1:31PM Jan 22, 2021
Jonathan J. Armstrong
Today it is our delight to be speaking with Dr. Karen Longman. Dr. Longman is professor of higher education at Azusa Pacific University, the author of the text that we'll be discussing today Thriving in Leadership: strategies for making a difference in Christian Higher Education, originally published in 2012, from Abilene Christian University Press. Dr. Longman, thank you so much for joining us today.
My pleasure. Thanks
Dr. Longman, this book is acclaimed by many well regarded authors. And if I may just take one minute and read an endorsement that we received here from Parker Palmer in the opening of your text. "Here is a book on leadership that is practical and spiritual, grounded and inspiring these essays by seasoned leaders in the academy shed light on secrets hidden in plain sight, that all academic leaders should find lack of lasting value, the importance of showing up as a whole person, the centrality of tenacious relationships, the vital role of rich, transformative conversations with all stakeholders, and the courage it takes to lead in ways that do not always conform to our cultural model assumptions about how leaders should act. I hope this book will gain a wide audience in and out of Christian higher education. Its hard won and well tested insights can help campus leaders of every sort navigate the tricky terrain that higher education travels today." This is a book that brings together the insights and inspiration of 15 senior leaders. If I may ask, what was your-what was your vision for this project originally?
Yeah, thanks for asking. As you may be aware that counsel for Christian colleges and universities, which has about 180, faith based Christ centered institutions, literally around the world, has been offering leadership development Institutes for about 25 years now. And every other year, there have been leadership development institutes that invite particularly emerging leaders who are women, and also people of color to come and be prepared to step into leadership, because historically, the leadership of Christian highter education has predominantly been white and male. So out of those Leadership Institute, some of which are exclusively for women to be with other groups of women and for people of color to be with other people of color. And these folks have been identified as emerging leaders on their campuses. We've offered for more than 20 years, women's leadership development institutes, and these chapters actually come out of those Institute's so what we call resource leaders, people who are in cabinet level leadership, presidents, who are either people or women of color, people of color, or women come together and present content for the emerging leaders to prepare them. This is a four or five day Leadership Institute up near the Canadian border in Washington State. But we decided there's such good content here. And other people would benefit beyond the relatively small groups that are handcrafted in hand designed. Each of those emerging leaders also then takes two or three days on a different campus and shadows a senior leader. So we wanted to get the content out to a broader audience. And we asked several of the resource leaders to take sections of what they have been presenting in the leadership Institute's of the Council for Christian colleges and universities write their content for broader audience.
And if I may ask you, this book is divided into three sections. The first is the interior life of thriving leaders. Secondly, the social intelligence of thriving leaders. And then lastly, how leaders can shape a thriving organizational culture. Can you bring me through the logic structure in designed in this book?
Great, well, let me say one thought before I lose track of it, and that is that in the United States or in North America, historically, leadership has been viewed in a very individualistic way, and often a very hierarchical way. So leadership was all about position and status and power in organizational structures. When we were looking at the content that's been powerful for participants who are emerging women leaders, and I'm just talking about that niche of the leadership development work that the council for Christian colleges and universities have been doing. We realized that to be effective, and leadership really breaks into those three sections. For one thing, everybody who is called and gifted to be in leadership should have a very clear center, very clear core of who am I how is God gifted me? How is God calling me to use my talents and my abilities to lead a group of people in a direction that will make us a healthier, more vibrant organization. So the interior life of a thriving leader is several chapters that get out Who am I as a leader. The middle section then really is getting the ball out of the park I think in terms of importance of relationships and emotional intelligence and being a person of influence where others will want to follow the direction that you're setting? So it's the relational life of thriving leaders, which often, I think gets short shrift in the leadership literature. And then the third is how can an individual or how can a leadership team shape a culture that's thriving? What's our responsibility not just to be an egocentric, hierarchical leader? individualistically. But how do I take the capacity that I have to use a platform that's, that gives me the chance to shape something broader. So of the chapters in the book, it is intentionally divided into those three sections. First of all, let's think about who am I, you might have a core, do I have confidence? Do I have competence inside myself? reaching a Christian audience obviously feeling like as Ephesians 2 would say, you know, everybody has been gifted and called. And there's good work we're being asked to walk into so some people are gifting call to leadership. And we at one point gave away gifts to the participants in the Women's Institute that that simply said, because some leaders are born women, instead of the other way around, which is the way we often think of that phrase.
