RLF Recap: "Developing Identities and Capacity to Engage in Leadership for Social Justice"

On October 11, the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows had the privilege of participating in a workshop entitled "Developing Identities and Capacity to Engage in Leadership for Social Justice" with Dr. Kerry L. Priest. Dr. Priest has her PhD and is an Associate Professor in the Staley School of Leadership Studies at Kansas State University. She focuses on how to combine critical perspectives and engaged methods of practice in order to foster conditions for students to exercise leadership, as well as to contribute scholarship that progresses the field of leadership education. Dr. Priest explores the overlaps between leadership development and community-engaged teaching and learning in higher education, specifically through lines of inquiry around leadership identity, leadership educator identity, and leadership educational practices. 

Dr. Priest began the session by suggesting that many of the issues plaguing society today – like climate change and poverty – are the results of failed leadership. It’s not that the technology, or ideas, or structures do not exist to tackle such issues – it’s that today’s leaders are vulnerable to crippling shortcomings like greed, selfishness, and more.  

During the session, Dr. Priest had students brainstorm campus or societal issues in which they felt strongly. Further, students were to ponder why the issue still exists and what the outcome would look like had the limitations vanished. Finally, students were asked to muster up thoughts on obstacles that could result in the perpetuation of failed leadership. Lack of commitment, selfish ulterior motives, burn out, and other characteristics were among some of the explanations students had. With these unfavorable features in mind, students identified reliability, transparency, commitment, and other virtues as necessary for productive leadership. 

The takeaways from this session were both clear and important. Leadership extends beyond the title. Leadership is manifested in the positive virtues that individuals should exhibit every day. Being dedicated, committed, well-intentioned, and transparent in all of our leadership endeavors is crucial towards attaining a particular aspiration. Each and every day, we have the opportunity to either be a learner, ally, advocate, or activist – and regardless of how we choose to face social issues, we must keep the virtues of an effective leader in mind. 

-Written by Al Nafea, Class of 2020 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow

As Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, seniors gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities expected of leaders. As Fellows take part in the workshops, dinner discussions, and team-building exercises, they examine their skills, qualities, and attributes as leaders and analyze how these influence teamwork and achieving goals.