Total Leadership: Critical Events in My Life

At the age of 16 or 17, I realized that I wanted to “me” and not to follow a crowd or to be what people expected or wanted me to be if it was not what I was.   It is a really odd story as this self-revelation happened after an all night party when I was jumping off a gate in the local park.  We went there to see sunrise or something; probably just for the thrill of being in the park when we shouldn’t have been there.  When I jumped off that gate, my best friend asked if I was all right. Something about her question, or the way she asked, triggered the idea that I would be myself and not what anyone else thought I should be.

I have written before about how I fell into my PhD program and landed on my feet.  I cannot possibly explain the joy that lab research* gives me.  The lab was one of the places that I feel at home and do not worry about people judging me and probably find me wanting.  There were only a few of those when I was in my mid-twenties.  As I remember, another one was when I was dancing to folk-rock bands, such as the Barely Works or Davy Spillane.

Just over thirteen years ago, I moved to the US.  I originally came for a two year postdoc.  I did not realize what a big step I was taking.  Luckily, probably, otherwise I would not have come.  While my first postdoc was frustrating, it was at this same time I started voice lessons. I had the thought that since I was away from home I could do anything I wanted for about six months, at which time I would have caught up with myself**.   I can still remember the amazement and pleasure of knowing that I was singing in tune for the first time.  My creative side also grew when I roomed with Karen Searle in St Paul, MN.  Nothing like a fiber artist to teach you how to take your creative knitting to a new, higher, level.

Fortunately, in Minnesota, my professional life found a new leash of life and I grew as scientist there too.  That lead to my first tenure track position at a research university that was very supportive of undergraduate education.  I was delighted to find out that teaching did not have to me standing in the front of a big lecture hall and talking at my students.  This way, using student centered learning and group work, I discovered that I had a natural ability to help, teach, and inspire students.

Not getting tenure at the aforementioned research university was another kind of life event!  One that I am still dealing with today.  I found that I had an inner strength.  Even at the beginning, I picture a room where even though one door was shut there were other doors and windows to try.  Shortly after my tenure fiasco, I was diagnosed with a growth on my colon. Since, health is far more important than any career, I decided having both a research and teaching career was too much for me.  So I changed my career emphasis to teaching.

*After writing the above post, I wondered when did science come into my life?  Has it always been there or was my PhD the real trigger?  I don’t know the answer.

** I also took up beer drinking – in England I drank [hard] cider.  This did not turn out so well.


Total Leadership: Why I am Reading this Book

The first recommended exercise is “why I am reading the book on Total Leadership and what I hope to get out of it”.

As I said in my Total Leadership introduction I bought this book just as it came out because I heard an interview with Dr Friedman on NPR that struck a chord with me.  I am always interested in finding ways to be more successful.  Despite that, it turned out that I was not willing to carry out the exercises recommended in the book to become a Total Leader. Suddenly, this week I am eager to get started.

I am just restarting an academic career that was derailed by my being denied tenure at a research university.  This time I want to succeed while still having a personal life outside of work.  Fortunately, I work at a community college where I concentrate on teaching which I love.  However, giving up research means that I am concerned that I am not going to reach my full potential as a scientist.  I have lots to offer my profession but since I struggle to present my work successfully I have failed to convince many of my colleagues of my value as a scientist as well as a teacher.

I am hoping that this book will allow me to me to articulate my goals so that my colleagues, and I, recognize my successes and that they help my profession.

Total Leadership Introduction

About six months ago I heard a radio interview on NPR with Stewart Friedman about his new book “Total Leadership”.  I was so impressed with some of his ideas of linking all areas of life together that I immediately ordered the book from Amazon.  However, as it turned out at that time I was not ready to read through this book and undertake the introspection required for me to move forward as a leader. So I put the book aside and carried on with my life.

It seems that the time has come for me to pick up this book again and work through the exercises that are required for me to grow into a total leader.  I hope to share some of these exercises on my blog.  Not all, as I am cautious about being too personal and revealing in a public area so more personal questions will not be written about here.

If you want to find out more the book is available from Amazon and there is a website and a blog.