“He who cannot give anything away cannot feel anything either.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

Bordas (2007) brought up the point of generosity as a key trait of leadership towards the beginning of Salsa, Soul, and Spirit:

Generosity is the basis for a more compassionate and caring society–the rich soil from which the benevolent society can grow.  Generosity is the antidote to the rampant materialism that reinforces individualistic gain over the common welfare (p. 73).

It got me questioning if we, as humans, are hard wired for generosity or if it’s all about survival of the fittest.  So, I decided whether to see if any brain studies had been done regarding which parts of the brain were activated when people acted generously.

In the mid 2000s, a Dr. Gafman measured the brain activity of 19 participants who were given a long list of charity organizations and a fund of money.  For each charity the subject could donate some portion of their fund, not donate to the charity, or put aside money in a separate reward account that they could take home at the end of the study.   

What was found was that when participants decided to give to a charity organization parts of the midbrain lit up, the same part of the brain that controls cravings for sex and food and the same part of the brain that activated when participants decided to give to their reward account.  “This new evidence suggests that giving is actually inherently rewarding: The brain churns out a pleasurable response when we engage in it” (Svoboda, 2013).

It is my assumption, yes my assumption, that all of us engaged in this class would characterize ourselves as having a generous spirit, but is having a generous spirit good for leadership, good for organizations and good for our selves?  

It has been argued and studied that businesses perform better when their leaders and employees are ‘givers’ not ‘takers’ (Martinuzzi, 2013).  How do leaders embody the generous leader?  Here are a few clear examples of what generous leaders do, which as can be seen mesh quite well with other transformational leadership qualities we have explored thus far.

  1. Give people a sense of importance: Make people feel that the work they do is important, which builds trust in the workplace.
  2. Give feedback, not criticism
  3. Share their time and expertise
  4. Recognize the full potential in people
  5. They lead by example
  6. They lead with purpose

(Crowley, 2013; Holmes, 2013; Martinuzzi, 2013)

So, yes it seems that generosity in leadership is good for organizations, but it is good for our careers?

Can you guess what the answer is?  Yes, well in some cases.

In his 2013 book, Give and Take, Wharton professor Adam Grant lays out the three types of people in organizations.  (Adam Grant also happens to be the youngest tenured and highest rated professor at Wharton’s MBA program, so apparently he knows what he’s talking about.  He’s successful and respected).  The three types are:

Takers: Takers like to get more than they give.  They put their own interests ahead of others and seek to come out ahead in every exchange.

Matchers: The majority of us are matchers, and we generally give to others in expectation our favors will be returned. 

Givers:  Givers want to help others independent of an easily foreseeable payback.  They’re generous with time and expertise, and go out of their way to help others succeed.

What Adam Grant found in doing research for his book was that givers were most likely not to succeed (success being measured as work performance, completion of tasks and job position), because going out of their way to help people prevents them from getting their own work done.  What was interesting was that he found that givers were also the most likely to land at the very top.  It turns out givers aren’t any less ambitious than takers, they just have a different way of going about it.  And when givers are at the top Grant found, there is a ripple effect.

Givers, takers, and matchers all can— and do— achieve success. But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades. When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. In contrast, when [givers] win, people are rooting for them and supporting them, rather than gunning for them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them. You’ll see that the difference lies in how giver success creates value, instead of just claiming it.

(Popova, 2013)

So how can you make sure you are a ‘successful’ giver and not one whose work suffers?  I would argue this would entail being generous to yourself, remaining self-confident and keeping a good work/life balance.  But what do you think?  Have you witnessed leaders in your organizations that are over-givers?  Have you witnessed generous leadership at its best?

And an Interesting note about Darwin’s 828 pages of Origins of Species is that he mentions “survival of the fittest” twice and “love” 95 times (http://www.thedarwinproject.com/revolution/revolution.html).  Why is it that as a society we have latched onto the notion of survival of the fittest?  And by broadening our individualistic definition of survival would generosity fit within this notion?

So, channel your inner Meerkat (argued as the most altruistic animal) and let the ripple effect begin.




Retrieved from: http://londonleprechaun.com/2013/08/22/home-sweet-home/


Bordas, J. (2007).  Salsa, soul, and spirit: Leadership for a multicultural age. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Crowley, M. (2013, May 6).  Extreme giver Adam Grant lends us his advice on becoming a more generous leader [Web log post].  Retrieved from: http://www.fastcompany.com/3009323/leadership-now/extreme-giver-adam-grant-lends-us-his-advice-on-becoming-a-more-generous-lead

Holmes, M. (2013, Aug 8). Why generosity is the new leadership [Web log post]. Retrieved from: http://tithehacker.com/generosity-new-leadership/

Martinuzzi, B (2013). Degrees of giving: Leading with generosity [Web log post]. Retrieved from: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_55.htm

Popova, M (2013). Givers, matchers, takers: The surprising science of success [Web log post].  Retrieved from: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/04/10/adam-grant-give-and-take/

Svoboda, E. (2013). Scientists are finding that we are hard-wired for giving. Retrieved from: http://generosityresearch.nd.edu/news/42488-hard-wired-for-giving/

Culture Change: Why it is Everyone’s Job

Culture change is a term widely used in the field of long-term care that describes a “movement that seeks to create an environment for residents, which follows the residents’ routines rather than those imposed by the facility; encourages appropriate assignments of staff with a team focus to make deep culture change possible; allows residents to make their own decisions; allows spontaneous activity opportunities; and encourages and allows residents to be treated as individuals” (National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center).


Retrieved from: http://nursing-home-neglect.hughesandcoleman.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/10-reasons-nursing-home-neglect.jpg

There has been a monumental shift in the way we care for our nation’s elderly population. Not so long ago, individuals in nursing homes were often thought of as senile, decrepit, or burdensome. They were housed in sullen institutions, with sterile hallways and lack of socialization. What was supposed to be their “home” was more like a prison, or an asylum. Residents went about the routines set forth for them by staff members, heavily medicated and addressed by room number, rather than by name. Fortunately, much has changed since those days. We have finally ignited a collaborative effort to change the way nursing home residents are treated; instead of sending people somewhere to die, we are giving them a place where they can live.

While we are still concerned with their medical needs, we are moving away from overuse of psychotropic medications, and moving toward focusing more on fulfilling their psychosocial needs. While still concerned about their safety, we are keeping residents out of restraints, and allowing them the “dignity of risk” to get up and walk on their own, even if there is a chance of falling. While still concerned with the cleanliness of their environment, we are moving away from white, sterile walls and linoleum floors, to an atmosphere that feels like “home,” with comfy furniture and even pets living there too.


Retrieved From: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/real-estate/bring-fido-senior-centers-allowing-pets-article-1.1079856

You’re probably thinking—“that’s great…. so what?” Well, the fact of the matter is—there is still a heck of a lot of work to do. The culture change movement has come a long way in recent years, but it is still a painfully slow process. Even in the most beautiful, expensive long-term care facility, neglect and abuse still exists. Residents still have the potential to be devalued, isolated, or treated as a member of the “whole” as opposed to an individual deserving of respect and dignity.

  GraphRetrieved From: http://kff.org/medicaid/fact-sheet/five-key-facts-about-the-delivery-and-financing-of-long-term-services-and-supports/

As the “Baby Boomers” hit retirement age, the percent of the population considered “elderly” will grow considerably. We’re also living longer. The life expectancy today is 78 years old, 8 years older than it was in 1970. More individuals are living to 85 years old, and as a result there are more individuals who will be in need of a long-term care facility at some point.

