Leadership Challenge #8

Module 13 LdC reflection on provocative question #7

Provocative Question (LdC)

What does the literature suggest we should do to make our conversations about research meaningful to use as change agents/action researchers?   Include Wenger and one other author.  


Reflect on Module 13 LdC Step 3 – determine your leadership challenge

What behavior did you experiment with/try out for your leadership challenge last week?
I considered a model for incorporating research into practice in the form of my Dean’s experience and practice, and reflected on that model in a self- and shared regulation way.

What did you end up doing for your leadership challenge last week?
I had a brief conversation with Adam (aka, the Dean) about how he incorporates research into his practice (he completed his EdD at Western Kentucky in 2014). We then followed up on the conversation briefly several times, both in person and via email.

Reflect on Module 13 LdC Step 4 – assess and reflect on your leadership challenge

How did your change in behavior affect others in your Community of Practice? Tell the story of what happened.
There were three effects: first, an internal one in that I started noticing when people referenced external knowledge in conversation and writing (both implicitly and explicitly); second, my conversation with the Dean prompted him to explicitly reference research in at least one meeting; third, I reinforced with my Dean the shared connection that we have because of our positive orientation toward research, particularly theory-based, rigorous studies outside library science.

Reflect on your experience with the Leadership Challenge for this module.
For some time now I’ve struggled with trying to find the sweet spot between what the leader of a leadership intensive once called “wet dogging” and hoarding the ideas, theories, and information that I’m learning in this program. Wet dogging is when a person gets overwhelmed with exciting new ideas, and shakes them out on everyone around her – much like a dog does when she comes in from the rain. And much like everyone around the dog yells and backs away, so do colleagues who are the “beneficiaries” of all that shaken-off knowledge. However, part of the reason I’m doing this program is to bring back ideas and knowledge to my local context – so hoarding it in my brain is also not acceptable. So, again, I’m trying to figure out where that middle zone is, where I’m able to bring in research to my practice (and not in the form of researching my practice, but of informing it) in a way that is transformative but not alienating.

I asked my dean and friend, Adam, how he goes about doing this. I was rather surprised that he wasn’t able to talk about it well. We had a good conversation about how this is hard, and occasionally in passing he or I would say “Oh, look, we’re referencing research!” However, we never talked about ways that he has found to acceptably bring theories and studies up in conversation or in other areas of practice. Adam writes an occasional all-hands email to the organization in which he puts links to “current reading” at the end – mainly these are trade or popular articles, though. As I noted above, we have also read some of the same books (particularly Bolman & Deal), and that comes up. I’m a little disappointed, though, to discover that he wasn’t able – and, almost, unwilling – to talk about research influencing practice with me. I feel like I leaned in and he leaned away. This could easily be because we had a really rough week, with both of us just back from vacation and a whole day lost to meetings with architects about our building renovation/expansion. Knowing Adam, he’ll wander into my office in a few weeks wanting to talk about it then.

So I feel like I’m still struggling with this question, and I haven’t really found the right person to talk to. I might turn to the Communication Center director, Paul, who is currently working on his PhD in Strategic Leadership at JMU, to see whether he’s been thinking about this topic. I’m feeling a little lonely, to be honest, and like I don’t have a lot of close colleagues with a similar identity to the one I have as a student-practitioner-researcher right now. I mean, it’s not that hard to bring research up – all I have to do is say, “Oh, I just read in my program X,” and people accept that context. What I’m concerned about is how to navigate (negotiate?) that conversation when I don’t have the excuse (context?) of being in a graduate program. How do normal people do this?


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