Recently published after my two-year collaborative effort with AAL Senior Fellow and Chronicle of Higher Education contributor Rob Jenkins, our leadership book The 9 Virtues of Exceptional Leaders: Unlocking Your Leadership Potential offers practical advice and helpful exercises while avoiding the false promises of easy fixes and quick results that so many gimmicky bestsellers flaunt. Leadership is neither easy nor quick. The only thing simple about leadership is the ease with which you can spend money on advice that fails to live up to the hype.
In this column, I discuss our philosophy of leadership and its inextricable link to virtuous behavior. Note that final word, because action is all. Everyone knows people in positions of authority who talk a good game but do not walk the walk. Moreover, that action needs to be grounded in virtue, which we define as “excellence in character.”
Thus, our theory of leadership starts with a simple premise: we believe that exceptional leaders are those who behave virtuously. Remember that leadership is not carried out for the leaders themselves–it is for the benefit of the people they lead and the organizations they serve. Leaders who “do good” can inspire others to do what is right as well, to perform acts they otherwise may not have, acts that help not only themselves but also the larger community. This truism has profound implications for every institution.
Virtue is not a fad, a passing fancy, nor the “flavor of the month.” Instead, virtuous living is a habit–indeed, a set of nine behaviors–that must be cultivated continuously over a lifetime, not merely for a week or two. We know what we propose will not appeal to some (perhaps many) because of our insistence that a lifetime is needed to embody all of the virtues. If you will forgive the cliché, however, it really is about the journey, the development of excellence in character, not the destination.
In our view, the character of a leader can be defined using a total of nine virtues. Among these are the four often called the “cardinal virtues”: courage, perseverance, wisdom, and justice. We also include the traditional spiritual virtues: hope, faith (closely associated with hope), and charity. To these we add virtues that seem particularly relevant today: humility, honesty, and balance. These nine virtues in bold appeared countless times during our study of leadership as well as our observations of effective modern-day leaders.
How do you get started on the journey? The key to acquiring The Nine Virtues is to put them into practice regularly, so that they become habits. If you practice them consistently, acquisition or internalization will naturally follow. Consider the teachings of William James, the early 20th-century psychologist who argued that, if you want to be something–brave, for instance–then you should act as though you already are, and ultimately you will be. As James put it, “If you want a trait, act as if you already have the trait.”1 For a soldier in battle, what is the practical difference between actually being brave and merely acting brave? The person who is brave and the person who merely acts brave both will do essentially the same things.
By the same token, what is the difference between a person who is actually virtuous and one who merely behaves as if she were virtuous? Both act the same way as far as others are concerned. Moreover, for the leader who, over time, practices the essential virtues of leadership, these become fully ingrained habits, genuine character traits. Please recall that it is all about action, behavior, walking the walk.
Our other basic premise is that everyone has leadership potential; in this respect, there are inborn or natural capacities in all of us. Just as some people have more athletic ability or musical talent than others, we each have different levels of natural leadership ability. Learning to embody The Nine Virtues enables you to build on your natural ability, and places the emphasis on nurturing leadership skills through actions and habits, which is what we call “character building.”
Virtue is about making the right choices and acting on them, over and over again, until they become habits and you fulfill your natural leadership potential. To help this process, we include exercises at the end of each chapter on the Nine Virtues: activities to turn a particular virtue into habitual behavior. After all, even a piano prodigy can only perfect her talent through many hours of practice.
The primary goal of our book–and our overall efforts within the Academy for Academic Leadership–is not to give you knowledge but to show you how to put that learning into practice. Study the Nine Virtues; but above all, become the Nine Virtues. As you come to understand, work to cultivate, and put into practice the Nine Virtues, you will, over time, become a better person; as a result, you also will become a better leader. We look forward to helping you on this journey.
1James, William. Writings 1902-1910: The Varieties of Religious Experience / Pragmatism / A Pluralistic Universe / The Meaning of Truth / Some Problems of Philosophy / Essays. New York: Library of America, 1988.