So where do social workers fit in?

The culture change movement isn’t one that should just be left up to those social workers in the long-term care field. On the contrary, I would argue that it is within the ethical realm of all social workers to support culture change and challenge injustice found in traditional, institutionalized nursing homes.

Our NASW Code of Ethics includes the principles of social justice and dignity and worth of the person—two facets which culture change strives to accomplish for the aging population. The Code of Ethics also calls us to engage in social and political action—making us all responsible for challenging the injustice that is ageism and the unethical treatment of the elderly.

These changes lie in the hands of both social workers within and outside of the long-term care field. For those who work in the long-term care field, I encourage you to pursue leadership roles within your agencies. Become directors or administrators, and help to create culture change within your community. Become involved in the policy area, working to amend policies and regulations at the state and federal level to facilitate culture change as a larger movement. For all social workers, become a driving force in the re-valuation of our aging population. Help to diminish the stigma and attitudes against the elderly. Help to recreate a sense of dignity and worth for all older adults. Will you become a “follower” of the culture change movement—and “lead” it to success?


Infoplease. (2013). Life Expectancy at Birth by Race and Sex, 1930–2010. Infoplease.com. Retrieved October 17, 2013 from, http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005148.html.

NASW (2008). Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. National Association of Social Workers. Retrieved October 17, 2013, from https://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/ code/code.asp.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (2013). Five key facts about the delivery and financing of long-term care services and supports. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved October 17, 2013, from http://kff.org/medicaid/fact-sheet/five-key-facts-about-the-delivery-and-financing-of-long-term-services-and-supports/.

The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. (2013). Culture Change. The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. Retrieved October 17, 2013, from http://www.ltcombudsman.org/issues/culture-change.

Are we truly embracing and celebrating diversity or is it still just plain old tolerance?

In the multicultural society we live in, a commitment to diversity is essential but even though diversity appears high on our “to do” list, many organizations struggle embracing diversity fully.

Most organizations have some form of a diversity statement, from schools to Fortune 500 corporations to non-profit agencies, but many of these diversity statements sound somewhere along the lines of “we are committed to diversity and tolerance. We do not discriminate. We are accepting of all individuals regardless of their background”. But many organizations do not seem to fully elaborate on this causing me to ask myself “What does a ‘commitment to diversity’ mean? What does this look like? How does this organization embody this ‘commitment’, if at all”? Unfortunately, in my experience, I have found that many organizations not only fail to elaborate on their diversity statement, they also fail to execute it.

Throughout my life, I have dealt with my fair share of organizations talking the diversity talk but not walking the diversity walk. For example, the private high school I attended overwhelmed me with information about their love for diversity and how hard they work to ensure a safe environment for all. On paper, the schools commitment to diversity seems perfect with key phrases such as an “ongoing dedication to social, economic, and racial diversity” and a “vibrant yet comfortable atmosphere” for all populations. But the school did not live up to their diversity statement in a variety of ways. One example of the downfall included a Junior Class “Unity Event” called “Hip Hop Day” which allowed the entire junior class to come to school draped in gold chains, baggy jeans and sweats, backwards snap-backs, and essentially any other stereotypical thug or hood attire they could think of. The staff at the school fully backed this idea and thought it was a way to encourage the students to explore other cultures but they failed to see how this creates an extremely uncomfortable atmosphere for many of the students coming from more diverse backgrounds.

Although this is an extreme example, I have also worked in non-profit organizations and larger corporations that claim a strong commitment to diversity on paper but have a lack of diversity in the office; many of these places have a more tolerant atmosphere around diversity as opposed to an atmosphere which celebrates diversity. I am sure I am not the only person who has dealt with organizations claiming diversity but not living it, so I wonder why walking the walk is such a difficult challenge for some. “The Voice of Nonprofit Talent: Perceptions of Diversity in the Workplace” reports that “while almost 9 out of 10 employees believe their organization values diversity, more than 7 out of 10 believe their employer does not do enough to create a diverse and inclusive work environment” (Schwartz et. al., 2012). In my opinion, diversity should be seen as a true asset to an organization because it brings in a variety of different ideals, backgrounds, opinions, experiences, and opens the door to so many more possibilities. To create this diversity, the organization must have a culture that truly values these differences but what can we do to get to that point?

I know there are many organizations out there with great diversity statements that are fully embodied by the organization and have an inclusive work environment but it is clearly still an issue for many so I ask, “why is the execution of diversity statements so severely flawed”?

Regardless of our setting, most social workers are engaged in work related with diverse populations dealing with oppression and social justice. In my short experience in social work, I have worked as an ally and advocated for marginalized groups. I have also learned to recognize my privilege and use this to help advance the rights of those without but how can we assist with issues in the community related to injustice when some of our agencies struggle internally with the same issues? I bring in this statistic from the Voice of Nonprofit Talent because I feel so much focus on diversity has been placed upon larger corporations such as Fortune 500 companies (http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/boardroom-diversity-at-a-standstill-in-fortune-500-companies-219768481.html) but these large corporations are not the only places struggling to embody their diversity statement. Non-profit organizations struggle with this as well. What can we, as up and coming leaders in the field of social worker, bring to these agencies to improve their commitment to diversity since in many organizations our current diversity leadership strategies are failing? How will we ever fully reach the point of appreciation and value rather than just tolerance? “The Voice of Nonprofit Talent: Perceptions of Diversity in the Workplace” offers suggestions such as having open conversations around diversity and communicating the company’s vision which is a great starting point but is it enough?


Schwartz, R., Weinberg, J., Hagenbuch, D., & Scott, A. (2012, May). The voice of nonprofit talent: Perceptions of diversity in the workplace. Retrieved from http://www.cgcareers.org/diversityreport.pdf

Fresh Faces, Fresh Ideas, and Fresh Produce: Why new social workers need to stand up for food equality

We are in the midst of a global food crisis, and it seems that social workers haven’t taken much notice. Food justice is an issue of poverty, race, and health, I mean, justice is right there in the name. The prevalence of food deserts, the unsustainable nature of the corn and soy industry, and the exploitation of conventional farm workers has become a major concern of farmers, policy makers, and  EBT recipients, but still, there seems to be a serious lack of social workers tied to this concern.

That being said, i’ve based this assumption on the lack of literature and internet content expressing food justice as a social work issue, but to confirm this conviction, I’d like to ask you:

So what exactly is food justice? In short, it is the fair distribution of the benefits and burdens of the food system.

Health disparities like obesity and diabetes are higher in both low-income populations and populations of color, this is NOT a coincidence. Maybe we have normalized the abnormally high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in our country and chosen to ignore the unproportional amount of those statistics that belong to underprivileged populations.

Margaret Wheatley explains that  “When chaos erupts; it not only disintegrates the current structure, it also creates the conditions for new order to emerge” (2006).

Despite our inability to see it, chaos has erupted in our food system and it is only getting worse. From tackling the Monsanto monopoly, to reducing unhealthy fast food consumption, to exposing the exploitation of immigrant and migrant workers, social workers are the perfect candidates to create change!



We must be transformational leaders, visionary leaders, and advocates for justice.

