Professional and Alumni

Transformative Practice: New Pathways to Leadership


This book was intentionally written to speak to a broad international audience. The context for the evolution of the profession is different in each country, but the paradigm shift called for in the book applies around the world. Getting locked into a paradigm that is not working any more inhibits professional momentum, generates inertia, slows communication, interferes with innovation, and creates tunnel vision (lack of peripheral vision). Anything is better than this state of affairs. Although there are no guarantees, professional life on the other side of the current paradigm should be full of momentum, be dynamic and evolving, full of rich, reflective communication, and replete with innovative practice and a clear, far-reaching vision.

The book is organized into five sections, starting with paradigm shifts, followed by postmodernism, transdisciplinary (rather than interdisciplinary) practice, and a new idea from quantum physics-the holomovement principle. This principle offers a model for visualizing a profession that is very alive, dynamic, and holistic, rather than divided and fragmented.

The second section examines leadership and the assumption that too many professionals are overly comfortable with the transactional leadership approach. This type of leadership follows the top-down, boss/subordinate model and relies upon exchanges, rewards, and punishments. It only recognizes the power of individuals in particular positions. The chapters on transformative leadership and Reflective Human Action (RHA) theory provide alternative leadership paradigms based around truth, vision, authenticity, ethics, and spirituality. Dorothy Mitstifer's chapter on leadership responsibilities for professionals offers a new model that can help us to understand that anyone can be a leader. She provides a powerful discussion of the appropriateness of the RHA approach for developing leaders. The chapter on social change agents provides context for professional leadership. The final chapter in this section offers a taxonomy of styles and encourages an appreciation of the fact that not all members of a given profession self-identify in the same way. These different leadership styles profoundly impact the means by which leaders approach members of the profession to take on leadership roles.

Section three examines the current educational pedagogy and offers a glimpse into what it might look like if practice were transformed. The four chapters in this section focus on the critical science approach, transformative learning, critical discourse analysis, and authentic educational pedagogy. Although the critical science approach is not new, it is included in this book because there is too little evidence of its use in professional practice. There is a tendency to avoid a close examination of the power relationships that keep a few people in power while most remain oppressed. Critical discourse analysis is a powerful tool that can be used to dissect the lack of balance in these relationships. Transformative learning is a concept found in adult education. It encourages individuals to appreciate their inner power and holds that unexpected, disorienting events can force people to seek out and clarify that inner voice. Authentic education is based on the premise that professional learning should meet high standards for intellectual rigor and connectedness, all within a supportive environment that recognizes and values diversity. Dr. Janet Reynolds, of Queensland, Australia, prompted the inclusion of this pedagogical approach. It counters the common but flawed approach to teaching that operates within an expert, lecture-mode environment where students are perceived as disempowered, empty vessels.

The fourth section of the book deals with the philosophical growth of professionals. Members of today's evolving professions must become more intellectually curious. Professionals with this trait confidently resist ideas presented by others until they have first critically challenged and examined them using skeptical thinking. Questioning dogma and unspoken assumptions by expressing skeptical doubt is humbling and constructive. It facilitates rational thought and a full reexamination of options, and it opens unlimited mental vistas that lead to more professional rigor. A well-lived professional life is contingent upon philosophical well-being, and although technology, scientific knowledge, and aesthetics can make life easier and more pleasant, the art of philosophizing by engaging in skeptical, intellectual curiosity must come first. Philosophers have an extraordinarily rich repertoire of theoretical and paradigm perspectives at their disposal. Therefore, they are particularly adept at seeing the implications of the assumptions that undergird their practice and structure their life and work environments. To that end, chapters are included to cover intellectual curiosity, skeptical thinking, and philosophical well-being.

The next two chapters discuss approaches we can use to foster this intellectual and philosophical growth, specifically communities of practice and knowledge management. Professional practitioners must push the limits of their field of study; otherwise their body of knowledge becomes stagnant. This transcending work requires a special kind of practice, in a special kind of community. Communities of practice are social groups that share their expertise and passion about a topic and pursue ongoing interactions to further their learning in this domain. These groups are intended to steward a particular practice to nurture, enrich, spread, and entrench a valuable contribution to the profession. Knowledge management is related to this practice, because it is based on the principle that a profession's most valuable resource is the knowledge of its people. In other words, knowledge management holds that an organization's members embody its intellectual assets or intellectual capital. These intellectual assets, the proprietary knowledge of each individual, are critical to a profession's overall vision and strategic plan. A profession can gain the innovative ideas it requires to survive and thrive if it can manage this tacit knowledge by converting the ideas of its practitioners. To accomplish this, we must pursue the strategies, policies, and tools that are necessary for the profession to access, manage, nurture, and share in these intellectual assets.

The final section of the book deals with the juggernaut of globalization and the assumption that most people tend to see it as a good thing that is necessary for solid economic growth and prosperity. As we'll see in chapter two, this attitude represents a hangover from the age of modernism. The chapter on globalization provides a cursory overview that compares globalization from the corporate led, top-down approach to the counter movement or resistance that would structure civil society from the bottom-up. The following chapter goes hand-in-hand with this concept, as it discusses sustainable human and social development to augment and offset the negative impact of growth-led economic development. Professional practitioners need a balanced understanding of these major concepts to effectively support justice, peace, and security. Dr. Deirdre Shaw of Glasgow, Scotland, contributes the final chapter on ethical consumption. She offers a taxonomy of different types of concerned consumers, specifically those who follow the green, ethical, anti-consumer, and voluntary simplicity philosophies. I would like to thank Dr. Shaw for skillfully illuminating the systemic moral dilemma citizens face as they strive to transform their consumption behavior.

In conclusion, the title of the book is Transformative Practice: New Paths to Leadership, because leadership represents the cornerstone of our professional future. This leadership must be transformative in nature and shaped by a profound paradigm shift that will affect professional practice on many levels. This new, transformative style of leadership will distinguish itself through a different pedagogy, and through new approaches to professional development. We will see evidence of it in revised university and public school curricula, in refocused policy involvement, and in different approaches to private and public enterprise. It will also become apparent as we see more and different civil society involvement and as we pursue continuous personal growth and reflection.


McGregor, S. L. T., (Ed.). (2004). A Satire: Confessions of recovering home economists at