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by Felicia Tucker-Lively, Ph.D., M.P.H., AAL Director of Professional Development
Academic advancement is a journey filled with choices. Whatever choice is made, there are other potential choices left unselected. For some faculty, making steps toward advancement may be hindered by the variety of choices. This fall, 108 individuals acknowledged that being an expert educator is not enough to guarantee a successful career in academia and chose to explore how to enhance their faculty roles. These individuals enrolled in the Compass Program for Academic Advancement to discuss practical approaches to conducting research, seeking publication, and grant writing; gain insights into academic processes; and identify strategies for overcoming obstacles.
The Compass program presented a variety of skills faculty need for career advancement in many institutions. In a weekly distance learning format, the four modules were educational research, conducted by Dr. Marcia M. Ditmyer, Vice President for the Academy for Academic Leadership; grant writing, facilitated by Dr. Harvey L Bumpers, Professor of Surgery and Director of Breast Surgery in the Department of Surgery at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine; writing for publications, also presented by Dr. Ditmyer; and career planning, conducted by Dr. Gayle A. Brazeau, Dean and Professor of the College of Pharmacy at the University of New England.
The instructors made their topics relatable and facilitated the engagement of the participants. Some of the overarching themes of modules were set goals; manage expectations and deadlines; explore and use resources; and don’t give up. The program was designed to bridge many of the topics presented in AAL’s teaching and learning programs with the topics in AAL’s academic leadership programs.
As an interprofessional development opportunity for health professions educators, Compass participants interacted with colleagues from pharmacy, allied health, physical therapy, dentistry, public health, nursing and other programs to gain experience and insights. As stated by Dr. Ida Chung, an Assistant Dean of Learning from Western University of Health Sciences, College of Optometry, “This program provides excellent resources for educational research and publication, especially for the new faculty member. Mentors should know about this resource when working with their mentees.” Dr. Ibrahim Zakhary, an Associate Professor from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry commented, “The course was really constructive and helpful in changing my outlook on many aspects of my career. I learned a lot about writing for publication, useful hints in grant writing, and also for planning my career with in regard to my school mission and goals. Overall, I recommend this course for academicians and researchers.”
In addition, Dr. Karen A. Mlodozeniec, a Clinical Assistant Professor from D’Youville College School of Pharmacy remarked, “This is a great program that provides useful and usable information to new members of academia regarding scholarly activity and career planning.”
Additional final comments by participants described how they used the time between the sessions to reflect on the readings, assignments, and insights shared during the live interactive sessions. For many, the assignments provided an opportunity to in the written exercises. Overall, the assignments were viewed as pertinent and helped to formulate and articulate ideas as well as stimulate discussion in the live sessions and forum discussions. Also, the convenience and flexibility of watching the recordings of the interactive sessions was viewed as an effective feature of the program.
The 2016 Compass dates are:
Course Orientation: September 1, 2016, from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern
Course Modules: September 8, 15, 22, & 29, 2016, from 8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Eastern
Consider this a follow-up to my recent column in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “The 4 Properties of Powerful Teachers,” which has been widely referenced, including in an October article for the Journal of Dental Education by Dr. Nadeem Karimbux.
One of my favorite parts of that column actually ended up on the cutting room floor—but purely for space reasons. I only get so many words, and I confess I exceeded that limit by several hundred. Rather than omit other parts she thought were more important–and I don’t necessarily disagree–my editor chose to summarize a long passage with a few sentences. But I believe the concepts I wrote about are definitely worth considering, so I’m happy to have this opportunity to revisit them here.
The passage in question appeared early in the column, under the subheading “Personality.” Recognizing that everyone is different, and that personality traits aren’t necessarily something we can fully control, I was nevertheless attempting to identify key traits that most of my best teachers had in common, from kindergarten through grad school. Note that when I say “my best teachers,” I’m not just talking about the ones I liked the best, although that is generally true, as well. But what I’m really talking about are the teachers who made the greatest impact on me, who I most remember to this day–even though, in some cases, it’s been more than 40 years since I sat in their classroom–and whom I have most tried to emulate in my own teaching.