Characteristics of a visionary leader:

  • Use a vision to promote what followers are being led toward
  • Motivate followers to believe in and want to work toward the vision themselves
  • Operate in terms of WE, not us vs. them
  • utilize a hands on approach with followers

(Korotkin 2013)

Creating a movement for change: While there are social workers that express an interest in supporting food justice goals, the incorporation of these goals into on-the-ground alternatives is lacking. This opens the door to new social workers to take on transformational roles. Experience may make our practice stronger, but looking at the same problem for 20 years may hinder your perspective. It’s like when you concentrate too long on the spelling of a word, and suddenly nothing appears right, the word itself just seems wrong. I think this is often what happens when analyzing and understanding social problems. The ramifications of food inequality, hunger, poor health, unfair wages can all be seen separately, or they can be grouped together, as the result of a flawed  agricultural and food system.

So, how do you get people and other professionals to listen?

Great leaders consistently seek out new and innovative ways to accomplish work. They conclude that no matter how poorly a system is working, it can be turned around and no matter how well a system is functioning, it can always be made better.

Timothy Thomas of Makarios Consulting has this to say about creating change in a seemingly stubborn field:

  1. Make adjustments gradually. You can change a car’s direction by spinning the wheel in a violent 180-degree turn, or you can take your time and swing around in a gradual circle. Gradual changes are usually easier on people, simpler to put into action, and more effective in the long-run.

  2. Create small wins. If entire processes, practices, or organizational structures need to be overhauled, be sure to create small wins along the way to encourage employee motivation, keep people on target, and provide a sense of accomplishment.

  3. Learn through mistakes. Remember that not every idea, plan, or change initiative will be successful. Mistakes will be made.

  4. Failures will happen. When that is the case, view mistakes as opportunities for learning and not as reasons for blaming or bludgeoning people. The question is not “Who screwed up?” but “What can we learn?” In this atmosphere, mistakes and failures become the keys to success, because people at every level of the organization are confident that they can seek for improvements without putting themselves in personal jeopardy – even if their efforts are not successful.

(Thomas 2008)

Never settle for the status quo. Never hesitate to break new ground.



Forbes Magazine attests that getting people to listen can be boiled down to a three-step process:

1. Listen: If you want people to listen to you, you must give them the same respect.

2. Cut to the chase: Over-explaining will lose the  interest of your listener.

3. Read the Room: If you  find people not listening, stop talking. Ask questions and find out what they want to hear and cater to their interests.

(Forbes 2012)

In a critical analysis of the food system, Allen says this:

“Academics can challenge ideological categories of inquiry and problem definition, include justice factors in defining research problems, and develop participatory, problem-solving research within social justice movements.In addition, scholars can educate others in their community about the power of epistemologies, discourse, and ideology, thereby expanding the limits and boundaries of what is possible in transforming the agrifood system” (Allen 2008).

This advice can be applied not only to  food justice but to the profession of social work as a whole. Social Workers, like us, have an important role in calling out social justice issues and developing the critical thinking skills that can redress inequality in our society.

The solution to upholding food justice: Well, it’s not entirely clear. Localizing food, increasing access to fresh produce, and more strictly regulating the production of GMO corn and soy is a start, but we need leaders in social work,  not just farmers to take this initiative.

Developing new leadership is important and necessary for the survival of every profession. It falls on the new generation of social workers to step up and WANT to take on  leadership roles.  Energy and passion however, is not enough to convince the older generation of social workers that we are fit to lead.  We must hone our leadership skills and practice transformational leadership in every aspect of our lives.  We have been given the tools and now  it is our responsibility to use them in order to become leaders where none exist.  The first step,  seeing the need for change or reform, and getting involved.

For more information on food justice and how you can get involved check out these initiatives!

Wholesome Wave (http://wholesomewave.org/) is a National Policy Initiative that strives to improve the accessibility and affordability of healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables, particularly in underserved communities.

GrowHaus (http://growhaus.org/) is a Denver based, community driven food justice initiative and indoor farm in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood.





Allen , P. (2008). Mining for justice in the food system: perceptions, practices, and possibilities. Agriculture and Human Values25(2), 157.

Forbes. (2012, April 27). 3 simple ways to get people to listen to you. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2012/04/27/3-simple-ways-to-get-people-to-listen-to-you/

 Korotkin, J. (2013).Theories of Leadership in Social Work [Power Point].

Thomas, T. (2008). Effective leadership: Rejecting the status quo. Retrieved from http://makariosconsulting.com/resources/articles/leadership/effective-leadership-rejecting-the-status-quo/

Wheatley, M. (2006). Leadership and the new science. (Chapter ten: The real world).

Transformational Leadership: Sounds great, now what?


Retrieved from http://in-training.org/cheers-to-old-dreams-and-new-beginnings-675. I picked this because a) I love Calvin & Hobbes and b) Because to me good leadership is as inspiring and full off possibilities as a world freshly blanketed in snow.

Have you ever had one of those moments where two seemingly unrelated things come together in a really cool way?

It happened to me a couple of weeks ago as I was thinking about two of my classes; this class (Theories of Leadership) and Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). I didn’t think a class about clients and a therapy model could inform a class about communities and transformational leadership, but turns out they fit together really well. What a novel way to look at leadership, I thought, patting myself on the back. I must use this for my blog!


Retrieved from http://associatesmind.com/2012/11/28/genius-v-talent/

Turns out, as these things go, I’m not the first person to think SFBT principles make a lot of sense when applied to a transformational leadership model. In fact, I only had to read a few more chapters in Solution Focused Brief Therapy: Its Effective Use in Agency Settings (Pichot & Dolan, 2003) to see that SFBT-informed supervision already exists.

You may be asking yourself why I didn’t just come up with a new topic for this blog.

(It’s because I’m lazy. Shh, don’t tell.)

Because it still makes sense, silly!

A lot of people think the concept of Transformational Leadership and its roots in change, shared vision, energy, optimism, connection, open environment, creativity, and the greater good, among other things, is pretty great (Korotkin, 2013). Myself included. Except I don’t have the first clue as to how one develops these wonderfully abstract things.

Here’s where SFBT comes in. Its theoretical basis and framework gives us tangible tools to build and lead a team with the brilliant components listed above. Hooray!

Here comes the part where I list some of these tools/strategies out for you (from Pichot & Dolan, 2013), so do your happy dance!

  1. Make your expectations clear for the staff. This does NOT mean dictate rules and regulations a la transactional management. What it does mean is let staff know what boundaries they’re working within e.g. they don’t get to break laws even if that would makes things easier sometimes. A realistic and honest leader builds trust and authenticity between staff members.
  2. Set the standards high for yourself and your staff. Again, I’m not talking performance evaluations where people get promoted or fired. This just means that vision transformational leadership is all about should be as grandiose and miraculous as the staff can dream it to be. SFBT with clients starts with the miracle and works backwards (i.e. Live in the future-as-present and ask: What had to be in place for this miracle to take place?). SFBT supervision is not different. Let your staff know they can creative and try new things!
  3. Make making mistakes safe. Brené Brown, one of my favorite social workers, says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change” (2010). If people allow themselves to be vulnerable because making a mistake isn’t treated as a failure but as a learning opportunity, then teams are able to think outside the box, try new things, and promote a “culture of accountability” (Pichot & Dolan, 2003, p. 175)
  4. Ask for feedback even when it hurts. Here comes that culture of accountability again! Asking for feedback (and taking it seriously) allows us to grow, cultivate honesty and trust, and equalize the playing field between the leader and staff members. In this model, everyone, including the leader, gives and receives feedback.
  5. Focus on the miracle even when the present seems overwhelming. “The miracle” is SFBT talk for the vision and end goal. Basically the team can’t lose sight of its vision, no matter what. It’s up to the leader to promote it energetically and consistently, even in the midst of budget cuts and staff turnover. If a team and its leaders lose sight of the overall goal, they might be able to keep functioning with less money and new people, but to what end?

