A relational approach. In T. Maak & N. Pless (Eds.), Responsible leadership (pp. 33-53). New York: Routledge.

Niebuhr, H. R., & Niebuhr, R. R. (1989). Faith on earth: An inquiry into the structure of human faith. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Pratt, M., G., & Ashforth, B. E. (2003). Fostering meaningfulness in working and at work. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline (pp. 309-327). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

Pruzan, P., & Miller, W. C. (2006). Spirituality as the basis of responsible leaders and responsible companies. In T. Maak & N. Pless (Eds.), Responsible leadership (pp. 68-92). New York: Routledge.

Smith, W. C. (1979).  Faith and belief:  The difference between them.   Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Tillich, P. (1957). Dynamics of faith. New York: Harper.

Tillich, P., & Gomes, P. J. (2000). The courage to be (2nd ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Webb, E. (2009). Worldview and mind: Religious thought and psychological development. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.

#StreetArt & #Graffiti The Berlin Wall and the East Side Gallery Berlin

Visiting the East Side Gallery in Berlin was a highlight of our trip. The East Side Gallery is located at the Muhlenstrasse in Frederickshain - many of the photos included in my blog post #StreetArt & #Graffiti #Berlin were taken in this area.  The East Side Gallery is free and public open at all times.  From August 1961 to November 09, 1989 - the Berlin Wall enclosed West Berlin cutting through the city.  Throughout the city, there are markers indicating where the wall stood.

Wall remnants remain throughout the city - at Potsdamer Platz for example.

Other wall remnants on display:

The East Side Gallery is understood as a monument to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the peaceful resolution of boundaries and conventions between companies and people
— http://www.eastsidegallery-berlin.de/data/eng/index-eng.htm

Thoughts following my visit to the East Side Gallery

Walls are barriers serving to keep people in or to keep the unwanted out.  Barriers long thought as protective also create a numbing sense of isolation from ideas, life, and culture.   Why does it seem that when a regime comes in the first thing they do is attack the cultural centers - museums, libraries, public art displays, street art, graffiti, theater, dance, or music.  Artifacts are destroyed, laws are enacted to prohibit certain creative acts, censorship rises, and the tolerance for those who create decreases.  Call me a mush brain but the symbolism of art placement on the Wall brought tears to my eyes.  So much creativity alongside a historical remnant of barrier and isolation.  

The shear volume of street art and graffiti in Berlin optimistically communicated to me that humans desire to create, they desire a vibrancy and the capacity to voice their inner thoughts.  We will not be silenced - whether through street art, graffiti, poetry, music - whatever form it takes, we will not, cannot, and should not be silenced.

Other Resources

Berlin East Side Gallery Retrieved from http://www.eastsidegallery-berlin.de/data/eng/index-eng.htm

Berlin's East Side Gallery on film.  Retrieved from http://www.dw.com/en/berlins-east-side-gallery-on-film/a-18175320

Berlin Wall Memorial.  Retrieved from http://www.berliner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de/en/