Dr. Bezio talks about the Titanic as a system, made up of “flammable and sinkable” materials, that is run by humans. As we all know, they hit an iceberg and now the ship lies at the bottom of the ocean. Dr. Bezio goes into some of the issues in the way that they decided who got to live and who had to die, and how history isn’t completely honest about that. No one really talks about those who lived at the bottom of the ship or the two men of color on the boat, all of whom died. This is just one example of how people of color and those in lower classes and other minorities are affected much more by events like these than those in a position of privilege. We as Leadership Studies majors are fortunate to be in a position where we recognize these issues and are eager enough to try and figure out how we can work on them. We also are fortunate to have resources to learn how to effectively work on these issues.
I didn’t actually come into my first year at Richmond wanting to do leadership studies. I thought having an undergraduate school of leadership was very interesting, but I didn’t think it was for me. Of course, I came into Richmond wanting to do business and finance so that shows you exactly how ironic that statement is. I’m now a PPEL major, concentrating in politics, with a leadership minor to round out my academic profile. When I made the switch a year ago, frustrated by not liking business and looking to embrace the subjects I loved, I looked to see if I could fit a leadership minor in my course load. I could, so I thought nothing of it and registered for my first leadership class (leadership and the social sciences, if you’re wondering). It just seemed like a natural decision to me: I want to go into the political sphere or work in government, it would make so much sense for me to have academic training in leadership.
I’m now about halfway through the coursework for my minor, and while my prior statement still stands true, it has a lot more depth to it, if that makes sense. I came into Jepson having very little idea of what being taught leadership would entail. I had misconstrued ideas of what an actual leader was, so I’ve had my eyes opened at every turn during my past two semesters of work. I have learned a whole lot about leadership, from the historical context of it, to the applications of it in the humanities and social sciences, the impact of good and bad leadership, and what leadership is. Well, I think I know what leadership is, I’m not actually certain yet. I’m sure that would puzzle my friends and family who I’m certain are curious about what leadership studies students actually do, but I’m sure my peers would echo my statement.
However the most important thing I’ve taken away from leadership comes as a combination of two leadership theories I’ve learned about: Ensemble Leadership Theory and Servant Leadership Theory. ELT promotes a decentralized, group approach to leadership as opposed to one leader, and servant leadership has the leader prioritize the needs and wants of their followers first, before anything else. What I’m getting at? In a nation rocked by racial inequality, political divides, social justice movements, and a To Carry (On and On) feeling of anxiety and doom- leaders are necessary. Good leaders, mind you, those who prioritize the needs of others and not their own goals. We are starting to see more of it, but not enough and not quickly enough. As Doctor Bezio said in the podcast: there is a lot of risk involved in what we are doing, both in getting a degree in a complex field that isn’t well understood, and what we are going to do with it in the real world- hopefully make some meaningful change. But I have a lot of hope with what we are doing; I am surrounded by dozens of incredibly smart and passionate students in Jepson. It is no doubt in my mind that all of us, along with all those who fight for change and “follow” people like us, will use our metaphorical teacups to fight and beat the rising tide.
I kind of appreciate how “unsafe” and “unconventional” our leadership majors are. I also like how Dr. Bezio explains studying leadership as thinking about how different types of knowledge/disciplines can serve the greater good. Leadership is about learning how to make a change in the world, which is of course every child’s dream- I like that this dream has not died inside of us. Especially during this year and last, in which our country, and even our university, has disappointed us. As Dr. Bezio mentioned, people don’t like change and that is why leadership is necessary. People don’t like change because people don’t like the unknown. In order to make meaningful change, there must be support for the cause. In order to gain support from followers, leaders are necessary because they convince those followers that change is not scary- change is possible and change is beautiful.
The reading talks about how we sometimes feel like we have to do so much in order to make a change. There is a quote on page 51 about how people don’t see the significance in recycling one soda can because that is not enough- we want to stop global warming completely and immediately, not recycle a single can. But we cannot stop global warming completely and immediately, so we must recycle that one can. If everyone can adapt that mentally and recycles one can, then that’s a whole lot of cans and a really big difference. People need to realize that while their actions to make change may seem insignificant, they build up, and when everyone comes together it makes change possible.
In this weeks readings and podcast, my biggest takeaway was that everyone contributes to any kind of difference made. For instance, in the podcast, Dr. Bezio tells us that our job as leadership scholars is to realize that the people on the podium are only the tip of the iceberg. It is not only their job to take action.