I’ll stop there, but if you want to explore this approach and how it might apply to your personal and professional life further, I invite you to read the book I drew from, or even take the SFBT class here at DU. Leadership “theories” can come from so many unexpected places. Keep your eyes and mind open—who knows what you’ll find!


Brown, B. (2010, June). Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

Korotkin, J. (2013).Theories of Leadership in Social Work [Power Point].

Pichot, T. & Dolan, Y. (2003). Solution Focused Brief Therapy: Its effective use in agency settings. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Clinical Practice Press.

Power for Change

You can lead a horse to water…

but you can’t make her drink.

Why are you leading the horse?!

Workers set out in a helping profession with great intentions, values and motivations to participate in improving circumstances for others. In any act of helping we are a leader, whether we are working with a friend, a client, co-workers or an entire organization. How we lead in those moments; how the other(s)/follower(s) experience our leadership depends entirely on our use of power. The nature of the power relationships present in the helping moment(s) can make or break successful outcomes of that relationship.

Let’s think about our horse. The proverb tells us that the horse is going to do whatever it wants to do, regardless of what you think it ought to be doing. But as a caseworker friend of mine pointed out, how do you know the horse wants water? Maybe he wants to nibble on dandelions instead. So when you’re treatment planning or goal setting with a client, or planning organizational strategy, or preparing a policy proposal (translate this scenario into whatever suits you best), think hard about how you decided what the plan was going to be. Who did you ask for input? Whose experiences, wants and desires did you consider?

The presence of power in leader/follower relationships is traditionally defined in two ways: Power “over” and power “with.”

Power over: the other (client/follower) experiences a coercive and corrective relationship with the leader, feels only free to follow direction as provided by the leader. The follower’s experience is negative, not necessarily the leader’s intentions. This is what the horse is going through.

power over
power over

Power with: the other (client/follower) experiences a supportive relationship with the leader, and feels she contributes decisions and valuable expertise to the project at hand. This would have been the driving factor if the horse had been asked what she wanted.

power with
power with

I do not think that these power positions are either-or. Leadership needs shades of grey. After all, a leader is still in charge, and therefore doesn’t fully shake “power over” (yes this position excludes consensus leadership models and other exceptions). The anti-poverty/self-sufficiency program I work with for example, is built around supporting the client’s own vision for her future, yet still has one specific “power over” goal: enable the client to be completely off government assistance, and inspire the client to move to middle class.

“Power with” however, is critical. Without it one cannot successfully engage others, create effective connections, foster ownership in a change process or fully share a shared vision. I also believe that in order to have “power with,” both leader and follower need to experience some level of having power “over” within at some points in their relationship. When a client chooses to say no she still is experiencing “power over” in that moment, even though “power over” may immediately shift to the worker if no brings negative consequences.

To fully encompass all the nuances of the power relationship, the concept “power with” can be further refined. I would add two additional ingredients to the power relationship stew:

Power to: This is about individual potential, and each person’s ability to make a mark on the world. Support from others allows “power to” to coalesce into “power with.”

Steve Jobs on “power to:”


Power within: “Power within” comes from having a vision of yourself and believing that you are a valuable person. To construct that vision we use imagination, hope and confidence that we are and can be as we want to be. Cultivating “power within” is rooted in the ability to maintain respect for others, to base one’s sense of self on oneself and not in opposition to another. “Power within” expresses dignity and identifies the individual as the expert in her own life.

power within
power within

Leaders who recognizes “power over” and use it wisely, who seek first to act from a “power with” position, who cultivate and champion “power with” and “within,” support the foundation for social change… they foster


I can’t think of a better kind of help for a helping professional to offer. An empowered individual has agency to act and confidence to take action. Without individual empowerment there can be no collective action for change, only the individual activities of an individual leader. If we want to provide help that is sustainable, valuable, and actually helpful, we need to mobilize others to take action. A power-conscious leader doesn’t lead the horse to water. She empowers the horse to identify what she is hungry for, then works with the horse to devise a means to satisfy the horse’s hunger.

The challenge is to understand that power exists in all relationships and to seek it out. In my view, the ability to recognize power relationships and cultivate positive interactions with them, from them and through them is at the heart of transformational leadership. And isn’t helping someone simply the act of taking part in transforming that person’s situation into what she wants it to be?

What do you think about power analysis? What barriers do you see to embracing this power relationship model?

You can dig deeper into power analysis here: www.powercube.net


A. Moya, personal communication, October 4, 2013.

D. Green (2013, June 26). Can states empower poor people? [Web log post]. Retrieved from: http://www.oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/?p=15041

Korotkin, J. (2013). Class lecture week 2 [PowerPoint slides].

Nieto, L. (2010). Beyond Inclusion, Beyond Empowerment, a Developmental Strategy to Liberate Everyone. Olympia: Cuetzpalin.

Expressions of power (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.powercube.net/other-forms-of-power/expressions-of-power/

The Masochistic Badge of Honor

Masochism is defined as the enjoyment of pain, or the pleasure that someone gets from being abused or hurt (Merriam-Webster).

Honor is defined as respect that is given to someone who is admired, has a good reputation, demonstrates good quality or character as judged by other people, or high moral standards of behavior (Merriam-Webster). 

It’s not often that the combination of these two words can be applied to a description, but a standard within human service industries have created a system of masochism that is so admired by other people that this behavior is almost promoted and contagious amongst workers. They all want to wear this “masochistic badge of honor.”

Generally a “badge of honor” is earned through admirable performance in extremely stressful or dangerous situations. Human service workers also perform in high stress and dangerous situations frequently. However, these workers are never given formal badges. No certificates, no ceremonies, no fan mail. Instead, they are rewarded with more work, more responsibility, and more hours. These workers eventually transcend the battlefield, and are launched into the ranks of “leadership.”

These “leaders” may even perceive that they are participating in some sort of servant leadership because they are constantly serving others. However, the key difference between this type of leadership versus servant leadership is that servant leaders make a conscious choice to take on a leadership role (Haskett, 2013 & Greenleaf, 1970) They serve their clients around the clock, they make themselves available to other workers almost twenty-four hours a day, and they help their units or employees with the situations that were so complicated and stressful that the employee was not able to bear the weight of the case alone.

Now, this badge isn’t something that comes with a cash prize, and generally very little benefits. In fact, it comes with some thing that could be qualified as almost the exact antithesis of a benefit — many drawbacks.

Many leaders fall victim to secondary trauma, burnout, fatigue, weight gain, and medical issues. If that’s the case, then this form of servant leadership isn’t sustainable. No leader would be able to stay in their position long enough to develop the deeper relationships and understanding to inspire, motivate, and create large or lasting change within their agency.  That’s the major difference between a servant leader and a transformative leader: the servant leader’s ultimate goal is to “support the self-actualization of its followers”, whereas transformational leaders are motivated to achieve organizational goals (Smith, 2005).