Beautiful. Dr. Longman, this book, the issues that you outline in are--are still entirely what we need from leaders today. And yet, so many things have changed in higher education. You've been following higher education for several decades. This book is coming up on a decade old, not quiet. But coming up. What are what are some of the things that you would identify as the major landmark changes that have taken place in Christian higher education since the first publishing of this book in 2012?
Yeah, in terms of the field of higher education, obviously, we're in a crisis moment, even as you and I talk today with a COVID crisis. Let me just speak to both leadership and Christian higher ed and changes that I've seen over the last decade. Or one thing I would say, I think it's very important that we in the church, and people who may be accessing this interview, realize how much American higher education is a gift to the world and is a gift to our country in terms of the Mosaic, what they call the mosaic of us higher education. And that historically, there's been kind of David Riesman, a sociologist, many years ago, talked about the snake like progression of higher education, where what's called the research one university is where the head of this snake and then there was a bulging middle of the regional public universities. And at the very tail end, there were these small liberal arts colleges. And someone asked, When will we realize that this snake really, the whole point is not to get up, it's up to the head or be like the head of the snake we are not all expected to be nor do we want to be research one, universities, we want to be teaching institutions. And maybe the tail of this snake is is like a rattlesnake where it makes noise and shakes its rattles in the head turns around and looks at what's going on at the end of the snake here. So I think people are realizing that in this mosaic of us higher education, residential, liberal arts, colleges and universities, many of them have changed now to the nomenclature of University have a lot to offer to higher ed. And many, many, many families want their sons and daughters to be embedded in a group of people where coaches, faculty, student development, staff, chaplains all care about the development of a young person to become all that God designed them to be. So I think one thing that's changed, and partly it's through the strength of the Council for Christian colleges and universities and the networking that goes on there, the Presidents know each other, the chief academic officers know each other, this Chief Student Development officers know each other. There's a sense of being a part of a movement that's important in the field of higher education. And we, we have a lot to be thankful for and to take pride in, not not in any way in. that's inappropriate. But just to say, when you talk about transforming lives during these critical years, especially the undergraduate years, these campuses historically have done remarkable work. And better work, I think, and I think the documentation would show that, then many other kinds of institutions that are commuter institutions or don't have a common mission, don't have the same investment in the lives of students. There's different kinds of institutions for different purposes. But I think as a movement, Christian, higher ed has both been strengthened significantly with people wanting to come and teach where their faith can be made known, but also acknowledging the very good work that's happening in transforming students lives. Another big shift that I would just mention, and this is partly from the grassroots, there is on I think every campus despite many of these campuses, being rural, and being for example, from the Midwest where there's not a lot of diversity, by and large students today expect diversity and want to learn and to study and to contribute in a diverse environment. So there's a great deal of pressure and I think a positive way to make sure that the hiring of faculty represents the demographics of the United States within by 2040. Somewhere in that ballpark, we will be a majority minority where the white population will be a minority. And students expect to be able to study under different faculty who represent different racial and ethnic groups and also expect to have their perspective taken seriously by faculty. So I would say that commitment to getting more women and more people of color into leadership is directly relevant to this book in this interview.
Thank you, Dr. Longman for those reflections. Dr. Longman we're speaking today in late April 2020. And obviously, only a few weeks ago, no one could have predicted the depth of social change that it seems that this COVID crisis will affect in our culture. How is it that you anticipate that this COVID crisis will impact specifically Christian higher education?
