Nothing tests creative leadership like a crisis of the unknown
It has been four years, seven months and four days since my mother’s internal organs quit a little after two AM. I have a red satin oval shaped box with a quilted top that sits on my bookshelf next to a one of a kind grayish abstract artistic urn in which her ashes lay. She was a bling, bling women and I thought it was appropriate. In the box are old photographs and her favorite perfume that permeates the air upon opening it. One picture is of her graduation from Empire State College and she was beaming. One thing I will always remember is her instilling in me the importance of education.
Growing up was like living in a war zone at times. My parents divorced when I was four years old and my single mother raised me to the best of her ability. My mother was the verbal abuser in our home. She had a hard time finding the right person and always fell in love with the wrong ones. Her patterns were simple. She always became involved in an abusive relationship which included physical, verbal, and mental cruelty. The screaming, yelling, punching, and the police being called daily was the norm.
I listened to the shouting from underneath my bed that seemed to increase in volume like someone turning a radio on full blast. I feared for life, my mother’s and mine. The bloody beatings my mother endured could be heard bouncing off every wall. I too suffered the repercussions of her failed decisions on many levels. It was with a broken heart that I viewed her. My sympathy ran deep, but it was my anger that ignited my passion for the wrongs I endured during the times when she would turn the other way when sexual abuse occurred in our home. She did nothing to stop a person from touching me.
Living with the enemy was difficult. Living with two made it even more complex. How do you create peace, ethical behavior and morality where there is none? How do you end conflicts and struggles that go beyond comprehension? To me, my voice was loud and clear as a child trying to tell my nightmare story of abuse and the need for it to stop, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears while it appeared to be never ending. I watched a documentary called, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell, and felt a connection with the Liberian women during the civil war and their plight for peace and equality for all human beings. Yet, at the same time I could understand the young boys with their weapons in hand using violence as the only answer to what was they thought was right.
The Liberian women also fought against two enemies, yet portrayed fearlessness in action in order to confront patriarchal commanders who were in total control during a time when it appeared there was no confidence in the future. A major concern was to not cross political lines as they were in between Charles Taylor, a brutal oppressor who was the president of Liberia and merciless Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, an organization of rebel parties trying to gain control of the country. In my case, it was not easy living with two people who wanted total control and forced different forms of abuse to achieve their goals. Helplessness is the only word to describe feelings of this nature.
One visionary leader, Leymah Gbowee told her story of how she used creative leadership and storytelling as a leader to guide hundreds of Liberian woman during the civil war and selected non-verbal demonstrations to get the message out regarding peace. In the beginning it too fell on deaf ears, to those who held the power and control in the palm of their hands. She commented that we lived in fear. You go to bed saying god please what do we do?” It was always like you go to bed and afraid that you have something different the next day. I too had similar thoughts as each new day brought a different nightmare to life in my home.
Under Gbowee’s leadership these group of women used prayer, chanting and non-violent sit-ins to meet with Charles Taylor and obtain a promise from him to attend the much needed peace talks in Ghana. The Liberian women commented how they weredetermined, and nobody going to deter us. We’re going to find a strategic point, where Taylor going to encounter us and give us some attention. And this is how we decided to sit at the fish market every day. It was their emotional turmoil, the watching of rapes and killings of the innocent that unified them and kept the fire of perseverance blazing. How does one deal with death and destruction of their inner and outer world? Either they succumb to it, bow down or fight for what is right. Gbowee led thousands of Christian and Muslim women with the strength and courage to confront their fears of the unknown making a difference and changing lives.
It was their perseverance, self-sacrifice and persuasiveness that touched others in order to become part of the greater good for all. They had the world on their shoulders as they dealt with external struggles of pain, murder, rape, starvation, and torture. Their inner fights consisted of doing what was right despite the consequences. They became unified in bringing social equality to where it was needed. Gbowee used the form of persuasion and inspiration reflecting that the women’s ethics and morality was stronger than the violence being committed. She inspired and led other women to unite against a dictator and to restore the rule of law to their country. For the first time their voices had been heard in fourteen years and they shared tears of joy instead of pain. It was one major step closer to the liberation from oppression and a great victory for all.