Perhaps you will recognize some of these traits as being present in your own favorite teachers:
They tend to be good-natured and approachable, as opposed to sour or foreboding. Grouchy, short-tempered, misanthropic curmudgeons can sometimes make effective teachers, too, if for no other reason than that they prepare us for grouchy, short-tempered, misanthropic bosses. I had some of those teachers myself, especially in grad school, and learning to cope with them was a valuable learning experience I would not wish to deny anyone. But most of my very best teachers were pretty easy to get along with–at least as long as I paid attention in class and did my work.
They’re professional without being aloof. Most teachers tend to keep students at arm’s length, the obvious message being, “I’m your teacher, not your friend.” And that isn’t a bad thing. Clearly, professionalism requires a certain amount of boundary-setting, which can be difficult–especially when dealing with older students, where the age gap is often not all that wide and they might actually be your friends under different circumstances. My best teachers always seemed to somehow walk the very fine line between being an authority figure and someone I felt I could talk to–and generally speaking, they appeared to do it effortlessly. I didn’t even understand what they were doing until years later, when I had to do it myself.
They have a good sense of humor (even if they’re not stand-up comedians), perhaps because they don’t take themselves or their subject matter too seriously. Few things are more off-putting to students than teachers who obviously think they’re much smarter than anyone else in the room, perhaps in any room–unless it’s teachers who think their subject is the most important subject of all and expect students to feel the same way and devote their time accordingly, other classes be darned. Such teachers rarely have a sense of humor when it comes to themselves, much less their subject matter. But my best teachers not only understood that their class was just one of several we were taking, but almost all of them had a great, self-deprecating wit, which they didn’t hesitate to turn against themselves and even their topics.
They seem to enjoy what they do and enjoy being around students. I wrote in my Chronicle column about teachers who don’t really like students–and I’ve been around a lot of them over the years. They’re the ones who are constantly complaining about how rude or unprepared their students are, not to mention whining about their workload. I’ve often wondered: Why are those people even in this profession? What did they expect? The people I remember as my best teachers were the ones who clearly loved teaching and got a kick out of associating with students every day. After all, no one wants to feel like a nuisance, which is exactly how some teachers make their students feel. The best teachers don’t.
They’re demanding without being unkind. Some teachers I know take great pride in being disliked by students, wearing their unpopularity like a badge of honor. They naturally assume it’s because they’re so “demanding” and “rigorous”; since all those lazy students dislike rigor, they naturally transfer that dislike to the people who demand it of them. In my experience, however, most students want to be challenged; they don’t mind if a lot is expected of them. They just don’t want their teachers to be jerks or insufferable know-it-alls. I believe you can be as demanding as you want, within reason, without being mean-spirited. That’s how my best teachers were.
They seem comfortable in their own skin. Perhaps one reason students tend to like these teachers is that they like themselves, without being in love with the sound of their own voice.This is related to what I said about the best teachers not taking themselves too seriously, but it goes beyond that. In my opinion, the root cause of bad teaching is a fundamental lack of self-confidence, leading teachers to over-compensate by being unreasonably demanding, aloof, and condescending to students. Paradoxically, the teachers who seem most arrogant and narcissistic are often trying to cover up what they perceive as profound deficiencies in their own personalities and abilities. The best teachers are confident without being arrogant, authoritative without being condescending.
They are tremendously creative, always willing to entertain new ideas or try new things—sometimes even on the fly. “Innovation” is a popular buzzword these days, to the point where simply being “innovative” has become desirable for its own sake, regardless of whether the resulting “innovations” actually accomplish anything worthwhile. The term is usually applied to technology, as if that were the only acceptable or significant type of innovation. My best teachers, though, were truly innovative, coming up with creative ways–as I said, sometimes spur of the moment–to help us students understand, internalize, and remember what they were trying to teach us. Sometimes those ideas involved what we commonly refer to as “technology”–meaning computers–but often they were very low-tech. What made those teachers innovative was not their tools but their minds.