That is a great question. was thinking yesterday of the quote I heard a long time ago, "nobody likes change except a baby with wet diapers." And all of a sudden the applecart has been turned upside down, not just for Christian higher ed, but for all of Christian higher ed. So I think what we're seeing what what is termed disruptive change is just enormous tsunami, like disruptive change, almost overnight. So I think almost every campus in the country is closed down for the spring. In there's a news service called inside higher education that everyday gives a collection of news stories from around the country, identifying 14 or 15 different strategies that campuses are following, or considering now in terms of what to do about the fall semester, some campuses are already announcing that they will not have students on campus in the fall. So all of that affects Christian higher education. I know that many, many campuses right now are already planning for significant budget cuts. In the news, just recently, Baylor University is building a budget for next year with a that that's cutting about $80 million out of their budget, the University of Arizona is talking about a budget for next year, that's about $250 million lower than this year, because we do not know what will happen with students coming back. And for Christian higher ed in particular, the campuses are not dependent on large research grants, they're dependent upon students in residence halls, in food services in a residential community. So these campuses are particularly hard hit when we don't know whether the way we've approached education in the past is going to be viable in the fall. But I would say if you looked at the silver lining, this was and is the direction of higher education. I mean, the world is becoming more networked, people are becoming more technologically savvy. And this has forced our hand in a way all what for faculty to be told on a Wednesday or Thursday or Friday, starting Monday, you will be teaching via zoom or whatever other platform the campuses have. And people who thought they didn't have to think about this or worry about it or adapt to it. And we're doing fine, with face to face instruction all of a sudden had to step up to the plate and change. So in a way, it will be helpful, I think down the road because everyone will have more tools at their disposal and will be conversant and comfortable reclaiming the best of face to face when that's possible, but also tapping the best of technology in ways that many people did not do before.
Dr. Longman if I can ask one more question related to the present COVID crisis. So as you've mentioned, and stated all of our colleges and universities are closed for the current semester, what will happen in the future? We're not yet sure. But and suddenly, our online campuses are our physical plant campuses that line between distance and on campus education has suddenly become very different, blurred, perhaps perhaps obl-- obliterated. What do you think this is going to do to the future of online education versus campus based education?
You're asking very, very good questions that are real questions. It's interesting. On Monday of this week, we announced we have about 100 PhD students from all over North America in our in our doctoral program in higher education, here at Azusa Pacific so we had to make the difficult decision that in July or they would not come to our campus for the two week residency. The reaction was profound. The students love to be together. They love to be on campus. They love to interact with the faculty face to face and some of our cohorts stayed on the zoom conversation in their own subgroups afterwards to just bemoan the fact that in July, they would not have that two week opportunity to be together. So I think, obviously, there's conversation either, even today in the Chronicle of Higher Ed and inside higher education about all the challenges and the downside of trying to teach via zoom, for example, it's not the same, you cannot transfer a course that you've been teaching face to face into a platform that's remote and expect the same results, people need to be retrained and the content needs to be reshaped. So there would be some people and you you may be following this in the news, some students are saying, well, we're not getting the quality of face to face interaction, the University of Chicago is one institution cited. Why are we paying price the cost of face to face education when that's no longer being delivered, and we should get a tuition refund. On the other hand, I would say more and more, because students now do not have an in a relatively small percentage of students was in residential face to face traditional liberal arts campuses to start with, but families and students, I honestly believe having studied the field of higher ed for 20 or 30 years here, that is the very best way to transform students lives, it's the very best way. And when students wanted that, and their parents want that for their sons and daughters, and to not have that available is going to make it all the more valued. And people will start to realize I won't name online universities. But often, the quality of what's delivered is not as strong as the face to face instruction, where you've got faculty really, truly embedded and invested in helping students become what God intended them to be. So I think right now there's a shaking out where some people are saying, We paid for face to face, we're not getting it, we should get a refund. And the flip side of that might be when the option of going back to face to face will is available, people will be all the more appreciative of it and take advantage of it and say, This is the best approach to education. And that's what I want for myself and for my children.
Dr. Longman, you've studied Christian higher education for a good long time, several decades, as you mentioned, and this text really puts a premium on the human element of leadership, you you spend the first half of the book, at least taking us into the heart of the leader and into the social relationships that that leader enjoys with colleagues, before really talking about transforming the education which you reserved to the educational institution, which you place in that third section. And you've also put a lot of energy into studying the training of women leaders and the mentorship of women leaders. If I may ask, do our men and women leaders mentored in the same way? So does one apply the same mentorship process to men leaders or women leaders? What's your view?
