News @ Minnesota State University Moorhead

Building a leadership culture on campus

Posted on February 22, 2017

“Although it is true that some people are born with greater natural gifts than others, the ability to lead is really a collection of skills, nearly all of which can be learned and improved.” ~ John Maxwell

As part of the university’s effort to invest in the people who make MSUM a great place to work, John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is gaining steam on campus.

The program grew out of the campus climate survey, which identified the desire to increase empowerment and connection. Charged with the task of identifying a leadership development opportunity to do that were Dean Marsha Weber, Dean Randy Cagle, former Dean Tim Borchers, CIO Dan Heckaman, Interim Dean Denise Gorsline and AD Doug Peters. They reviewed several leadership development-training models, but chose Maxwell’s 21 Laws. Maxwell’s life work is focused on leadership, and he’s written more than 50 books on the topic.

“We chose Maxell because his biggest theme is the critique of positional leadership. For Maxwell, leadership is influence, no matter what position you are in. It seemed like a good model for MSUM to adopt,” said Randy Cagle, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

In summer of 2015, the leadership group facilitated sessions to the entire Administrative Council. That was followed in Fall 2015 with 15 selected participants. A couple of sessions were offered last summer, and by January of this year, more than 50 people completed the Maxwell sessions.

“When we place people in their sections, we are trying to put together people who would never normally be at a table together so they can have frank conversations about successes and failures of leadership in their areas,” Randy said.

Creating a climate of trust and openness is key to the program’s success.

“I feel that deliberately taking time to discuss these principles of leadership, especially with people who have a variety of roles across campus and diverse perspectives, is a good investment in improving not just my ability as a leader but my ability to work positively and productively with others to accomplish the many things we all have to do every day,” said Jeff Bodwin, Dean of the College of Science, Health, and the Environment. “It’s very reassuring to identify aspects of leadership and communication that I am doing well, and it’s equally insightful to critically think about areas that I need to improve.”

This spring, the invitation to participate in the training went to a wider audience with more than 70 people signing up to partake in seven sessions. The sessions are offered on various days and times to accommodate a wide variety of schedules. By the end of the semester, more than 125 people will have completed this leadership training.

But it’s not just leadership development. It’s personal development, notes Career Services Director Troy Nellis.

“No one is effective in all 21 laws. It helps identify your strength areas and hire those that enhance your challenge areas, to develop your best leadership team that will result in organizational success, which is exactly what MSUM is doing,” Troy said. “’None of us is as smart as all of us’” is a resonating quote from John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” he adds.

More sessions will be offered in the coming year, as the goal is to have everyone participate in the program. Please consider signing up for your own personal and professional development.


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