In my home it was the lesser of the two evils that I fought against. I remember one chilly winter’s night when I was eight years old in Walnutport PA. My mother’s boyfriend lived with us and he was an alcoholic. A horrific knock down argument took place and he slashed her throat with a fishing knife. This was not the first time I witnessed bloodshed, nor the last. I only knew violence within my home environment and reacted accordingly by attacking him from behind kicking and thrashing while my arms wrapped around his neck. I was flung up against the hard dark wood paneled wall leaving bruises not only on my body, but in my mind. I had no control over my oppressor(s). Looking back I seemed to realize at a young age that violence was not the answer as I was becoming tainted. According to Aung Sang Suu Kyi, a Burmese opposition politician and chairperson of the National League for Democracy, the effort necessary to remain uncorrupted in an environment where fear is an integral part of everyday existence is not immediately apparent to those fortunate enough to live in states governed by the rule of law. I failed this task and the time had come to find a non-hostile strategy in order to bring peace and morality into our home.
I can recall at age thirteen taking a stance on what was right. Voicing my opinion that the abuse must stop. My strategy consisted of not doing my daily household chores or cleaning or cooking. It did not take long before my mother sat me down and gave me the second degree. I spoke openly regarding the abuses that had been occurring throughout the years, my thoughts and fears. Ethics and morality was on the table. It was the first time she actually listened and heard my plea. Simmons remarked, respectfully listening to someone’s story bonds you two (or thirty) together in a feeling of kinship that duplicates very old (and sacred) social rituals (188). For the first time tears of hurt and pain bonded a mother and daughter. The abuse subsided and she became more protective of me. It was a small victory in our unity, yet the pain still lingered with the anger against the enemy, my mother who looked the other way in my time of need. The job of a leader is to care about their followers. Ethical behavior is reported by Burns, Gwen, and Barbara N. Martin, “The necessity for a change in leadership is further warranted based on the need for an “ethic of caring” (Grogan, 2003, p. 25).
As the women of Liberia and I have realized our horrendous wounds may have healed on the outside, but it is our inner injuries that will last a lifetime and hopefully in time will heal too. Gbowee actively participated in the social influence process to attain a goal through trust within the group and succeeded in persuading others into the right social ethical choices to make. It was through my own personal strategy of attaining a goal, the ending of the abuse, the quiet way I tried to initiate contact with my oppressor by a slow down on chores, the introducing of a new structure in our home by opening communication which then opened the door to understanding and peace. It was these tools in creative leadership that I was able to overcome one of many crises connected with my mother.
When I was older, I alienated my mother, moved out, graduated with my Associate’s degree, and had been working towards my bachelor’s when I received a call. It was her friend stating she had been in the hospital for months and she would need home care upon being released. I am an only child. My mother suffered from severe diabetes for the last thirty years of her life. The extremes in her sugar levels appeared to go as low to 50 and shoot up to 500. She dealt with this disease and lived her life with a glucose gun always close by in case of emergency. She had a hysterectomy when she was thirty resulting in the finding of ovarian cancer and treated with experimental radiation treatments which burned all her internal organs.
Why me? I asked myself. I remember the war zone in childhood, the pain and anguish it left behind in my heart. I tried to confront my fears in order to trust again and because I did really did love my mother despite the abuse. I still feared my mother and can recall the abuse as if it were yesterday. How could I overcome the trauma and treat her with kindness? I read a speech called, “Freedom from Fear” by Aung Sang Suu Kyi, a spiritual leader who told stories of violence committed on the innocent. She spoke about how fears must be released in order to move forward, and too not only forgive your oppressor, but help those in need. It is through sacrificing, having compassion, and in trusting one another that her beliefs defined the meaning of finding the courage to take responsibility for others.
I reluctantly took the responsibility of being a primary caretaker for my mother and withdrew from all of my on line courses immediately. I moved from Oklahoma to Florida within two weeks. I was scared of my mother and feared the unknown of not only living with her again, but how to test sugar levels and administer insulin. As a child, I would run out of the room screaming, “I don’t want to see needles.” The day she entered her home after months of being hospitalized I began my researching everything I could on the internet regarding diabetes. Knowledge was power. I had to confront my fears in order to keep my mother alive and perfect new skills. Leadership relies on change. Burns noted that the transformational leader creates significant change in the lives of people and organizations. This type of leader motivates followers and changes their expectations and aspirations.” (Andreescu and Vito, 2010, 576). This journey was about to change both our lives forever.
