I just finished a Master's in Education degree with an emphasis on "Leadership Studies."
So I should probably reflect on leadership for a minute.
I don't have much leadership experience. In churches and church functions, I lead music for a few years and sat on a few boards. Since I got married in 2006, however, I've generally stayed out of volunteering and leadership roles. My home life has been too tumultuous to take any more time out than necessary. Even with my experience in churches and teaching, my leadership practice, per se, is out of shape.
And I'm OK with that. I've always preferred to jump into the fire of assignments and roles. When I did my teaching practicum in 2005, I didn't jump on opportunities to teach in front of the class before I needed to; I saw no need to put on airs in a space where I had no authority. And when I stepped in front of the class on the first day, I knew I didn't know what I was doing, but I didn't regret refraining from jumping in front of a class before my time. I prefer the baptism-by-fire, learn-as-you-go approach.
Since 2012, I have been studying Leadership at UVic, and I just received my credential to show that my degree is finished. Throughout the degree, I've read a lot of literature about leadership in schools and businesses and had a lot of organization-based discussions. I've heard quite a few leadership buzzwords: "transformative leadership," "instructional leadership," "vision," etc.. And, to be honest, I haven't cared for much of it. Jargon annoys me.
Because I don't think successful leadership depends on a particular, singular, identifiable "style." I think successful leadership depends on making sure you, as a leader, can empathically thrive in your position in an organization. If people see you thriving, they will likely follow you.
I am reminded of reading Losing the Signal: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Blackberry a few months ago. That book highlighted an organization whose leaders could not empathize with their organization or market and simultaneously thrive. When they empathized, they felt blocked; when they thrived, the organization suffered.
On the other hand, Arthur Nash found a way to thrive himself and empathize with his employees. He was a leader who garnered followers and loyalty and kept sight of his goals and market. He found a way to simultaneously maintain empathy and thrive in his position.
I'd like to find a place where I can both empathize with people and thrive myself. I can't say I'm doing that right now. However, I am not a person "driven" by any singular ambition. I like to cast a wide net of interests and goals, and it's with that wide net that I thrive.
I just need to find something to step into, something to be baptized-in by fire. For now, I'm at peace with austere self-improvement.
My Comprehensive Exam is done and I've received word that I've completed all of the requirements for my Master's in Leadership degree. The exam itself was casual, reflective APA paper that I wrote last week. Not much of an "exam," per se, but it works for me.
Although I may have laid it on a little thick, due to the nature of the exam, I think I'll post what I wrote here. Just for fun.
That's how it all ended.
NOTE: This post should be more organized, but I can't seem to organize my thinking beyond the paper I'm writing for my Master's project. If I didn't post it today, however, I probably never would have. So here it is―representative of my scattered thoughts.
I admire Sam Harris for his willingness to talk to people he doesn't agree with, the clarity of his writing style, and for his ability to make me think. I don't agree with everything he says, and I don't read or listen to everything he says, but insofar as "thinking" goes, I enjoy the content he produces, even when he carelessly screws up. Whether I agree with him or not, he always makes me think, and his clarity of tone also helps keep my own thinking clear.
I really appreciated Harris's recent interview with Jonathan Haidt. Although the two of them disagree about numerous ideas, the conversation works because they both understand each others' discourse despite their differences (unlike, as I noted before, his hilarious interview with Maryam Namazie). While activists inevitably clash with Harris, he works really well with his fellow academics, whether he's talking with Very Bad Wizards (here and here) or, in this case, Haidt.
In the interview above, Jonathon Haidt makes a comment about the current climate on University campuses. After the 1:47:00 mark, Haidt explains,
As I mentioned in some of my previous 30-second Twitter rants, most of these ideas were not new to me. As a student at UVic in the early 2000s, I got to know and respect quite a few social justice activists and grew familiar with identity politics. I read leftist papers and took part in a little bit of activism myself. I had grown weary of leftist alarmist culture, however, after feeling let-down by various pseudoscientific, or myopic campaigns that could not stand up to scrutiny. For the last few years, I've followed various social justice movements from a distance, but I haven't taken part myself. I've been one of those classic overwhelmed middle-class folks who feels they don't have time to do anything but survive.
So all this fuss about "Social Justice Warriors" and the "Regressive Left" has taken me by surprise. I have expressed how I don't understand where all the vitriolic talk comes from. Yes, some people have overreacted on campuses, and this has roundly been discussed. But how in the world, I thought, did "Social Justice" become so derogatory? Wasn't social justice the force that maintained our freedom and kept people from authoritarian abuse? This tone confused me.
I think Haidt, in the quotation above, might have cleared it up for me. The social justice I admire is not necessarily the social justice people are raving about today. Modern social justice, identified by its focus on identity and attempts to change the way people act with minority groups, is something different. It may have roots in the left-leaning activism of which I'm familiar, but it's more ideologically-driven than that. Heck, I may have even witness a form of its roots when one of my former professors was publicly attacked for a mild, accidental identity slur in one of her classes. It bothered me then, and I can't imagine what it would be like to be a professor today, over ten years later.
And, as Haidt suggests, the immediacy of social media created this movement's power and limited scope. As politicians suggest in the embedded BBC podcast, political actions based on immediate events can lead to poor decisions, especially as more evidence piles up. As people demand immediate action in regards to social justice, I think it's to suggest that some responses will be inherently reactionary and messy.
I'm reminded of "The Clock Boy." The news of the school's apparent racism spread around social media immediately, and the outrage was thick and race-driven. Even Obama invited the boy to The White House. However, it wasn't long before other bits of information appeared that muddied the incident. I don't have an opinion on it myself, but I do think Obama's social media-driven endorsement seems, in retrospect, hasty and careless.
And just as evangelicals follow Trump for ideology's sake, leftists are following the tenets of "social justice" for ideology's sake. Social media forces both sides to make decisions and take positions before adequate evidence appears, It's a political mess because politics is not supposed to respond to so many things so quickly.
Many forces pushed me out of Christianity, but identity issues did a lot of the damage. I had been taught that my identity as a Christian was very important and worthy of maintenance, but by the time I had children I had to admit to myself that Christian identity artificially boxed me in with tidy "to be" statements. I got tired of boxes and I used my privilege to shed as many identities as I could.
However, just because I agree with Harris and Haidt about all this doesn't mean I let them off the hook. Harris' obsession with the term "regressive left" is an identifier that forces him into the very identity politics he despises. Every time he says the word, he reinforces the groupthink on both his side and his opposition's. Blanket labelling people as "regressive left" is an indefensibly vague slur. I look forward to its slow fade out of the cultural consciousness, just like "Atheism+" did.
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