My work is in the middle of a tornado. Honestly, I’m expecting a cow to fly by my office window at any second of the day (Twister, anyone?). At least it feels that way. Every day is a new adventure in learning to lead and be led in the midst of trial. In fact, many of my colleagues at work are so tired of not knowing where we stand. Each day, I go in to work hoping that I find out some news, any news, even if it’s bad for me and my team. Living in a constant state of anxiety and disequilibration has produced more frustration and challenge than actually being told I’m out of a job. (For the record, I don’t think I will loose my job, but you never know). It’s within this context that I’ve picked up this weeks reading, The Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, edited by Nohria and Khurana. I read the first chapter and knew exactly where I wanted to spend the rest of my time in this book.
Part of the reason I chose this DMin program is because in my heart of hearts, I am a practitioner. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the academy and higher education, but what I really love is the work that I get to do in my higher ed context. The ability that I get to speak into students lives about the work that God is doing around the corner and around the world is both a privilege and responsibility I do not take lightly. In fact, it’s because of the programs I now direct for the University, that the entire course of my life was changed. It’s shaped so much of who I am and why I do the work that I do. It’s shaped the foundation of my dissertation, and my field of study. In Simon Sinek’s language, it’s become my “why” for so many things.
“The failure of leadership we should be concerned about is not just the economic collapse of the firms they led, but the moral collapse of these firms, and the attendant confusion and loss of meaning they have engendered.” This has been my semester, in one simple sentence. I feel as though everyone around me has questions, on either side of any issue, about the moral collapse of my University. Whether you are an in the academy or a co-curricular educator, doubt runs deep. Recently, I went for two full weeks straight with at least one student, staff, or faculty member crying in my office. Everyone is questioning not just our financial challenges, but our potential moral collapse as an institution. So much of this semester has been a surprise to all of us, and not how we planned things to go. But I just keep reminding myself that this is not a surprise to God.
In my own thoughts, I’ve questioned more than once how things have gotten to this state at the University. I knew reading the section on the practice of leadership would be most helpful for me, as a practitioner, and it did not disappoint. I feel like I learned a new level of empathy for my institution’s senior leaders. I was reminded that, “The CEO does not always have the best information of the technical ability to make every decision.”, which became evident as we navigated our financial challenges. Furthermore, senior leadership teams are “Characterized by an overriding irony: they have everything they could need to facilitate their performance…yet the generally perform less than many far-more-constrained teams.” I feel like I’ve seen that first hand lately. Lastly, “The absence of a wider and more diverse outer circle can also undermine good and timely decisions.” Many of the people in our senior leadership team are white males who have worked together for over 20+ years.
There were so many poignant and relevant nuggets in these chapters that couldn’t have been more applicable to my current University situation. I felt like every chapter I read revealed a new layer to what our Board, President, and administrative team must have been facing over the last four months. As a practitioner in the middle of this storm, I have walked away with directly applicable information for myself as well as those I lead. This weeks reading left me impressed and inspired.
 Twister, by Jan de Bont (Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures, 1996). Blu-ray Disc, 1080p HD.
 Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2011).
 Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khruana, eds., Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, 2010), 11.
 Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria, “What is Leadership: The CEO’s Role in Large, Complex Organizations” in Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, eds. Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, 2010), 435.
 Ruther Wageman and J. Richard Hackman, “What Makes Teams of Leaders Leadable?” in Nohira and Khurana, 476.
 Michael Useem “Decision Making as Leadership Foundation” in Nohira and Khurana, 513