I performed injections on a sunshine fruit. The sweet liquid oozed out at my first few attempts. The orange was my first patient. I pricked it over and over until my hands stopped shaking. I gained confidence quickly as my fears began to dissipate. Even though I honed the skill of giving shots I still stated, “I’m sorry for hurting you” every time I injected her. Compassion took precedence in this situation and self-sacrifice was a given. I put my life on temporary hold for nine months. Aung Sang Suu Kyi mentioned, at the root of human responsibility is the concept of perfection, the urge to achieve it, the intelligence to find a path towards it, and the will to follow that path if not to the end at least the distance needed to rise above individual limitations and environmental impediments. The bottom line revealed my mother, a woman who could not survive without help and my call to duty in leading the way.
The next greatest challenge was in controlling her sugar levels which had never been done in thirty years. I read Michael Useem’s story, “Eugene Kranz Returns Apollo 13 to Earth” and it discussed a leader’s story about planning and organizing a strategy to a problem that has never been dealt with in the past. I used organizational leadership as Michael Useem mentioned it being the exercising of change and development of other people (91). I needed a plan, had faith and was determined in finding the answers as to why her body was in constant extreme mode, either too high or too low. My quest began with logging everything in my own personal medical journal. I was focused on answering my own questions and finding a solution to make the situation right. The first week of recuperation I watched her eat whatever and whenever she chose. I took on the role of the laissez faire discipline in which leaders avoid involvement (para Malloy and Penprase, 2010, 716). I tested her sugars and logged them three times a day and administered the doses of insulin accordingly. I posted medications and food intake plus her nightly sneaks to the kitchen for a midnight snacks. After a week, the results were in. After reviewing all of my sources I came to the conclusion that her environment, eating junk food and overeating played a major factor. I took control of the solution the only way I could think of, to cook healthy. One week later I was able to tell her what her sugar level would be in the mornings. I explained that, “Her new environment consisted of living with me which meant new ways of controlling her diabetes.” Creating a new structure of how to live healthy promoted communication as we both learned what made her body tick. In turn, my mother told me stories of the circumstances leading up to the need of a glucose gun and what would occur prior to the event. I learned what to look for and to be more observant in her behaviors. Storytelling is significant in relation to leadership and is a social activity in which communication can teach/learn, share knowledge, discuss dilemmas/crises and solve problems as Medina commented, Wenger extends this idea in saying that leadership is essentially a social activity and can best be learnt in “a community of practice”, where engagement in social practice is the fundamental process by which we learn and so become who we are (75).We came together, inspired one another and shared our knowledge to obtain a life goal.
I ventured into the unknown, confronted my fears, made decisions based on research and persevered to make positive changes resulting in keeping my mother alive. As Useem commented, the almost incredible feat of a safe return would have been impossible were it not or the steady nerves, courage and great skill of the astronauts themselves and the NASA network whose teams of experts performed miracles of emergency improvisation (93).
Nine months drifted by of playing the Florence Nightingale role and the time had come for me to leave. I picked up where I left off with my education and immediately applied for the up and coming semester. All was well for three months and then the call came again and again for twelve years. It appeared a never ending cycle. During those years I dropped everything in my life when the call came to be a primary care taker for my mother as she had a quad by-pass, pacemaker, hip replacement, was in a near fatal car accident that shattered both knees and had giant tumors removed. I was there for her, but I never gave up on myself or my educational future in returning to school. After having long bouts of hiatuses I would take two courses only to drop again due to my mother’s illnesses. I never gave up hope and with every ample opportunity I made sure I was in school.
My goal was set from the moment I graduated with my Associate’s degree. I refused to let circumstances beyond my control let me lose sight of the path I chose to be on. I was determined to do the impossible, at least in my eyes. My mother was my inspiration for attending college. When I was younger I watched a single mother going to Empire State College for a bachelor’s degree in social work. There were times she could not find a sitter and so I accompanied her to some of her classes. I enjoyed the experience of knowledge being shared and I wanted to be a part of the collective learning within a college environment.