One quote that stuck out to me in the reading was, “the problem is not that we have so little power. The problem is that we don’t use the power that we have.” From this, I took away the fact that people assume that any effort they do to make change is so little and won’t add up to anything. In reality, we need smaller actions to impact or create a larger one. In regard to that, we cannot stand by and expect the “tip of the iceberg” leaders to do all the work. If we do, the whole system could come crashing down on us, because one person is not enough to hold together an entire system.
I also liked the quote, “The future Is an infinite succession of presents and to live now as we think human beings should.” I think this is important for people to understand. We must set the example that we want to see in the world. We cannot just stand by, think we have no power and think that someone higher up will do something. Our opinions and actions matter. They are what will build up to a larger action or change.
“What even is Leadership Studies”
I swear, every time I tell a family member or friend outside the University of Richmond about my major in Leadership studies, the response is painfully predictable. The jokes that go with it are worse: “Oh you’re learning how to be the President!” “I didn’t know there were college majors for CEOs nowadays, ha!” And, to be frank, I don’t always know what to say when people do ask me what it’s all about, because there are so many different answers I could give. That’s why I really appreciate what Dr. Bezio said in her “Thinking Critically” podcast when she said that Leadership studies “teaches us how to think about different types of knowledge and knowledge acquisition, what we think of as the other “disciplines” in academia can serve the greater good… leadership studies isn’t there to give us the facts but it’s there to give us the tool kit to deal with the facts.” I think the differentiation of facts vs. toolkit for facts is really important and it gives me a much better way to explain what I’m studying. I’m not studying history, I’m learning how to think critically about history. I’m not in learning political science, I’m learning how to dissect and inspect the inner workings of politics.
I haven’t always been the biggest leader. I used to be absolutely terrified of making decisions and being the one to charge forward, but I thought that taking classes at Jepson would change that and teach me how to be this image of a “leader.” And, honestly? It hasn’t, or at least not in the way I expected. Instead, Jepson has taught me how to make decisions and charge forwards a different way, not by changing my mind and my way of thinking, but by expanding it. I pause when making decisions not because I’m unsure of myself but because I’m looking at all the different avenues, taking my time to make sure I choose the right one or the most effective one. I am now able to speak up against family members, not because Jepson somehow made me magically braver, but it taught me the tools and information to be able to stand up against people and make my argument.
What stuck out to me most in this week’s podcast was the sentence: “There is leadership in simply surviving.” Both Bezio in the podcast and Danusha Veronica Goska in the reading discuss this idea. As the podcast talked about the importance of using leadership to push for change, this reminded me of the idea that individual’s survival can in-and-of itself be an act of resistance and a mechanism for change. I think this directly connects to the stories Goska shares from everyday life and their navigation of the world. Living in a world not designed with the needs of everyone in mind, that prioritizes the needs and wants of very specific groups such as white able-bodied men, means that any other individuals acts of survival act as resistance to the norms of the social system in place. Like the metaphor of the teacup Dr. Bezio used, the collective of the efforts of many individuals can be really powerful, so that one individual act of resistance is never truly alone, which while I don’t think will immediately solve all of the systemic issues our school/country/world faces, it definitely provides an opportunity for change and helps create a sense of community and support.
On the other hand, in both the podcast and Goska’s writing, the message that these efforts have to come from individuals, especially individuals who experience violence and oppression daily, is incredibly frustrating. I think the phrasing of survival as an act of resistance is incredibly powerful in our world, but it also should not have to be. Surviving should not be resistance.
I think these ideas: hope in collective action and frustration at the state of the world, can both exist at the same time, they can just be very conflicting. One quote from Tony Kushner in the reading the I appreciated was “Maintain the world by changing the world.” I think this is an example of both those ideas existing together at the same time, or surviving, pushing for changing, and leading, and disagreeing with the current state of the world. It’s a very simple statement, and the actual practice and implementation is far more complicated, but I appreciate how it makes both of these sentiments and stances possible, allowing them to coexist, and possibly even connect.
The podcast and the sections we read from Impossible did a great job tying together the lessons we talked about at the beginning of the semester with Doing Good Better, and how that relates to us as Leadership Studies students. Society constantly pushes us to only pay attention to the single leaders: the ones who are written about in history books and make headlines in the news. But as we know, leadership comes in so many more forms. These figureheads are important, but as Professor Bezio said, they are just the tip of the iceberg.