They make teaching look easy (even though we all know it isn’t). Ultimately, great teachers are like great athletes or dancers or musicians. We may know, cognitively, that what they do isn’t easy, but they consistently do it with so little apparent effort that we’re often lulled into thinking it’s no big deal–until we try it ourselves. Then we learn quickly just how difficult it is to play a sport or an instrument–or teach–at a very high level. In my case, even though I liked most of the teachers on my best-ever list, and actually loved some of them, I didn’t really come to appreciate them and what they did until I became a teacher myself. Now I strive to emulate them and all too often fall short.
In closing, I’d like to acknowledge once again that the personality traits listed above are just that–personality traits–meaning we as individuals don’t necessarily control whether or not we have them, or to what degree. No doubt, there’s some truth to the idea that certain people are just born teachers, because they happen to be blessed with these traits in abundance.
At the same time, I do believe that, even if we’re not necessarily born with all these traits, we can work to develop them and to some degree succeed. We may never be as funny or approachable or creative as our favorite teachers, or as we’d like to be. But simply by recognizing those as desirable traits that we wish to acquire, by acknowledging that we don’t possess them to the degree we would like, and by committing ourselves to working on those areas, we can become more approachable, more creative–yes, even funnier–than we were before or would be otherwise.
To the extent that we undertake that journey of self-discovery and self-improvement, we become better teachers every day–whether we’re “born teachers” or not.
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by Brian L. Crabtree, Pharm.D., BCPP, Professor and Chair, Department of Pharmacy Practice
Wayne State University Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences
AAL Chairs and Academic Administrators Management Program 2013 Alumni
Life is a learning process. Everything we do, especially in the beginning, requires learning and adaptation. As we progress in new endeavors, we think about what we wish we had known when we began. It is true in education, career, and for sure in parenting and family. Some of us come to academic leadership through aspiration. For others, it is a response to a need or challenge that we face in our institution. My motivation to facilitate the success and fulfillment of others became a primary driver after a 30-year career as a pharmacy educator, researcher, and psychiatric pharmacy practitioner. What I found as a new department chair was that no matter what I had experienced previously, the learning curve is steep, and we need our own mentorship and development. Department chairs receive little or no systematic training in academic leadership before we take the reins.
My institution is a comprehensive, public, urban, research-intensive university. My department includes clinicians, translational scientists, and social-administrative scientists, supported by staff, trainees, research assistants, and technicians. Their needs and personalities are rich and diverse, their challenges and accomplishments are exciting. I summarize my responsibilities as facilitating their team and individual successes within our mission, vision, and strategic plan, and being a good steward of finite resources. Over my few years of academic leadership, there are several things I wish I had known at the beginning that could have made my path a little smoother and enhanced my effectiveness as a leader. In no particular order, here are some thoughts and suggestions based on experience:
1. Understand the difference between climate and culture. Climate is a surface indication of culture, shifting depending on circumstances. Culture is a stable pattern of ingrained and shared behaviors and assumptions that are sustained over time. Climate can be changed with quick wins or mistakes, whereas culture is harder to change and takes much longer. To create a beneficial climate, my suggestion is to say yes to everything you can, especially in the beginning. Support for things like faculty travel to key conferences, software and hardware upgrades, public acknowledgement and celebration of achievements, forming teams, thanking staff for their hard work, and nominating people for awards all go a long way toward demonstrating care and concern for their success and building support for priorities. Add in structure, clear expectations, and regular feedback, and culture will evolve.
2. Collegiality and congeniality are not the same. Collegiality is working amicably and cooperatively toward a shared goal. Congeniality is a genuine concern for the feelings and well-being of others that extends beyond the organization. Both traits are desirable and necessary, of course, but boundary-setting can be compromised by an imbalance of the two and underperformance can be indulged by an overly close personal relationship with faculty members.