In my opinion, life challenges you with crisis. How do you handle it? Will your actions speak louder than words? How do you resolve it in a manner that is not filled with fears or anger? For me, I faced my fears, used selfless actions, non-violent communication, organized a plan for problem solving, used compassion and diverse leadership disciplines to succeed in my vision. In May 2009 I received my Bachelors of Science degree in Business Management. My mother passed over before I graduated, yet I felt she was looking down and smiling when I held my degree in my hands.
Andreescu, Viviana, and Gennaro F. Vito. An Exploratory Study On Ideal Leadership Behaviour: The Opinions Of American Police Managers. International Journal Of Police Science & Management. 2010. Web. 16 Sept. 2012.
Burns, Gwen, and Barbara N. Martin. Examination Of The Effectiveness Of Male And Female Educational Leaders Who Made Use Of The Invitational Leadership Style Of Leadership. Journal Of Invitational Theory & Practice. 2010. Web. 29 Sept. 2012.
Malloy, Terry, and Barbara Penprase. Nursing Leadership Style And Psychosocial Work Environment. Journal Of Nursing Management. 2010. Web. 16 Sept. 2012.
Medina, Marc. Leadership And The Process Of Becoming. Existential Analysis: Journal Of The Society For Existential Analysis. 2011. Web. 30 Sept. 2012.
Hello out there in blogging land. I have had way too much on my plate I graduated on Friday with my second bachelor’s degree and have been working six part time jobs. It seems I am overqualified in education and accounting experience for a full time job. I am still searching for my dream job. So the next best thing, I am applying for my master’s degree in adult education. Wish me luck!!!
And by the way, I met a woman who wants to talk about publishing my book. Again, wish me luck!!!
There are numerous ways to get speakers comfortable with working with manuscripts. The first would be to have them face the fact that everyone has fears of public speaking, for instance butterflies in their stomach, sweaty palms, etc., and as Helen Keller commented, “It’s OK to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation.”Communication apprehension affects many people as Richmond and McCroskey (1992) reported, “95% of Americans surveyed said they had some degree of anxiety about communication.” (Wood, 2009, 406). If you think about it this may actually enhance one’s ability to give a speech as the adrenaline is pumping and therefore making the individual more focused and alert creating a sense of energy. Visualization may also help the speaker become more comfortable beginning with a few people they know and gradually adding people in a crowd. There is an old cliché that stated, “Just think of the crowd naked” which should help ease one’s tension and stress.
In my opinion, a manuscript is written for a speaker so he/she may read it read word for word and it is also meant to guide them so certain words and key phrases of importance will not be forgotten. As Wood (2009) stated, “Official declarations, diplomatic agreements, and formal press statements are examples of contexts in which manuscript speaking may be advisable” (p. 416). The drawbacks are the potential to lose their place and it makes it difficult for them to have eye contact with the audience.
The speaker should become knowledgeable of his/her audience. This will in turn create a sense of confidence regarding what the speaker knows of the listeners for instance, what the subject means to them and why they are there in the first place. Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca (2008) described an audience in terms of their social concerns, “Among the sociological considerations of possible use to an orator are those bearing on a very definite matter: the social functions exercised by his listeners (p.21).
As a speech writer one might create an outline with specific information beginning with an introduction and a preview of the main points to be touched upon. This would be followed by the main points incorporating sources, statistical materials and signposts such as, certain words and repetition. The next phase would be a point of transition leading to a summary or a conclusion that would be written as a synopsis of the points given with an ending of a memorable comment, quote or statement.
Also, suggest that the speaker read the manuscript and practice it a couple of times standing up to get familiar with its contents while also preparing their tone, body language, posture, facial expressions, timing and where to pause when necessary. The speaker’s appearance should match the listener’s to create a common ground creating another level of comfort.
In utilizing the manuscript style of speaking different elements must first come into play for instance, the researching, preparing, organizing, outlining, writing in full text and practicing is completed prior to memorizing a speech (para 416). Although, memorizing may seem like a good idea there are disadvantages for example, forgetting a crucial message that needed to be brought to the audience’s attention, the loss of spontaneity and the not so positive affect of the delivery of their speech.