So when will the field of social work change? When will these servant leaders come to realize that they may not necessarily be leading at all, but rather, preventing the imminent and larger changes that need to happen to better serve themselves, their employees, their clients, and the larger community? 


Heskett, J. (2013). Why isn’t servant leadership more prevalent? Forbes. Retrieved

From http://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2013


Meriam-Webster (2013). “Masochism.” Retrieved from http://www.merriam


Meriam-Webster (2013). “Masochism.” Retrieved from http://www.merriam


Smith, C. (2005). Servant leadership: The leadership theory of Robert K. Greenleaf.

Management of informational organizations. Retrieved from http://www.carol



Where are social workers in the abortion debate?

Image retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/26/abortion-clinic-closures_n_3804529.html

It’s been 40 years since the Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to choose in Roe v. Wade, however the past three years have been steps backward in women’s reproductive rights. Over 50 clinics have closed since 2010, severely limiting a woman’s access to obtain the medical services she needs. As social workers, many of us will see women in these circumstances and it is our role to be committed to clients and their decision making processes. But where are social workers when a 16-year-old girl is denied an abortion because she is in foster care and lacks parental consent? (Court Says Nebraska Teenager Too Immature to Decide on Abortion) When she is fully aware of the financial burden of raising a child and reasonably states she couldn’t “be the right mom that [she] would like to be right now?”

Abortion has become a moral debate, and “working with people is moral work” (Manning, 2003, p. 23). Manning (2003) states that “human service organizations in the voluntary and private sectors have moral roles as leaders” and a professional code of ethics is meant to guide moral decision making (p. 27). In fact, “social work leadership is the communication of vision, guided by the NASW Code of Ethics, to create proactive processes that empower individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities” (Manning, 2003, p. 50).

When asked about the link between social work ethics and reproductive justice, Maggie Rosenbloom, founder of Social Workers for Reproductive Justice, sent me a link to a recent piece in the magazine Social Work Helper. Here she states that,

“For me the issue has always come down to self-determination. The National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics (2008) states that social workers are ethically obligated to respect their clients’ right to self-determination in decision-making. This means that when in practice a social worker should support a client who has chosen to engage in sex, use contraception or have an abortion.”

Social workers also have an obligation to the broader society too, as the “ethical is also political” (Manning, 2003, p. 33). Social workers, “should engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services, and opportunities they require to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully. Social workers should be aware of the impact of the political arena on practice and should advocate for changes in policy and legislation to improve social conditions in order to meet basic human needs and promote social justice” (Workers, 2008). Then why aren’t social workers speaking out against the laws the limit women’s access?

“Omitting such important issues as reproductive health and justice from social work curriculum harms the mission of the profession” states Maggie. “While the National Association of Social Workers has policies that support reproductive health services that include abortion, it has done little to educate social workers on the importance of full-spectrum family planning or to advocate for increased abortion access in the United States. I hope that SWRJ can fill that gap.”

Social Workers for Reproductive Justice came out of an assignment in graduate school. Recognizing a lack in social work leadership in the reproductive justice field, she stepped up as a leader to make a change,

“SWRJ was an idea I had for an assignment in my Resource Development class during my last semester of the MSW program. It was to do strategic planning either for an existing agency or to come up with an idea for an agency of our own. My first field education internship for my Master of Social Work program was at a low-barrier emergency homeless shelter for women that was run by a faith-based agency. The agencies policies stated that employees and interns of the agency were prohibited to discuss contraception and abortion with the shelter residents, and were actively discouraged from referring clients who may have asked for such resources to outside agencies. SWRJ came out of that conflict I saw between social work practice at some agencies and the NASW Code of Ethics; particularly, the section on client self-determination. After completing the assignment and receiving my MSW I continued to work on the development of this organization.”

Will you join Maggie and I in supporting women’s reproductive justice?

Connect with SWRJ,

online: http://swrj.org/

on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SocialWorkersForReproductiveJustice

on twitter: @SocialWorkersRJ, https://twitter.com/SocialWorkersRJ


Bassett, L. (August 26, 2013). Anti-abortion laws take dramatic tolls on clinics nationwide. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/26/abortion-clinic-closures_n_3804529.html

Lupkin, C. (October 9, 2013). Court says Nebraska teen too immature to decide on abortion. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/court-nebraska-teenager-immature-decide-abortion/story?id=20507284

Manning, S. S. (2003). Ethical leadership in human services: A multi-dimensional approach. Boston: Allyn & Bacon

NARAL CO (2013). Current laws. NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. Retrieved from http://www.prochoicecolorado.org/in-our-state/current-laws.shtml

West, R. (March 21, 2013). Interview with Social Workers for Reproductive Justice Maggie Rosenbloom. Social Work Helper. Retrieved from http://www.socialworkhelper.com/2013/03/21/interview-with-social-workers-for-reproductive-justice/

Workers, N. A. (2008). NASW Code of Ethics (Guide to the Everyday Professional Conduct of Social Workers). Washington, DC: NASW.


Co-director leadership : How effective is it really?

Boss vs. Leader

I’m sure you are all familiar with the situation in which you feel as though your eyes are engaged in a ping-pong match and your head is turning so fast you feel your neck starting to hurt…and all the while one of the players keeps testing their opponent until that person cracks… welcome to co-leadership.

I love referring to co-director leadership with that phrase adults were telling you the whole time you spent growing up: sharing is caring. Is it? If sharing is caring, then all the co-directors in the world would “share away” their tasks. Literally. So how does a team create the perfect balance of both leadership and coordination?

To be an effective co-director, a person first needs to understand themselves. Then and only then can an individual attempt to share leadership. For example: I would make a great co-director in that I hate being the one to make the decisions. Share my leadership? Perfect! But that other person would become distraught at both my disorganized brain patterns and my organized chaos system of functioning. Want to be co-directors anyone? But seriously, I know that I cannot function with another person who has a place for every piece of paper and a sticky note for every thought that passes through their head. Every time I make a to-do list, I lose the list and make another one that says something to the effect of “Today: find the list from yesterday.”

As a class we reviewed the concept of “shared leadership” in that the creation of a hierarchy is irrelevant.  Rather, tasks are taken on by those who feel able and willing to complete them.  This has been my experience working under a co-director team.  Shared leadership also works to encourage the other team members to actively participate and hold a role for themselves.  While this concept may seem great and empowering and wonderful for small nonprofits where every individual member is expected to contribute, it has some serious loop holes.

-Korotkin, J. (2013, September). Leadership approaches. Unpublished manuscript, University of Denver,Denver, CO/US.

How could there be loop holes in a model where everyone holds an enormous amount of responsibility?  Would it not be obvious who dropped the ball?  In a co-director model, it usually works out that the directors are polar opposites.  This, at least in my experience, has meant that one person has to play the parent and the other gets off relatively scotch free.  By playing the parent I mean that that director is constantly checking in with the other one to make sure that that person actually completed the tasks that they said they would.  And the director who is not in the parent role usually tries to pawn their unwanted tasks off to other members of the team.  And because the entire team is encouraged to work like a team, this method usually is successful (the pawning of tasks that is).

