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Learning to lead; new leadership minor one of only two in TBR system

March 4, 2003

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." Expressed by John F. Kennedy in a 1963 speech, that conviction has found full expression in a new minor offered at Austin Peay.

The leadership studies minora multidisciplinary effort that draws from the wisdom of business, communications and political scienceis designed to help students become "caring and resourceful leaders," says Dr. Carmen Reagan, professor and director of leadership studies.
March 4, 2003

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." Expressed by John F. Kennedy in a 1963 speech, that conviction has found full expression in a new minor offered at Austin Peay.

The leadership studies minora multidisciplinary effort that draws from the wisdom of business, communications and political scienceis designed to help students become "caring and resourceful leaders," says Dr. Carmen Reagan, professor and director of leadership studies.

The leadership studies minor, one of only two in the TBR system, was created in response to the desire for a minor in the President's Emerging Leaders Program and a growing interest in leadership among students in other majors, according to Reagan. Market demand also suggested the major was needed.

"Organizations are searching for individuals who can demonstrate leadership at any level and who can represent them in community projects," she says. "As business, healthcare, education, government and nonprofit sectors recognize that creative solutions can come from those most involved with the task, project or issue, the demand for leadership is growing."

Effective leadership has little to do with titles, hierarchies or commands, Reagan says. Desk pounding and 'my way or the highway' declarations just don't cut it with today's workers. "The trend is toward a gentler, more collaborative leadership. We have a much more educated workforce. They don't want to be told what to do."

Instead, she says, today's workers want the opportunity to engage their creativity and share their knowledge. "Obviously there are some instances where the traditional approach of telling followers what to do is necessary. Our goal is to help students know which leadership style is appropriate for a given situation."

Students participating in the new minor not only learn about the skills of leadership, they also learn to recognize their own leadership style and strengths, and when each style may be most appropriate. "There is no one model of leadership that works under every circumstance," Reagan says.

The concept of "servant leadership" is central to the ideal espoused by the minor. In the wake of Enron and other corporate scandals, it's become increasingly clear that companies embracing quality, ethics, service and diversity not only don't finish last, they finish profitablyand stay around for the next race.

"Servant leadership is about 'turning the organizational pyramid upside down,'" Reagan says, borrowing a phrase from management guru Ken Blanchard. "The opposite of traditional leadershipin which the people help the leader reach his/her goalsservant leadership advances organizational goals by supporting followers and removing barriers to progress."

A third component of the minor is community leadership. "President Bush has issued a call for more people to step forward as leaders in their community," Reagan says. "The government is looking for innovative approaches to the problems facing our society."

The ultimate goal of the minor is to help students become caring, resourceful leaders who make a difference not just in their organizations, Reagan says, but in their schools, homes, churches and communities.

As the proposal for the minor says: "Effective leaders care about themselves, their families, organizations, communities and environment; they communicate, collaborate and compete in effective, positive and professional ways; and they envision new opportunities and solutions."

That ideal is one John F. Kennedy undoubtedly would have endorsed.