The sections from Impossible remind us that we all have the power, and an obligation to use our power to do good. We don’t have to wait around for one leader to come in and make a change, we can start making little changes on our own. As I was reading the excerpts, I kept thinking about the lesson I learned in elementary school about spreading acts of kindness. There was a viral video we used to watch that started with one person doing something nice for someone else, and it set off a chain reaction for each person to do one good deed. It is such a simple message, but it really works: do one nice thing for someone else, and good things will follow. From the lessons of Impossible and Doing Good Better,we need to use whatever we have available to us and start there.
Wow. That podcast was awesome, and it just helped me so much. I have recently been really stressed and questioning whether or not I should continue with the leadership major for a number of reasons which aren’t really important, but after listening to the podcast, I don’t see how I could not continue. I think with all of the talk in my life recently about careers and getting prepared for life after college, I forgot the reason I wanted to be a part of Jepson and how excited I was coming to Richmond because of the leadership school in the first place. Like Dr. Bezio said, leadership studies is an unsafe degree that steps outside the boundaries of what is expected and conventional in this society. So many of my peers, friends from home, and older people in my life are in the finance world, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it just isn’t me. Yet, I believed that was the only path that made sense. But after listening to this podcast, I was reminded that different types of knowledge are what we need to serve the greater good and make a positive difference. I doubt I can make a positive difference with solely a finance degree (maybe I can, and some people do, but still…). I was also talking to my advisor the other day about this stress I was having, and he asked me what it is that I do like about leadership studies, and I responded that even though these are some of my most difficult classes, they are really the only ones where I feel like I am learning and growing. My leadership classes are, to me, the epitome of what I think college should be all about — hearing different perspectives, understanding the world around you, learning about your own beliefs and what you want your life to look like, and just growing as a person who can make a difference in the world. My Jepson classes are the ones that do this for me, and I was reminded of that in the podcast, so I’m really grateful and excited to continue on this path to be the best leader I can be in every context.
For our last podcast, I really appreciated how Dr.Bezio didn’t tell us we now know how to think critically. Thinking critically has to do with so many different elements that it would be hard to sum up in one class. I did agree, however, that there are certain factors that go into everyday critical thinking. Asking questions and doing the research are two really big ones that I think were most important. Critical thinking also requires context, which helps us make thought out decisions.
Dr.Bezio also talked about what it means to be a leadership major, which I think is really important. A lot of my family members always ask me what a leadership major even is (my other major is journalism, and they say it’s much more straight-forward). I’ve tried to explain to them what I do in my Jepson classes, but to be honest, I have a hard time giving them a straight answer. I do agree, however, that those in Jepson are trying their best to make an impact on the world around them, and this is one of the first steps. Jepson isn’t training students to be leaders, but instead teaching students how to be conscious of the systems that influence our everyday lives. In doing this, we as students can begin to make a greater impact through well-informed decisions, and I can finally have an answer when someone asks me what a leadership studies major is.
I felt like this reading gave me an array of emotions to deal with. On one side, I appreciated the reflections of feeling emotionally “paralyzed” by all the negativity in the world. Especially this semester, I have lost the ability to be empathetic towards so many things. There has been so much violence, death and injustice in the world, and the university has done so so so little to support the communities that are suffering the most. I think the fact many POC communities had to protest for basic services from the university on a wellness day sums up the school’s support pretty well. Anywhooo, I feel as though this sensation of emotional apathy can also come from the perception one has over the work they are doing. A lot of the times, service is seen as an action that helps others, but more often than not, service is performative and helps make the provider “feel better” more than it helps the one receiving service. There is definitely a “pressure of virtue” in our society that makes people believe they have to help other people in order to be a good person. Although this can objectively be a good thing, it can also create a great deal of apathy, and even a false sense of accomplishment for doing the bare minimum for another human being.
The part of this essay I didn’t quite like, and I feel is very common in our society, is the rhetoric used throughout the essay. The author mentioned having a chronic illness and framed his idea of service around the small acts of kindness others would do for him that made his life a little bit easier. Instead of focusing on the fact that in one of the most highly developed countries in the world a man with a chronic illness was walking home over a mile in the snow, that “capitalistic” mentality makes us all go “wow what a resilient guy! Oh and his neighbor’s a saint for driving him home!” Maybe it’s just me, but my first reaction was “Uhh what? This man becomes literally paralyzed at random, and he doesn’t have some reliable form of transportation paid for by his insurance/ government??” Idk, just food for thought. I do not believe service should be interpreted as providing basic human needs that the state, or employers, should already be providing. I feel that maintaining this mentality only perpetuates this exploitation of the working class.