That's an interesting question. Obviously, mentoring and what what the broader term that we would use as developmental relationships? How do we prepare emerging leaders and it's more than being a mentor or a mentee. Now, there's a whole body of research out there about sponsorship, how does somebody proactively take someone under wing and raise them up? There's a whole body of literature about executive coaching and being a coach to people which may be relevant at different stages of a career. But I think in terms of women and men, for example, because the vast majority of leaders historically have been white and male, there's been some hesitation to mentor women, because of the potential appearance of impropriety or being reticent because of the "me too" movement and that kind of thing. And there was a very helpful article in I believe Harvard Business Review not too long ago on reverse mentoring, and the fact that it would probably be beneficial. If men would say, I would like to take someone different, whether that's race and ethnicity, or whether that's gender, underwing, and today, we're going to make this a reciprocal mentoring where I really need to understand your world. And I want to understand how you view the world because I'll be a more effective leader if I understand these different perspectives. So I am willing to be not willing, sounds condescending, but is a more senior leader. I'm taking you under wing for the sake of helping you move to the next level. But I also really value what you can bring to me as a leader to understand your perspective in your world. I would say just maybe three or four days ago in Forbes, was a really interesting article on why around the world. Women were proving to be such effective leaders in the middle of the COVID crisis. And that's a whole different conversation we could have. I think the NGOs and non governmental organizations for a long time have realized that in developing countries, and investing in women putting money into micro enterprise projects, headed by women tended to help the whole family and the whole village and putting money toward men tended not to be used in the same constructive ways. Because women tend to decentralize power and tried to embrace and engage people and give them shared ownership. So even with the COVID crisis, this Forbes article was talking about the political leadership of Germany, for example, New Zealand, Finland, some of the Scandinavian countries, and the mayor of San Francisco who had been way ahead of the curve, because they cared about the well being of their citizens. And it was not a political agenda to make me look good, or to be sure that I get votes, it was about how I use the platform I have. So there's a great deal of, of research, and how having diverse perspectives around the leadership table, results in better decisions, more profitability, greater retention of employees, but also in particular, bringing women into the decision making process tends to make sure that people's voices who are often unheard get heard. So it's a little more than you asked, but I think it's an important point.
Dr. longman, can we go down this road of asking about developmental relationships, you've noted the importance of these developmental relationships in in nurturing women leaders, now that we're doing everything online, no longer face to face, but my mediated technologies? How does that change the way that we might invest in developmental relationships, particularly for women?
A very good question. I think the COVID crisis and the stay at home orders, now a month into this is, is has a silver lining of allowing family members to be together and to stop and take stock of what's important. I was just talking with one of our PhD students and saying that higher education should be the place to college and university campuses were thought leaders have the time to reflect and to provide insights and perspective on the major issues facing our day. We just had Earth Day, for example. So I think that one of the things that helps us be more well rounded, and overall well being is is relational. And the fact that people are sheltering in place and having to stay home for this long makes us realize that really, at the end of the day, it's relationships that make a difference. And in particular, as I said, the leadership field as a whole has been historically very hierarchical, very individualistic. You know, it was all about preparing and equipping a singular leader. Barbara Kellerman, a scholar up at Harvard has written a book called The end of leadership. And one of the points that she makes is that we really are moving into an era globally, where a collectivist leadership is more important. And so the developmental relationships like coaching, like sponsoring, like mentoring, where a group of people is surrounding people who have high potential and high capacity and preparing them to lead becomes all the more important. I mean, I'm not sure that you become an effective leader by reading a book. Right? You you become an effective leader by stepping out taking risks, having people believe in you taking on a bigger responsibility and figuring out I can really do this. And so the developmental relationships, particularly for women, and maybe we need to pay more attention to collectivist societies and say the American model of hierarchical and individualistic is not the way of the future. We need to be investing in one another, and especially within the body of Christ, identifying who has capacity and who has potential and putting wind under wings, even if they don't look like I was reading a study where not so long ago, when women when student university students were asked to name somebody that they would identify as a, an exemplary leader or an ideal leader. 90% of them identify demand, because who's been in leadership the name, sometimes they would name someone like Mother Teresa. But that's not exactly the kind of leader that we would think of when we think of world states people. So
Dr. Longman, We're really delighted to be speaking with you about your book thriving in leadership strategies for making a difference in Christian higher education. The question is not directly from this book, but I've got to ask it given the present circumstances, As all of our classrooms migrate over to these online technologies, what would your advice to be to make sure that the educational opportunities are equal for men and women's students?
