President's Message: Leading, Listening and Keeping Positive
Updated: Aug 14, 2020
Greetings. Thank you for allowing me to continue in service as your President! I have gained much value in serving as a member and board member of the Texas Association of College Teachers. As in the past, I welcome feedback and insight on the issues and activities you believe will be important for our organization. I am providing my direct email again (firstname.lastname@example.org) to solicit your thoughts and feedback on important areas that impact our overall membership. Let’s have continued conversations and dialogue as done last year.
For this issue, I want to address a topic presented to me recently by TACT members. The topic centered on leadership succession and onboarding of new employees and leaders in superordinate and subordinate roles. We discussed experiencing new leaders, being in new leadership roles, and treatment by team members once elevating to a leadership role within one’s same organization. Over the next few months, I will continue addressing the topic of leadership succession and onboarding as it fits within the work of TACT and the support of our members and the context of higher education today.
As someone who has studied leadership as a student, researcher, professor, and leader, I have learned some key lessons that I find useful in serving in higher education. In John Maxwell’s 2011 text entitled The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization, he discussed leading below, leading across, and leading above. A 360 leader, effective leader, does all three roles (Maxwell, 2011). No matter our respective roles in an organization, we do all three.
I use different approaches in leading below, across, and above. I know experiencing and practicing leadership is not simple or simplified. I would love to discuss further and in detail in our conversations and interactions, but I will share two tenets in this issue.
Lesson #1 – Don’t listen/solely listen to the first person who gets to you.
Lesson # 2 – When communicating information, be intentional for productive and positive action.
Often leaders will listen to the first person who gets to them. This first person seeks to have, as one euphemism puts it, the “ear” of the leader. I have heard team members state, “I have an inroads with the leader.” By telling a tale/narrative/perspective to the leader, team member, and/or direct report, this individual plants a message and human nature can receive, internalize, and indoctrinate this information using it to guide, direct, and/or influence actions.
Of course, there is no harm in giving a heads-up to a leader or team member if you: (a) believe they are about to encounter a difficult or destructive situation; (b) want to help and/or protect the organization and its clients; and/or (c) have definitive documentation and examples as proof. We must be reflective whether in the role of colleague, leader, or direct report. In all three types, I listen to learn and discern i.e. learn new information and discern of any potential motives. I listen very well and quickly. I use discretion and common sense when I sense something is not quite right. I am able to professionally, respectfully, and tactfully withdraw from conversations designed to disparage or defame others.
I have witnessed employees disparage purposefully when there is no evidence to support the assertions. I learned long ago to be wary of team members who have more time to tattletale on others than to perform tasks. If the team member has time to continuously report, rhetorically speaking, what are they masking about him/herself and who’s performing his/her roles during this, perhaps wasted, time? On the converse, common sense and intelligence behoove us to use critical thinking, intellect, and simple class to think through information we receive. As members of the higher education profession, we manage/should manage ourselves wisely, professionally, and ethically leading above, across, and below.
As we proceed this new academic term, experiencing the public health challenges, logistics changes, interacting with new employees and leaders, and performing our roles in higher education, I have some hopes, dreams and prayers. May we all continue learning, listen with discernment, serve with intentionality, and reflect on the different experiences we encounter this year to make a beneficial difference and real impact!
Lisa D. Hobson, Ph. D.