Another issue of co-director leadership can be seen in their disagreements.  Unfortunately, these disagreements hardly go unnoticed.  And quite frankly, they affect the morale and the atmosphere of the space in which that team functions.  So rather than working to present a united front, the organization is being torn apart at the seams from inside!  This is a complicated matter that causes burn out at a much faster rate than normal.

Again, this has been my experience.  How have others seen a co-director model at work?  Do you feel it has been effective or detrimental to the organization?

I have seen the co-director style of leadership work very effectively as well.  In times where the decision is simply too big for one person, having another individual to tag-team can come in handy.  It also makes a big difference to have another person or persons to bounce ideas off of to try to find the best solution possible.  The co-director model also makes the leaders of a team more accessible.  This aids in the whole team being able to work as one efficient unit.

So you tell me: co-director model or no?


A Case For More Female Leadership In Social Work

Throughout my life, strong, ambitious, and independent women have always surrounded

me. I attended an all-girls school from 3rd grade until 12th grade, and in college,

majored in a social work program with only 1 male student at an undergraduate

institution with a 70/30 female/male ratio. Now, as a social work graduate student, I still

find myself surrounded by mostly other women in my classes, internship, and work. The

only exception I have found in my female dominated world is in higher up leadership



In every place that I have worked or interned at, every Executive Director, CEO,

President, or Board Chair is a man. When I first started recognizing this, I was surprised.

I knew that this occurred often in other types of professions, but in social work, a

typically female dominated profession that advocates for social justice and equality? I

was dismayed to say the least. After researching some more, I learned of a study by the

National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) Center for Workforce Studies (2006)

that demonstrated that male social workers still earn more than female social workers

who are equivalently employed.


Retrieved from http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=gender+gap+in+leadership+roles&FORM=HDRSC2#view=detail&id=E3964C6232D8EA1AB6ED046C9F09F98113D4C2BF&selectedIndex=29


My optimistic, enthusiastic, fresh from the classroom perspective darkened. In a

profession that advocates for social justice and equality, why are we not living up to our

own values, and having people of all (or neither) genders in leadership positions? Why

are male social workers getting paid more than women? Shouldn’t we be modeling what

we stand for?


I would reason that not only do social work organizations need to balance the genders in

leadership for equality reasons, but also that more female leadership may allow for more

effective service delivery, vision and social change. Colarossi, Collins & Lazzari (2009)

argue that feminist principles are closely aligned with social work values and that social

work is inherently feminist. Principles like empathy, relationships, social justice, and

empowerment are central to both feminism and social work. Similarly, transformational

leadership, one model that many current leaders are striving for, also emphasizes things

like engagement, open discussion, positive relationships and working for the greater good

(Korotkin, 2013).


Retrieved from http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Women+Leadership+Styles&FORM=RESTAB#view=detail&id=E91E07F76DBACE3C189C0F0541075B7A94858632&selectedIndex=0


So will female leaders possess these skills in greater quantities than male leaders?

One study identified nine categories in which women excel as leaders: concern for

people, sensitivity to the needs of female workers, investment in workers, a cooperative

orientation, a global perspective, openness in communication, recognition of inequities,

concern for the quality of the environment, and use of intuition (Dewane, 2008). These

qualities make for a nurturing, receptive, empowering, and inclusive environment, all

important things in social work. But are these things enough to run an organization and

sustain it? Will being a nurturing person help achieve a long-term goal or get things



I do not know the answers to these questions but there needs to be opportunities for me

and other female social workers to find out!



Colarossi, L. L., Collins, K. S., Lazzari, M. M., (2009). Feminist in social work: Where

have all the leaders gone?. AFFILIA: Journal Of Women And Social Work, 24(4), 348-



Dewane, C. (2008). 10 leadership strategies for women in social service management.

Social Work Today. Retrieved from http://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/



Korotkin, J. (2013). Theories of Leadership in Social Work [PowerPoint slides].

Retrieved from https://blackboard.du.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-394072-dt-content-rid-



National Association of Social Workers (2006). Assuring the sufficiency of a frontline

workforce: A national study of licensed social workers. Washington, DC: NASW.

The Glass Cliff

In class a few weeks ago, we were to think of a several people in our past and today who have inspired us.  It was a pattern among the class that the inspirational leaders were a majority women.  Granted, there were no males in the classroom which makes a difference I’m sure.  Yes, I understand that social work is a marginally female profession, however, leadership roles have historically been dominated by males.  This triggered an interest to check out some literature about gender differences and leadership. I found several topics that peaked an interest in me, but one that stood out was the concept of a “glass cliff”. We have all heard I am sure of the term glass ceiling referring to the barriers women face in obtaining leadership roles.  One other term that had been used, and I some might be familiar with in the social work field is the tem “the glass escalator”, referring to males in female dominated roles such as social work and the barriers they face in working to remain out of administrative and leadership roles (Williams, 2011).  The glass cliff was not familiar to me and I was curious to learn more. The glass cliff refers to the idea that women are more than males to take on a leadership position in a time of crisis, rather than success, of an organization.  Taking on such roles in a time of crisis of an organization can then set this person up for higher risk of failure and make future leadership roles even that much more difficult to obtain (Bruckmuller and Branscombe, 2010). 

Some other readings suggested that women are more desirable in this time for stereotypically female characterizes such as better intuition and awareness to the feelings of others.  In another article (Eagley and Carli, 2003) the author suggested that women are more likely than men to possess characteristics of a transformational leadership such as being supportive and the ability to inspire.  Which people may look for in a leader when they are facing crisis in their organization.  Although it is inspiring to think women have come so far as to break through that glass ceiling, to then fall off the glass cliff, and why that is? Are women being set up to fail?


References :

Bruckmuller, S. and Branscombe, N.R. (2010). The glass cliff: When and why women are selected as leaders in crisis contexts. British Journal of Social Psychology. 49, 433-451.

Eagly, A.H. and Carli, L. L. (2003) The female leadership advantage: An evaluation of the evidence. The                 Leadership Quarterly. 14, 807-834.

Williams, C. I. (2011). The glass escalator: Hidden advantages for men in “female professions”. In T.E.  Ore (ed.) The social construction of difference and inequality: Race, class, gender, and sexuality           (4th ed.) pp 375-386. New York: McGraw Hill. 

Communication via Technology

REMEMBER the early stages of new technology…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1UY7eDRXrs

and then FINALLYhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXN2Oq3xurM

NOW there is instant access to e-mail, news, people, organizations, and so much more. We can constantly communicate with multiple people at one time whether it is through messaging, e-mail, text messages, or video chat. This has changed the way we communicate with family and friends.


Technology allows us to connect with others, but does it have an affect on our communication skills? How has new technology impacted communication in the workplace?

Cell Phones…

…are everywhere! Leaders have the ability to reach employees anywhere, at any time. It’s a tool to reach us even when we are away from the office. 

“Reaching key employees quickly during a crisis can help prevent problems before they become major, but this constant availability can prove to be a distraction during work hours and an unwelcome intrusion during personal time” (Kazmeyer, 2013). Other forms of wireless technology such as Wi-Fi, provides us with the ability to access our work away from the office and to do work from anywhere. We no longer have to attend meetings that many times take longer than necessary; however, it could impact the connections we have with our colleagues. 

Technology provides us with tools that give individuals a great deal of autonomy, but the dilemma is how do we create ways for individuals to be autonomous without feeling isolated? (Taylor, 2010). 