Well, that's a very good question. Because right now, as I live in the greater Los Angeles area, it's very clear that trying to offer education online is is just illuminating the huge gap between those who have and those who do not have. So we have families, theoretically, with children being educated, who do not have Wi Fi at home, who do not have bandwidth at home, who have multiple children trying to use a single computer, if there even is a single computer in the household. And yet the assumptions are everybody out there has equal access to technology and technology that will work on demand. So I think this whole COVID crisis has brought to light how much we need to be addressing, particularly as Christians who care about the value of every human being that everyone has equal access to education and technology, as it stands now, is not working well to serve those who have been marginalized by society, in an understated quiet way in the past. So obviously, as I said before, relationships are important, and help having students in small groups. With zoom, for example, you can put the students into small groups and have them talk and report back, but it's not the same as face to face. So the sooner that our churches can be back and healthy, the sooner that our community gatherings and our sports teams can be back together, the better. But for now, we need to remember that the individual touch, phone calls, reaching out, being there for our neighbors, being sure that the least of these is taken care of is is the job of believers.
Dr. Longman over the course of your academic career, you've published many pieces on women in leadership. And although this text does not directly address the subject of women in leadership, you do bring to the table contributors, many of whom who are women who have held senior leadership positions. What would you say? What are the principal benefits that are accrued to an organization when a diverse leadership team is leading that organization?
There's a lot of research on that question. And let me just say, parenthetically, all the authors in this book, which is called thriving and leadership are women because it grew out of the Women's Leadership Development institutes. But we intentionally did not put anything on the cover and did not have endorsements that tried to suggest that this is a book by women, we think that there are alternative ways to lead that have merit. In other words, collectivist empowering, collaborative, decentralized ownership. But if we put on the cover anything about this being a book oriented toward women, or for women or by women, men predominantly would not read it. So we were when Parker Palmer and the front cover endorsement talks about this, this is a kind of a stealth weapon secret entrance to try to say there are alternative ways to lead. But don't put that front and center. Even my own brother when he looked at the table of contents, and he's a geologist who a scientist said, Oh, it's all women, and was very dismissive. It's like a man would not read a book about leadership written by women. And to me that was very telling that we are so biased in our understanding of what leadership looks like that somehow we believe and look at the leadership books, that it's almost exclusively only men who have anything to say about leadership. In contrast, and this is where I think we're seeing a shift in higher education in general and in Christian higher education. There is a great deal of research that would show that when you bring diversity of voices and perspectives around the leadership table, that's in terms of racial ethnic diversity, that's in terms of age diversity, that's in terms of getting outside of the American bubble. Decisions are smarter companies, the corporate world getting more women on boards are more profitable, they retain employees, they have a better organizational culture. And the same is true for people of color. So I, I have been focusing more on not sounding like it's a one string fiddle, it's important to get more people of color and women into leadership. But to say you need to have confidence that having more women and more perspectives of age, gender, nationality, race, ethnicity, contributes to institutions and organizations making better decisions. And on any number of measures. There's a great deal of research that would say, organizations and institutions suffer from a narrowness of vision when only older white men are making decisions.
Dr. Longman we've been delighted to have you speaking With us today. Thank you very much for your time. Dr. Karen longmen is professor of higher education at Azusa Pacific University, and also author of the text that we've been discussing today thriving and leadership strategies for making a difference in Christian higher education.Thank you somuch for your time today.
Glad to be with you and thanks for thanks for your care for this topic.