One of the biggest and most prevalent mistakes in Western culture is the idea that there exists two separate and opposite genders, masculinity and femininity. Yet, in theU.S.hermaphrodites are often called the third gender as well as, intersex people, transgenders and homosexuals. Similarly Nanda expressed the identification of the third gender in the Indian culture as being hijras.
Berdache explains that there can be more than two genders, but most cultures Western and non, recognize only two. Although, there are many cultures that do accept a third gender, for exampleSamoa, Native American and Hindu. I would like to go on record stating that in my opinion there are more than two genders and to take it one step further, there are as many genders as there are people. According to Jacobs and Roberts (1989) the distinction of gender goes beyond the binary conception, “ The Chuckchee counted seven genders – three female and four male – while the Mohave reportedly recognize four genders – a woman, a woman who assumes the roles of men, a man, or a male who assumes the roles of women” (in Brettell & Sargent, 2005, p. 244). Our society is conditioned to believe in only two genders – two sexes and this can be quite harmful to many, not only those who identify as transgender but also intersex. It has been written that people are assigned a biological characteristics with which they are born with – sex: male, female, and intersex; whereas, people define their own gender man, woman, transgender and transsexual which are the learned attitudes and behaviors that characterize people of one sex or the other in other , it is a socially constructed definition of an individual.
The differences in U.S concepts and some of the third/fourth gender categories in other cultures begin with the idea that lesbian, gay, and bisexual are categories of sexual orientation, but transgender and transsexual are categories of gender and gender identity.
There are points of differentiation all along the way, but language and tradition in many societies insist that every individual be categorized as either a man or a woman, although there are societies, such as the Native American identity of a two-spirit, which include multiple gender categories.
Blackwood expressed the opinion of there being a link within American society associating sexual identity and gender for example; specifically that gay and lesbian homosexuality could threaten the identity of others. Whereas, in other cultures outside of theU.S.gender and sexuality are not connected but considered separate.
The differences in homosexuality (gay and lesbian) in the Western culture is viewed as same sex gender relations whereas, in many Native American cultures gender is not on the same level sexually speaking. Lang (1999) expressed the definition of gender and sexuality as being, “If a man, for example, is having sex with a woman-man, he is not seen as having sex with another man, he is having sex with someone who belongs to a gender different from his own” (in Lafont, 2003, p. 204).
American society has viewed transsexuals and transgenders as being men and women whose gender identity more closely matches the other physical sex. These individuals desire to rid themselves of their sexual characteristics and live as members of the opposite gender. Lafont (2003) discussed the distinction between transsexual and transgender as being, “…transsexuals are transgendered, but not all transgendered people are transsexuals- many are not interested in surgical “solutions”” (in Lafont, 2003, p. 220). The similarities between transgender/transsexual individual views between the U.S. and other cultures is basically that they consciously and differentiate themselves from gays and lesbians, because gays and lesbians are concerned with sexual orientation, but their focus is on gender. Sexual orientation can be whatever but what they are fighting for is gender identity, a desire that goes way beyond the physical.
In my opinion, the many variations marking gender is not an end but just the beginning. It is important for society to become more aware of these individuals. But in the same breathe, I think the world would be a much better place if we stopped trying to fit people into nice little categories that don’t really exist….we are human beings and that is what counts!!!
Brettell, C. & Sargent, C. (2005). Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective. 4th ed.UpperSaddleRiver: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Lafont, S. (2003). Constructing Sexualities:Readingsin sexuality, gender and culture.UpperSaddleRiver: Prentice Hall.
Bo Ingeborg’s perspective on the philosophy of life-long learning is a, “cradle to grave” progression of human potential through a constantly supportive process which encourages and inspires individuals to obtain all the comprehension, morals, abilities and understanding they will need throughout their lifetime. This knowledge helps people to relate within themselves self-confidence, motivation and satisfaction in all roles, experiences and environments. It is the ongoing development of maintaining the mind in active pursuit of new experiences and knowledge. This philosophy portrays a never ending journey. As eachhigh pointis passed on the highway to knowledge, another objective comes into view on the horizon. Life is a continuous learning cycle. There is no comparison to the amount of knowledge we take in through formal education compared to informal knowledge.