A suggestion to avoid isolation within the workplace is to:

“Use technology to your advantage. Find ways to include short, efficient conversations that allow you to check in, see how things are going, and provide help when needed. In the right hands, texting with smart phones, virtual meetings via video and web conferencing, and online chat tools can all help create connections and avoid a dysfunctional workplace. It’s not the tool; it’s how you use it” (Blanchard & Blanchard, 2013). 


Interpersonal, face-to-face communication is still IMPORTANT! It is essential in order to build trust, prevent misunderstandings, boost productivity by holding people accountable, and create opportunities for others to become leaders (Johnson, 2013). 

            -BUILDING TRUST: Researchers at Rice University emphasize that eye contact and         speaking easily and confidentially establish credibility, which is essential to being a leader. Impersonal communication techniques such as email and even telephone calls do not evoke the necessary level of confidence for business (Johnson, 2013). 

            -PREVENTING MISUNDERSTANDINGS: Misunderstandings increase without face-to-face communication, which can have serious consequences for leaders. Harvard Business Review cites research showing that face-to-face interaction actually puts people “on the same wavelength” through a connection of neurons (Johnson, 2013). 

Communication will always be important it will look differently for different leaders. It is important for leaders to keep in mind that everyone communicates in various ways. For some, technology works perfectly while others prefer to interact in person. As leaders we must be able to work one-on-one with others and in groups in a manner that the information we are providing is understood by diverse communication styles.

How will you, as a leader, maintain a balance between communication via technology and face-to-face communication? 


Blanchard, K. & Blanchard, S. (2013). The dysfunctionally connected workplace problem–and how to fix it. Retrieved from http://www.fastcompany.com/3018641/leadership-now/the-dysfunctionally-connected-workplace-problem-and-how-to-fix-it.

Johnson, K.S. (2013). The impact of face-to-face communication on leadership. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/impact-facetoface-communication-leadership-52396.html.

Kazmeyer, M. (2013). The impact of wireless communication in the work place. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/impact-wireless-communication-workplace-55252.html

Taylor, A. (2010). The paradoxes of leadership. Retrieved from http://www.artsjournal.com/artfulmanager/main/the_paradoxes_of_leadership.php.

I’m on the Pursuit of Happiness…

And I know everything that shines ain’t always gonna be gold”. In the words of Kid Cudi, we’re all searching for happiness in our life. As I began to look at my previous work and internship experiences, I tried to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of each of these experiences and the leaders I encountered along the way. What stood out to me was how I felt in each of these experiences. To put it simply, the good experiences that stood out involved being happy in the work environment and being surrounded by people who ultimately felt similar to me. While everything may not have always run smoothly, situations were handled properly and coworkers respected each other.  The bad experiences were centered on people who continually complained about what seemed to be every little obstacle that would occur, also known as the “Debbie Downer”. What experiences have you had with individuals of varying happiness levels in the workforce?

 Researchers have found that happiness is the “sense of well-being, contentment, the feeling of living a meaningful life, of utilizing one’s gifts, and of living with thought and purpose” (Phillips, 2013). What do people do that makes them happy on a regular basis? 

Habits of extremely happy people:

Image( Bratskeir, 2013)

1) They cultivate resilience            

2) They are mindful of the good

3) The nix the small talk for deeper conversation

4) They make a point to listen

5) They uphold in-person connections (Bratskeir, 2013)

While these are good theoretical ideas for how to be happy, how can a leader utilize these habits to inspire others? Ultimately, every organization needs individuals to help that company run smoothly. Happy people tend to be those I want to spend my time with and as a leader, I hope to inspire others to be happy with the situation they are in, given both the good and bad times.  

As a class, we have discussed the concept of emotional intelligence. While emotional intelligence encompasses different facets of who you are as an individual, it is the basis for “health, happiness, and success in life” (Cherniss, 2002, p. 3). In order to obtain happiness and be successful, a leader must think beyond the concept of rational thought. In addition to knowing yourself, emotionally intelligent individuals are able to “identify what others are feeling” Cherniss, 2002, p.4). These individuals are able to read both the verbal and nonverbal cues of those around them.

As an individual, I know I want to be that happy person and hope that I have the self awareness to not only understand my personal thoughts and feelings in various situations but I also hope to be able to embody the 5 qualities of extremely happy people to inspire and motivate others around me. Going back to the Kid Cudi quote at the beginning, while everything may not always be good, you have to take the good with the bad on your journey toward the pursuit of happiness.


Bratskeir, K. (2013). The habits of supremely happy people. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/16/happiness-habits-of-exuberant-human-beings_n_3909772.html.

Cherniss, C. (2002). Emotional intelligence and the good community. American Journal  of Community Psychology, 8:1. Retrieved from https://blackboard.du.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-364388-dt-content-rid-1118262_1/courses/2961.201370/Cherniss%20emotional%20intelligence%20and%20community.pdf

 Phillips, S. (2013). The pursuit of happiness: your inalienable right. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/blogs/pursuit-happiness-your-inalienable-right.


Get up and get on with it!

Another evening perusing Facebook and you read the status, (insert college classmate name): “I love my life! Today I got promoted to manager at We’re a Big Deal, Inc! Did I already say that I’m closing on my new house tomorrow? Plus I can’t wait to get married this fall. Life rocks LOL!” Dejected, you close your computer and go to bed hoping to sleep off the frustration of directionless despair.

On September 15, 2013, the HuffPost College ran a blog post by an anonymous writer titled “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy” that creatively explained the equation and reason that Generation Y (described as individuals born between the mid-1970s and 90s) members are struggling. It was provocative and humorous. Essentially we (I must own this generation, fitting niftily into the age span) have been coddled and pampered from childhood on to believe that we, each one of us, is special and handily equipped to save the world (“Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy”, 2013). Characterized by the fictitious Lucy, the author illustrates that Happiness = Reality – Expectations. The problem is that our self-perceived greatness has equated to higher expectations than what reality can offer, our counterparts present perfection on social media, and thus, unhappiness ensues (“Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy”, 2013). 



Image retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wait-but-why/generation-y-unhappy_b_3930620.html

Rewind 8 years. There I was, May of 2005 walking across the stage at my undergraduate college. I had a diploma in my hand and a pocket full of hopes. There is proof! (never mind my friend’s unpaid bills. Details, details.)

ImageNext stop, a voluntary service program equivalent to Americorps that was most assuredly anxious for my well defined skills. 

That fall, November of 2005, USA Today ran an article to warn the leaders of America of our entry into the workforce. Beware these 20-somethings! “They’re young, smart, brash. They may wear flip-flops to the office or listen to iPods at their desk. They want to work, but they don’t want work to be their life” (Armour, 2005). And if that isn’t enough, “Unlike the generations that have gone before them, Gen Y has been pampered, nurtured and programmed with a slew of activities since they were toddlers, meaning they are both high-performance and high-maintenance” (Armour, 2005). In short, Armour explains that we do not like the old run-of-the-mill coercive – “Do it because I said so” – leadership style. Don’t tell me what to do, I have my own grand ideas!

In the past 10 or so years, the world has been trying to figure out how to work with Generation Y. This often comes in the form of frustratingly evaluating the downfalls of our generation. How do we keep them off of their cells phones? How do we engage them in-person like the good old days? And HOW do we remind them that they are not God’s gift to the world? Since Armour’s article was run in USA Today, we have seen great economic downturns. We have seen major layoffs or been laid off ourselves. We have become leaders in organizations. And so has been my life since that glorious, albeit hot, May afternoon of 2005.