3. Social distance must be managed skillfully. Of all the attributes of an effective leader, authenticity is the most important. To be authentically close to the faculty, a leader must also be somewhat vulnerable, willing to share not only strengths but also limitations. Social closeness is vital to forming effective relationships with individuals. Faculty members must know you are approachable and eager to support them. On the other hand, distance is necessary to maintain perspective and see the overall situation, to keep strategic goals in mind and paramount. Moving effectively between social closeness and social distance is one of a leader’s greatest challenges and most difficult to learn.
4. In a previous article in this newsletter, Karl Haden discussed the four domains of academic administration: leadership, management, interprofessionalism, and self-development. Maintaining balance among the domains is vital. In particular, self-development is essential to the leader’s own psychological well-being, energy, and outlook. Avoid being consumed by day-to-day management duties and plan time for your own continued scholarship and teaching engagement. Scholarly collaboration with faculty members in the department pays double dividends. Enjoy your community, establish relationships outside of work, and most of all, pay attention to family.
5. Strategic budgeting within the priorities of the organization, including the larger university priorities, is essential to success. When resources are limited, the most important priorities in the strategic plan should receive the greatest support. Items that are less important must not consume significant resources. I believe that faculty development is among my most important priorities, and that is where I invest a great deal of my discretionary resources.
6. Accept incremental desired changes as victory. As many have said, if you want to go far, go together. If you want to go fast, you will likely go alone. Enlist others in leadership initiatives. It is possible to challenge the norms, but not all of them and not all at once. See item 1.
7. Manage opposing views gracefully. Don’t see opposing views as a rejection of your leadership. Seek input from others, including those with whom you may differ. Consensus-building does not mean everyone agrees. Link decisions to strategic priorities, and remember that some necessary decisions are unpopular.
8. Work effectively within the bureaucracy. Become personally acquainted and communicate clearly and frequently with the directors of business operations, accounting, purchasing, and human resources. Anticipate delays and allow adequate time to accommodate them.
9. Read and talk about leadership every day. There is a plethora of good resources. I read a few pages per day to keep learning front and center in my own development. In addition to a reading list of books on leading and managing, I read The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education daily.
I find academic leadership to be the most challenging and gratifying role of my career. I’m glad I’m on this path. The overarching lessons are that leadership is about others, not the leader, and the leader’s fulfillment is in the successes of those in the organization.
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An occasional column profiling our high-achieving program alumni, in their own words:
Samuel O. Dorn, D.D.S., FACD, FICD
The Dr. Frank Trice Endowed Professorship and Graduate Director, Department of Endodontics
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Dentistry
AAL Program Attended:
Chairs and Academic Administrators Management Program (CAAMP), 2014
I was named President of the International Federation of Endodontic Associations and will preside over the 10th World Endodontic Congress, which will take place June 4-6, 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Martyn S. Green, D.D.S., M.S., CAGS, FACD, Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology
Associate Professor of Periodontology
Director, Graduate Periodontics
University of Tennessee, College of Dentistry
AAL Program Attended:
American Academy of Periodontology Foundation fellowship to ADEA/AAL Institute for Teaching and Learning, 2015
After twenty-five years of private practice and part-time teaching, I had to sell my practice due to a major illness. My natural inclination was to go into teaching. I loved teaching part-time and thought I would enjoy going to full time. I went into it full throttle. Within three years, I had received my M.S. in Health Professions Education and became a director of a graduate program. I know that it is never too late to switch professions and we always have room to excel. I find teaching to be extremely rewarding and I love giving back to my profession. I also find my clinical experience to be particularly valuable to the residents. I know I can make an impact on their lives both professionally and personally.
Wayne Kye, D.D.S., M.S., FACD, Certificate in Periodontics, Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology
Clinical Associate Professor; former Director of Pre-Doctoral Periodontology (2007-2012)
New York University College of Dentistry
AAL Program Attended:
American Academy of Periodontology Foundation fellowship to the ADEA/AAL Institute for Teaching and Learning, 2008
I was promoted to Clinical Associate Professor (full-time) in September 2013 and appointed to the New York State Board for Dentistry for a five-year term beginning in January 2014.