It is the attitude that it’s never too early or too late to incorporate new knowledge into your life. This belief describes the opportunities for intellectual development, cultural stimulation and personal growth which can open the door to a world of information. The viewpoint is based on individuals in society becoming better rounded citizens by furnishing them with learning opportunities at any age whether it is instilled in the home, through formal education, work or in religious environments. Formal and informal lifelong learning experiences can enlighten each other through the implementation of constructive approaches to learning. The curriculum in formal learning facilities can support the development of acquiring deep learning and critical thinking.
From the past, present and future we are seeing that formal education facilities are significantly changing along with the learners. Presently, more than ever before, one can find numerous students of diverse races and ages with differences in their national and heritage backgrounds/beliefs. Since there is such a range of learners, it is essential for knowledge to be colorful as well. The obtaining of knowledge always follows the constructs set by those who attain it. “Every student, regardless of their background is entitled to the building blocks of greater knowledge.”
To accomplish this, knowledge must incorporate critical-thinking and problem-solving capabilities as well as the competence for reflective learning. Critical thinking is described as “Reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on what to believe or do” (Marshall and Rowland 1998:33). This is important for a student’s development since it helps them to become open to a diversity of perspectives, which is necessary beyond formal education and into the workplace. R. Paul described the phases of learning as, “The three stages of learning which form the basis for lifelong learning are: experiencing information literacy (learning), reflecting on the experience (being aware of learning) and applying the experience to a new context (transfer of learning)”. Individuals learn not only in formal settings, but also through non-formal situations. The key elements are neither school nor university taught, but are acquired in social groups or in the family. These life-long learning competencies guide an individual’s development through the years; they are personal, analytical and communicative. It is the capability of utilizing logic, the ability of writing, speaking, listening and the ability to display emotional balances which are all characteristics of the progression of knowledge within a student. Through the process of life-long learning an individual follows the path into life-long education.
The idea of lifelong education was first fully expressed in this century by Basil Yeaxlee (1929). He along with Eduard Lindeman (1926) provided an intellectual basis for a comprehensive understanding of education as a continuing aspect of everyday life.
It is seen as a development of citizens to achieve additional comprehension and aptitude which can be advantageous to them and contributory to the society. Life-long learning enriches one’s intelligence to grasp the basics of learning and enhances one’s soul to advance goodwill towards the society. This view point suggests that a critical practice of lifelong learning is steered by the concept of helping individuals become more open, responsible, citizen learners and workers who are capable of thinking, speaking and expand their knowledge in life, learning and work situations.
These individuals have a great impact to the lives of others. Although these people are different in nature and character they symbolize a prevalent purpose intended for the common good. Life-long learners view this process of attaining knowledge through further education as a responsibility to society withstanding all of its burden and difficulties.
Life-long learning is by now a reality for numerous adults. Some engage in learning to keep up with the rapid societal changes, others to improve their knowledge and capabilities. However, we know from work carried out in diverse places that a significant amount of adults do not contribute in the lifelong learning process. Some face hurtles that arise from a variety of reasons such as: financial set backs or family/home issues as well as the available learning opportunities which are poorly adapted to their learning needs or the situations in which they find themselves.
In the 21st century, employees need to be life-long learners, adapting continuously to changed opportunities and labor market demands of the knowledge economy. Life-long learning therefore, is not a luxury for any nation. Today, the educational systems in most countries will have to advance in that direction. More programs are needed to advance the lifelong learning philosophy which includes not only investigating ways of increasing the quality of secondary education, but also improving the guidelines to support different universities, programs, and procedures that permit all individuals to access education, whether to advance their skills for employments purposes or to satisfy their thirst for knowledge.
Whether we teaching our children (pedagogy) or examining how adults learn (andragogy), learning is fundamental to growing…growing is fundamental to life. Lifelong learning throws the axiom “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” out the door.”
We commit to continue learning because “the trouble with the future is that it usually arrives before we’re ready for it” ~ Arnold H. Glasow