So to those leading Generation Y through our first decade of employment I say this. Though not new to this time in history, the world is changing, so please be gracious with us as we all navigate that together. What Generation Y has often struggled with is failure. Not all, but many indeed were sheltered from failure so much so, that when we have experienced failure in our first years of financial independence, we’ve sometimes not known how to get up again. Coach us, guide us, mentor us. And don’t just stop with us. Make this a practice with the employee who is 60 and the child who is 12. Simply telling us what not to do does not guide us gracefully into our own careers as leaders.

Speaking of our own careers as leaders, Generation Y, whether we or the world like it, we are the future leaders. We are the current leaders. It’s true, we are not that special. No, we can’t all save the world with our magic wand. One day the, the Huffington Post will quote great leaders, who are now only beaming with new diplomas fresh off the press and dreams of greatness. Let’s be audacious leaders. Warren Bennis and Joan Goldsmith, authors of Learning to Lead (2010), explain that “when leaders are personally committed to doing the right thing, even in the hardest times they can make a significant difference” (p. 38). What are you committed to members and supports of Generation Y? Regardless of your special status or your modest “regular person” standing, what do you hope will be written about Generation Y’s greatest contribution in 30-50 years? What failure have you seen the world face that you want to turn around.

By all accounts from the HuffPost anonymous blogger’s perspective, Generation Y is tasting failure. Perhaps many of us have been protected from this bitter reality but let’s embrace it. Use it. Move forward with it. If we are the rainbow farting leaders we espouse ourselves to be, we will take each failure dished out to us and learn from it, grow and become better at farting rainbows. A true leader won’t worry herself with what may happen in failed moments, but welcomes such failures with open arms for the opportunities they present (Bennis & Goldsmith, 2010). Let’s be leaders, let’s be followers, let’s fall down, let’s get up, let’s remember our past, let’s embrace change, let’s listen, let’s speak, let’s have hope for the future.


Armour, S. (2005, November 6). Generation Y: They’ve arrived at work with a new attitude. USA Today. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2005-11-06-gen-y_x.htm  

Bennis, W. & Goldsmith, J. ( 2010). Learning to lead: A workbook on becoming a leader (4th ed.). New York: Basic Books.

Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy. (2013, September 15). HuffPost College. Retrieve from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wait-but-why/generation-y-unhappy_b_3930620.html


The ‘Not-So’ Quiet Family

“Excuse me for interrupting, but I’ve been watching your family eat lunch and I find your quietness fascinating. What a special group you are.”

After nearly choking on my food – never in my lifetime had the word ‘quiet’ been associated with my family – I turned my chair in a quaint restaurant on the bay of San Francisco around to put a face with this kind man. We faintly laughed and explained to him we were exhausted from our tourist activities and were simply enjoying our lunch while taking in the scenery. Disregarding our explanation, he went on to recommend we read Quiet, a book that emphasizes the power of introverts in a world dominated by extroverted personalities. We thanked him for the recommendation and his kind words.

Why did I nearly choke on my food? On any given day, my family is FAR from quiet. We are spirited West Texans who have been known to get overly competitive in UNO card tournaments and wager bets on the outcome of our miniature golf games. We wear our western accents loud and our college football shirts proud. We rarely find ourselves at a loss for words, and needless to say – we rarely meet a stranger!

But on this particular day in California, the kind man who interrupted us was not wrong. We were quiet! And for what it was worth, I decided to look into the book he recommended to see what it was all about.

After tying the 2008 financial meltdown to what she deems as ‘reward-seeking tendencies of unchecked extroverts,’ Susan Cain’s Quiet (2012) argues that our economy’s recovery depends upon our nation’s establishment of a greater balance of power.

Who is on the opposite ends of this power spectrum? Extroverts and introverts – those who are quick to speak and act versus those who are inclined to sit back and think. Sandra Arbetter (1991) provides a basic description of the two personality types:


  • recharge their energy by being alone
  • prefer to do their thinking by themselves
  • have their ideas well-developed before publicly presenting them
  • trust their own opinions


  • gain emotional energy from outside world
  • prefer the company of many other people
  • like to talk and sometimes do their thinking out loud
  • prefer the brainstorming approach and enjoy group activities

Screen shot 2013-09-24 at 5.24.43 PMImage retrieved from: http://teachinghighschoolpsychology.blogspot.com/2012/11/introverts.html

Based on my own experiences, it is characteristics of the ‘extrovert’ that seem most appreciated in our society. In job interviews, we are encouraged to speak highly of our accomplishments and qualifications. Being bold, articulate and sociable is often associated with confidence, intelligence and happiness. Having ‘great people skills’ is considered an invaluable asset and something to be bragged about. But should that indicate someone without those traits is less valuable in the workplace?

What about a school setting? In certain classroom environments, participation weights heavily on one’s grade. Will those less willing to share opinions and experiences pay a price?

Cain (2012) provides an insightful context for this conversation through mentioning contributions that self-proclaimed ‘introverts’ have made to our society over the past several decades. It is to revered introverts that we owe great thanks for the mystical worlds of Peter Pan and Harry Potter, the scientific theories of gravity and relativity, and the cinematic masterpieces such as Schindler’s List and E.T. (Cain, 2012).

Introverts contain an innate ability to act slowly and deliberately, and many have the capacity to listen and focus for long periods of time (Arbetter, 1991). Though these ‘qualities’ are often overlooked, they certainly have the potential to provide a nice counter-balance to the more risk-taking, assertive, and dominant traits inhibited by extroverts.

Screen shot 2013-09-24 at 10.41.23 PMImage retrieved from: http://www.in5d.com/are-you-an-extrovert-or-introvert.html

It should be said that my intention of this article is not to exalt introverts at the expense of extroverts. Both bring immense value to a classroom or workplace and thus, beg the need for us as leaders to remain flexible in accommodating these various personality styles in order to reach a healthy and productive balance.

Screen shot 2013-09-24 at 10.39.46 PMImage retrieved from: http://fivetemperaments.weebly.com/introversion.html

Two key elements of transformational leadership include: 1) the need to engage followers in the process of developing a vision for the future, and 2) the importance of encouraging a rich creative process that ignites enthusiasm and motivation (Korotkin, 2013). In order to do these things effectively, leaders must appreciate different approaches to brainstorming and problem solving. In today’s quick-paced world where we see schools and workplace environments more readily accommodating the extrovert ideal, I hope we as leaders can recognize the value in allowing introverts to exercise their ‘quiet power.’

Lastly, while our class is on the topic of self-awareness – I hope you will take a brief moment to answer these 12 questions adapted from Susan Cain’s book. This short, informal quiz will produce a brief personality profile for you. How can this knowledge help dictate your leadership style?



Arbetter, S. (1991). Whats your type? Introverts and extroverts. Current Health, 17 (7), 20-21. Retrieved from http://0-search.proquest.com.bianca.penlib.du.edu/docview/211727334

Cain, S. (2012). Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. New York: Crown Publishers.

Korotkin, J. (2013). Theories of Leadership in Social Work [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://blackboard.du.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-394072-dt-content-rid-1184004_1/courses/2961.201370/Week2Slides%282%29.pdf