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Focus on Leadership

The evolving model of leadership for the future “is concerned with what people in workgroups, teams, and organizations actually do—action and thinking about action” (Mitstifer & Miller, 1999, p. 3). So what does that mean for preprofessional and professional education in Family and Consumer Sciences? The very definition of a professional implies that all professionals have a responsibility to lead—thus the need for a nonpositional mode of leadership. Leadership implications abound: the stresses on family functions and other social trends require professional leadership; leadership is a major theme in the new world of work; and organizations of all kinds will rely on “‘bundles of potentiality’ which create the energy to affect the environment, the product, or the outcome” (Mitstifer & Miller, 1999, p. 41). Furthermore, Green (1990) described the challenges in advancing our “intellectual ecology” that require generous “helpings” of leadership.

The theory of Reflective Human Action (Andrews, Mitstifer, Rehm, & Vaughn, 1995) defines leadership as an active, mind-engaging process of meaning-making in a community of practice (family, neighborhood, organization, institution, or government). This comprehensive theory is based on the assumption “that there is a common human voice . . . [that] we all desire to live together more harmoniously, more generously, more humanely” (Wheatley, 1999, p. 196). Members of a group, positional leader or not, can demonstrate these qualities of leadership by practicing the principles and utilizing the core features of Reflective Human Action.

1) Principles

a) Accept chaos

b) Share information

c) Develop relationships

d) Embrace vision

2) Core features

a) Act with authenticity

b) Demonstrate ethical sensibility

c) Display personal substance in actions (spirituality)

d) Determine action (change) by framing issues and implementing interventions according to the theoretical framework of the Action Wheel (Mitstifer, 1998; see also Terry at http://www.action-wheel.com):

i) Mission – direction

ii) Meaning – significance and context (why)

iii) Existence – history and situation

iv) Resources – critical assets

v) Structure – plans and processes (individual, group, collaboration)

vi) Power – expenditure of energy (decision, passion, will)

Leadership Development Approaches

Kappa Omicron Nu developed an educational module (Leadership: Reflective Human Action, Andrews, et. al., 1995) with four chapters that explain the theory and three chapters of experiential activities. The activities, utilizing an experiential learning mode, teach the core features and principles of Reflective Human Action. In addition, the Margaret Wheatley video (1993), Leadership and the New Science, introduces the principles in a dazzling display of images that explain the concepts in extraordinary clarity and depth. These resources can be utilized in the following educational formats.

1) Introduction to Reflective Human Action (3-4 hours)

a) View Video, Leadership and the New Science

b) Dialogue in small groups to explore principles of Reflective Human Action presented in the video. Focus on “develop relationships.”

c) Explore core features of Reflective Human Action.

d) Apply Reflective Human Action to individual and group leadership challenges.

2) Reflective Human Action Workshop (1 day)

a) View Video, Leadership and the New Science

b) Dialogue in small groups to explore principles of Reflective Human Action presented in the video. Focus on “develop relationships.”

c) Explore core features of Reflective Human Action. Focus on “authenticity.”

d) Explore Action Wheel.

e) Apply Reflective Human Action to individual and group leadership challenges utilizing the Action Wheel.

f) Set personal development goals and develop action plan for accomplishing the goals.

3) Reflective Human Action Course (1 or more credits as a single course or component of a course)

a) View Video, Leadership and the New Science

b) Dialogue in small groups to explore principles of Reflective Human Action presented in the video. Focus on each principle.

c) Explore core features of Reflective Human Action. Focus on each feature.

d) Explore Action Wheel.

e) Apply Reflective Human Action to individual and group leadership challenges utilizing the Action Wheel.

f) Apply Reflective Human Action to specialization and professional issues utilizing the Action Wheel.

g) Conduct personal needs assessment and set personal development goals.

h) Develop action plan for small groups for accomplishing the goals.

i) Implement action plans.

Summary

Through Reflective Human Action all individuals have “the opportunity for creative engagement, for leading—even though some will choose not to. If it is our earnest belief that all persons can empower themselves, then it is also our belief that all persons can choose to lead in some way, at some time” (Mitstifer, 1995, p. 1).

References:

Andrews, F. E., Mitstifer, D. I., Rehm, M., & Vaughn, G. G. (1995). Leadership: Reflective Human Action. East Lansing, MI: Kappa Omicron Nu.

Green, K. B. (1990). Our intellectual ecology: A treatise on home economics. Journal of Home Economics, 83(3), 41-47.

Mitstifer, D. I. (1995). Leadership. Kappa Omicron Nu Dialogue, 5(3), 1-4.

Mitstifer, D. I. (1998). Reflective human action. A Leadership Journal: Women in Leadership—Sharing the vision, 2(2), 45-53.

Mitstifer, D. I., & Miller, J. R. (1999). Strategic leadership of the professions: Agenda for Change. East Lansing, MI: Kappa Omicron Nu.

Wheatley, M. J. (1993). Leadership and the new sciences (video). CRM Films.

Wheatley, M. J. (1999). Leadership and the new science: Discovering order in a chaotic world. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.