Note to the Reader: The statement below is what I aspire to as a leader. As an imperfect human being, I fail. I will not always align perfectly to my leadership philosophy. By making my philosophy public, however, I am inviting conversation when my words and actions are inconsistent with my stated philosophy.
As a social studies education researcher and former teacher, my professional identity is deeply rooted in education for citizenship. My career has been devoted to preparing and leading others to become fully engaged citizens who are dedicated to improving civic life for all. As John Lewis and others have argued, democracy is not guaranteed, nor is it an achievement; democracy requires ongoing maintenance. My actions as a leader at The University of Southern Mississippi can either contribute to or erode shared governance and trust. I recognize, however, that competing values are often at the root of organizational conflict, particularly between the university and faculty perspectives. As a leader, I see these value conflicts and the good in both perspectives. When conflict arises, I strive to build consensus by identifying the competing values, by having difficult but inclusive conversations about why there is disagreement, and by reminding those around me of shared goals. While I recognize that more senior leaders must also clarify and doggedly pursue an institution’s mission and vision, my current role is one that requires building consensus towards those goals. As a result, my approach to leadership is to communicate frequently, ask questions, probe responses, listen, and provide input that guides others to see competing values in light of shared goals.
In word and deed, I communicate and demonstrate my deep belief in the innate dignity, value, and worth of all people. Understanding that my perspective is limited, that it is informed by my own experience including my Christian faith and my upbringing, I value participation and consultation from and with people with diverse perspectives, including those I anticipate being in opposition. I favor direct communication that examines value conflicts but that finds a mutually agreeable path forward whenever possible. A leader’s greatest asset is not his or her own strengths, but the strengths of the people in the organization. I believe in encouraging others around their strengths. By leading with honesty, integrity, and transparency, I seek to leverage others’ strengths for the good of the unit and the university.
As a leader, I adhere to core principles that guide my actions. First and foremost, my role is to influence – to provide direction, accountability, and motivation. There is leadership potential in every person and my role is to encourage that potential. Motivation is maximized when individuals are allowed to choose their pursuits, to master the knowledge and skills they find valuable, and when they can attach their work to a transcending human purpose. Second, communication is paramount. Transparent and consistent communication builds trust and credibility. Difficult conversations should be welcomed. In these and all conversations, I commit to telling the truth even when doing so is difficult. As leadership author Brene Brown says, “clear is kind.” Honest, useful feedback strengthens an organization. When communication is transparent, consistent, and predictable, individuals within an organization can share competing perspectives but unite behind decisions even when they disagree.
Behaviorally, I will lead by example. When I fail, miscommunicate, or make incorrect assumptions, I will be open to kind confrontation, take responsibility, and seek forgiveness when necessary. I will not cover up mistakes but recognize mistakes for what they are – opportunities to learn. I will pursue excellence in every endeavor and help others to do the same when appropriate. I will embody professionalism and will strive to prevent my emotions or frustrations from dictating my behavior. I will recognize the power of my written and spoken words and use them to encourage whenever possible. Above all, I will value individuals for their unique gifts and innate dignity.
Nothing I have said herein, however, should be read to suggest I am perfect or that I know everything. I am a flawed human in need of grace and forgiveness. I have been fortunate throughout my career to be surrounded by individuals who have extended that grace and forgiveness.
Last Updated: 12/21/22