What is Organizational Leadership?

Since I announced my entry into the Gonzaga online Organizational Leadership MA program, I’ve heard this question a number of times.  My flippant response is that it’s a MA in Catholic Socialism, largely based on my first class that included Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

To date, I’ve completed two classes and am moving through my third, Leadership and Imagination, which included a residency requirement in Spokane.  I hope to keep this section of the site updated as I discover more about myself, my leadership philosophy, and discover interesting bits to pass along.  One of the requirements for this degree is a capstone class called ORGL 680 and I intend to use some of these posts, in addition to my BlackBoard postings, to chronicle my progression as a leader.

Organizational Leadership ORGL 500:

Not only was this my course my first foray into Organizational Leadership, but also into online education.  During the course of this class, my classmates and I explored what we wanted and didn’t want in a leader, how we plan to lead, and what is required of leaders.  We explored leadership from numerous angles and viewpoints.  Our course started with Pedagogy of the Oppressed, a challenging and detailed exploration of oppression and exploitation.  We also explored Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach, Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge, and Wheatley’s Leadership and the New Science.  Moving away from traditional resources, we also used T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, A Man for All Seasons, Strictly Ballroom, and finally and most importantly, Romero.

One of the important results of this course was the creation of our personal leadership statements.  These statements will resurface in our capstone  course as we evaluate our leadership development through our program.

Organizational Theory ORGL 505:

My second class explored the study of organizations.  We looked at traditional views of organizations, including the four frames theory and the organization as metaphor.  Most importantly, we learned to interpret the events inside an organization through multiple frames and metaphors, providing insight into how different people view the same organization.

We used a few important texts, including: Bolman and Deal’s Reframing Organizations; Sally Helgesen’s The Web of Inclusion; Morgan’s Images of Organization; and the popular book from Jim Collins, Good to Great.

As with the ORGL 500 course, the most attractive feature of this course is the real-world application of the lessons learned.  In all projects, we were challenged to explore actual situations and problems facing our organization and to explore solutions based on our understanding of the course texts.

Leadership and Imagination ORGL 502

Looking back, this is the most powerful class I’ve taken. While the curriculum was challenging, this is an on-campus course and required travel to Spokane in February of 2012. If you’ve found this post by searching for information about the Gonzaga Online Masters in Organizational Leadership, take this advice: Take this class as soon as possible and enjoy your time in Spokane. Go out with your classmates, have dinner, walk or exercise together, share lunch, enjoy the “nightlife” Spokane has to offer, and generally enjoy each other’s company. You will likely not have another chance to spend time in person with your classmates, so don’t waste this opportunity. The friends I made in this course are still part of my life and my personal development. The friendships I made during this short time on campus are so important to me that I traveled to Spokane again this year, in May, to watch four of my friends graduate. Next year, some of these four plan to visit to see me walk the stage. More importantly, in an online only environment, it’s nice to actually “know” people that are in your class. If you take this class early, you’ll have a deeper connection to Gonzaga and your potential classmates than if you delay.

Because it’s my nature, I organized a Happy Hour for anyone arriving early, in this case, Wednesday night. A group of six of us headed out the first night to explore Spokane. Three of us ended up staying out much too late, but this provided a great connection for us to start the weekend. It’s nice to walk into your first class and already have a bit of a personal connection to your classmates.

The class takes place over three days in Spokane and is broken into five instructional periods, one for each of the disciplines you will work on. We started on Thursday night with Leadership and Art. This section was lead by Frankie White, a fine arts teacher at Gonzaga Prep. We spent the class breaking down our personal barriers, learning about creating, and working with art at the intersection with leadership. This was a wonderful way to get to know additional classmates and to open yourself up to what can be accomplished over the weekend. Other classes included Leadership and Music, Leadership and Architecture, Leadership and Drama and Leadership and Film. Of all these classes, Leadership and Film, where we watched God on Trial was the most personally moving and had the greatest impact.

The class concludes with a dinner and the next morning we went our separate ways, only to regroup online in our discussion boards. The remainder of the class was spent discussing our experiences on campus and working on our final projects. Simply an amazing experience and one that you should do as early as possible.

Servant Leadership ORGL 530

The next class I completed was Servant Leadership. This class explores an established, but revolutionary approach to leading, placing the needs of the leader behind the needs of those being led. The coursework for this class was challenging and required a lot of re-learning things that I thought I already knew. We read Hesse’s The journey to the east, Greenleaf’s Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness, Spears & Lawrence’s  Focus on leadership: Servant-leadership for the twenty-first century, Thompson’s The congruent life, Greenleaf’s The power of Servant Leadership, and Sipe and Frick’s Seven pillars of servant leadership: Practicing the wisdom of leading by serving. 

This course required more introspection and self analysis than I was initially comfortable with, including a paper that delved into our own approach and understanding of ourselves as servant leaders in training. To many, the idea of a leader existing to serve their followers is hard to reconcile with the needs of an organization: I had trouble with this too. But, as you learn more about the unique benefits of servant leadership and the leader’s ability to empower followers, almost every leader can learn new lessons to make them more effective and more capable leaders.

Organizational Communication ORGL 504

I feel this class was one of the more instantly useful courses offered at Gonzaga. The coursework prepared students to complete a communications audit on an organization as the final project. The only two texts used in the class were Conrad and Poole’s Strategic organizational communication in a global economy and Downs and Adrian’s Assessing organizational communication: Strategic communications audits. These texts provided the technical overview of completing an audit and the discussion helped guide us to understand the usefulness of an audit for any organization.

I chose our church as the audit organization and was very lucky to receive the full support of the leadership and staff. Some classmates weren’t as lucky and had to change organizations after beginning their work, resulting in the loss of valuable time in the process. I completed the audit by interviewing all the staff members of the church and distributing anonymous surveys to all the church lay leadership. Additionally, I discussed the church’s communication strategy with some members. The outcomes of the audit weren’t a surprise to anyone, there was no “One Big Thing”, but having the communications issues and challenges clearly highlighted in print made it easier to implement changes. My audit was well received and many of my suggestions have been acted upon, which reinforces the usefulness of these audits.

Additionally, working with an organization to complete this audit gives the student a chance to see how consultants frequently work together with organizations and can help from a career planning standpoint.

Methods of Organizational Research ORGL 501

If Organizational Communications provided a chance to experience the fun part of consulting, Organizational Research showed me the hard work required when completing research for an organization. Starting with a research question, this class guides you through designing a research experiment and helps you understand different research methods and outcomes. While you don’t actually complete the research, this class requires identifying existing research and sorting out how your research will fill in holes in the existing body of work. Moving from there, you design survey instruments or other data collection tools and identify any ethical concerns your research may have. Finally, students have to outline their research procedure and explain how they will manage data collection and analysis.

I used this class as an opportunity to explore challenges home-based employees face in the workplace. As a long-time home based employee, I understand there are many positive and negative aspects of this arrangement and used the class to outline how I would explore personal and professional satisfaction in employees that transition from office to home based work.

Leadership and Diversity ORGL 506

 

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