Elizabeth D. Ramos, D.D.S., M.S.D.
Clinical Assistant Professor
Department of Periodontics & Allied Dental Programs
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), School of Dentistry
AAL Program Attended:
American Academy of Periodontology Foundation fellowship to the ADEA/AAL Institute for Teaching and Learning, 2012, and Compass Program, 2013
I have been named to the inaugural IUPUI Next Generation 2.0 Leadership Initiative cohort that continues to build on the skills I have gained from participation in AAL programs as well as other professional development programs.
To include your profile in an upcoming AAL newsletter, please contact us.
The 9 Virtues of Exceptional Leaders: Unlocking Your Leadership Potential, coauthored by AAL President Dr. Karl Haden and AAL Fellow Rob Jenkins, was published in November 2015. Based on extensive scholarship as well as their observations during decades of serving in leadership roles, the authors focus attention on lifelong character-building behaviors rather than gimmicky quick fixes. Numerous practical exercises help readers achieve those sought-after characteristics, or “virtues,” through behaviors that will become habits. Leadership programs based on the book, a discussion guide, reviews, frequent blogposts and tweets, purchase information for the autographed hardcover and e-book, and more are on the 9 Virtues website.
AAL Vice President Dr. Marcia Ditmyer’s latest article–”Oral Effects of Tobacco and Marijuana Use”–was published in Decisions in Dentistry in October 2015.
We have all experienced some variation of what is popularly called the “aha” moment: you suddenly recall an acquaintance’s name you have forgotten, weeks after your encounter, for no apparent reason. The solution to a seemingly intractable problem your team has worked on for months finally reveals itself, as if appearing out of thin air. If you’re Paul McCartney, the melody to “Yesterday” comes to you, fully formed, packaged inside of a dream.
While these bursts of creativity and insight may seem random, advances in neuroscience and brain imaging can now give us unprecedented access to the mind at work, providing us with a clearer understanding of how these “eureka” moments occur (and what it looks like when they do). For example, we now know that the brain’s right hemisphere literally “lights up” on an EEG graph when experiencing insight. In The Eureka Factor, authors John Kounios, Ph.D. and Mark Beeman, Ph.D., both psychology professors with backgrounds in neuro- and cognitive science, demonstrate through several ingenious studies how insight manifests itself in the brain.1
However, the true value of this book lies in the practical, research-based tips it offers readers in order to create more moments of insight in their own lives. For instance, did you know that sensory deprivation is helpful in problem solving? (In other words, when you get stuck—turn off the lights! Better yet, take a shower.) Furthermore, your most “creative” time of day will typically be when your analytical powers are at their lowest point—meaning that if you are a person who is most efficient and sharp in the morning, save your broad-thinking, creative work for the nighttime.
True, creative thinking may come more easily to some than to others–the book draws a distinction between “Insightfuls” and “Analysts”; you can probably guess which type is more receptive to those elusive “aha” moments–but as The Eureka Factor posits, anyone can increase the frequency of insights in his or her life by understanding the brain science behind “aha” moments, and cultivating the conditions necessary for them to occur.
1Kounios, J and Beeman, M. The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain. New York: Random House, 2015.
Report:Is Viewing Learning Analytics the Same as Checking Your ‘Likes’? 87% of College Students Perform Better with Access to Immediate Feedback on Performance, New Research Finds
According to McGraw-Hill Education in their report “The Impact of Technology on College Student Study Habits,” 87% in a survey of over 2,600 college students report that having access to data analytics of their academic performance can positively impact their learning experience. This third report in an annual series conducted by McGraw-Hill Education and fielded by Hanover Research also highlighted the following findings:
Nearly two-thirds of students who already use data analytics state that the impact on their academic performance is “very positive” or “extremely positive.”
75% of students using adaptive learning technology–where computers manage the allocation of instructional resources to students according to their individual needs–report that it is “very helpful” or “extremely helpful” in aiding their ability to retain new concepts.
Click the image below from McGraw Hill Education to enlarge it: