Tag Archives: Leadership

A Vision of the Future for Teachers and Leaders

If you are a faithful Tweak Your Slides reader, you know that one of my favorite people is Pamela Slim, guru, author, and TED speaker. Slim advises those who want to “escape cubicle nation”and those who wish to connect the disparate threads of experience to help create a cohesive and impacting body of work, and helps them find a way to take success and their future into their own hand. Upon first studying works like Escape from Cubicle Nation and Body of Work, it seems that Slim’s focus is on experienced workers, those who have been in the workforce for years and are looking for a way to put their experience to different use or who want to pursue their “side hustles.” But, today’s TED Talk shows us that Pam’s mission to change her clients’, readers’, and the world’s vision of success extends to the group she sees as the most important in helping us recover economically–our youth. In her TEDxPhoenix talk, Slim shares several stories of young people who show strength, perseverance, and bravery in the face of a tumultuous world. These young people presented through the framework of Slim’s powerful storytelling can remind teachers and leaders of what our true role is in educating others: we are guides, encouragers, mentors who help others unlock hidden potential that can and will change the world.

Pain is Power

Among these remarkable folks is Amanda Wang, a graphic designer who brings awareness to bipolar disorder by sharing her journey to train for the Golden Gloves with audiences; Amanda uses her pain, her “weaknesses” to empower herself and empower others. In a world with constantly shifting ideas, ideologies, power structures, work modes, etc. the ability to harness pain into power is remarkably important.

A Free Mind Creates Economic Freedom

Another impacting story Slim shares is the story of Willie Jackson, who left a traditional corporate career to help others jumpstart their creative endeavors through building WordPress sites. For Willie, the traditional work mode and traditional definition of success were not enough to make him happy. His willingness to use his talents to help others freed him.

We need to stop telling our young people to spend 40 years creating spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides that have no meaning.

Beauty is a Universal Constant

Slim then shares the story of Avery, a young Navajo man, who traverses two worlds–the world of his native culture and the world surrounding it in Phoenix, Arizona. Avery uses art to communicate his perspective and the perspectives of other natives in a unique way. He gives voice to experiences most of us would otherwise know nothing about, and empowers others to share their experiences. For Slim, Avery is representative of the potential future of contemporary native people. He will grow to be a leader and guide to future generations, including her children.

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As teachers and leaders, it’s up to us to keep this idea as an important focus. Yes, generations have different concerns, different values, different interests, but I think we fall into the “what’s wrong with young people today?” way of thinking far too often and far too quickly. If we see potential in every one of our students, they will live up to that potential. I will be leaving my current position and subject matter with corporate education to return to a learning-centered college in the Fall (the same one I left almost six years ago). I brought with me the principles of learner-centered education, and I learned more than I can say about teaching, leadership, and design as a course director of Professional Communication and Presentation. I will return to Valencia College with these new skills, always keeping in mind that my role is to guide, inspire, and motivate the young people who will continue changing our world for the better.

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Drew Dudley’s Definition of Leadership

In this week’s consultation with leadership trainer David Morillo, I was reintroduced to Drew Dudley’s short but sweet TED talk, Everyday Leadership. Every person has the potential to be a leader; we tend to either glorify leadership as something unique to a particular set of people (the extroverted, the charismatic, the confident, the powerful) or we define leadership as the state of being in a position of power. Either of these will lead to the right person avoiding a leadership position or the wrong person filling a leadership position. There is nothing more damaging to an organization than not cultivating the leadership abilities of its employees, except perhaps a person in a leadership position who cannot or does not want to cultivate growth and intrinsic motivation in his or her team. So, what is the true definition of leadership? What is the first step in growing one’s leadership? Well, there is no one true definition (that’s what makes it so universal), but we can all agree that great leaders have vision and a true understanding of the “why” or purpose that drives them. For Dudley, the first step in growing leadership comes from the recognition that one small act, something that changes another’s vision of the world is leadership.  Leadership is about those “lollypop” moments. Check out this inspirational talk below!

How do you define leadership? How do you cultivate your skills as a leader?

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Great Questions Spark Innovation

This week, Alex Rister and I met with a colleague and former student, David Morillo. During our meeting, David, who is an Online Admissions Training Team Leader at Full Sail University and an integral part of leadership training at our institution, led me through an exercise designed to help me isolate my hierarchically based value system. During that exercise, I shuffled through cards with words like “Faith,” “Family,” “Accomplishment,” and “Wealth” on them. After sorting, resorting, and resorting again, I landed on my top two values: “Fairness” and “Creativity/Innovation.” I cannot really pin point the source of my adamant belief in fairness as a guiding principle in life, but when asked why I chose creativity and innovation over other values like “Change” or “Knowledge”, I realized that for me, innovation leads to growth, increased knowledge, and wisdom. My drive to choose paths in life that help further foster creativity leads to growth in these other areas. One way I teach by innovation is to constantly ask my students questions and encourage them to come up with questions of their own. Author and business journalist, Warren Berger recently wrote the book (A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas) on questions as a tool for innovation. More than just asking questions, it’s important to ask the right questions as a path to innovation. In this book and in this INC. article by Leigh Buchanan, Berger describes what makes a great question, what sorts of questions don’t get asked, and how to motivate others to ask questions. Three takeaways from this article I can apply to my own body of work and the work of my students are:

1. A great question is challenging and ambitious

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Great questions force the speaker and listener to content with an idea, make sense of it, and find a solution (or myriad of solutions) to the proposed problem at hand. A PCP Reboot question to consider here is: What if we actualize persuasion by asking students to learn to sell their professional stories?

2. Leaders’ questions help create a culture of inquiry

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Oftentimes as a teacher, I don’t have an answer to a proposed question. I simply want to see where a question takes us. Students can then learn that sometimes the best questions have no immediate or firm answer.

3. A great answer takes time

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I’ve worked on answering the big question for my course–how do we truly reveal the power and importance of a presentation in an accelerated asynchronous medium–for five years. Each time I think I’ve found the answer, a new facet of the question reveals itself that I must contend with, iterate around, and work to solve.

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The Golden Circle: Simon Sinek’s Start with Why

Each first day of class, I share Simon Sinek’s TEDxPugetSound talk with students as a starting point for a discussion of what it actually takes to persuade, convince, or resonate with an audience.

In his talk and his book Start With Why, Sinek proposes that great leaders–Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, the Wright Brothers–all communicate with a purpose, they communicate (think and act) from the inside out. Most of us, Sinek believes, communicate from the outside in. It is a clear sense of why–a mission, a purpose, a calling, a big idea–that allows great leaders to gain followers, to inspire others to take on their ideas and act on them. In preparation for my first day of class in two weeks, I’ve prepared a brief introduction to Sinek’s The Golden Circle.

Do you Start with Why? What is the Why that drives your decisions?

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Leadership Principles by Christin Upshaw

I am busy grading self-reflective introductory speeches and working out my course structure for October (by re-reading Nancy Duarte’s Resonate), but I’d like to share a deck of the day with you. Today’s deck comes from Christin Upshaw, friend, colleague, and superteacher, who taught an amazing course on leadership and organizational behavior during her time at Full Sail. Her students often commented on what an amazing class it was, and we quickly became superteacher comrades joining forces to ensure presentation awesomeness. Christin moved on to a leadership position as Vice President of New Business & Product Development at Integrated Loyalty Systems in Austin, Tx, where she works to bring awesomeness not only to her organization but to her community. Check out her slideshare.net presentation titled “Leadership Principles.” Christin’s use of type has always inspired me–she makes it so engaging and immersive! Notice how many of these principles are also those that great communicators should follow.

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Five leadership lessons from James Tiberius Kirk

Two of my very good friends, Alex Rister, and Christin Upshaw, shared this article with me today. Alex Knapp is officially my new favorite person, and the only proper homage I can pay him (apart from making an amazing batch of salted caramel Nutella brownies in his honor, is to visualize the five lessons paired with my five favorite take aways from this article on my second favorite starship captain, James T. Kirk (yes, I love Picard more. I can’t help it. It’s generational.).

Never Stop Learning

Despite Kirk’s bravado attitude, he, like my favorite men in Starfleet, is knowledgeable, worldly, and wise. One reason I love Star Trek so much is that the show isn’t about violent imperialism. It’s about exploration, the expansion of knowledge, the use of logic, emotion, and empathy to solve a problem. It’s the nerd’s soap opera. Great leaders never stop learning. They seek out knowledge and experience as a means to better their organizations, themselves, their world.

Have Advisors with Different Worldviews

This is probably what I love the most about Star Trek: The Original Series–the interplay between Kirk, his first officer, and his chief medical officer. The three of them make an amazing team, and the writers of Star Trek work to develop an intricate relationship, interplay, and dynamic. Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley work together as a seamless team. Kirk’s passion is tempered by Spock’s steely knowledge and Bones’ ethical barometer. Great leaders consider the perspectives of others. They seek out alternate views and perspectives before making decisions.

Be Part of the Away Team

A captain in Starfleet traditionally lets his first officer handle dangerous away missions. Kirk flies in the face of this convention. The only way to lead is by example–the only way to truly be a captain of the Enterprise is to understand that risk is an everyday part of the job.

Play Poker, Not Chess

Like Knapp, I love it when Kirk outwits his opponents through the use of an approach that is more poker than chess. Poker is all about psychology, something Knapp sees as valuable in business: “Playing that strategy with an eye to the psychology of our competitors, not just the rules and circumstances of the game can often lead to better outcomes than following the rigid lines of chess.”

Blow Up the Enterprise

Sometimes, leaders have to make tough decisions about what works and what doesn’t. Great leaders cannot be afraid to start anew, to throw out their reservations and go down a scary and uncertain road. Think of the great leaders of the world–each of them had to Blow Up the Enterprise and face loss in order to succeed.

We need to keep exploring and learning. We need to ensure that we encourage creativity and innovation by listening to the advice of people with vastly different opinions. We need to occasionally get down in the trenches with the members of our teams so we understand their needs and earn their trust and loyalty. We need to understand the psychology of our competitors and also learn to radically change course when circumstances dictate. –Alex Knapp, Forbes
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