Dr. V. Chunoo (he/his) is an Assistant Professor of Organizational and Community Leadership at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on the cultural aspects of teaching and learning in leadership as well as the social justice outcomes of leadership development programs. V has co-edited Changing the Narrative: Socially Just Leadership Education and Shifting the Mindset: Socially Just Leadership Education. In addition, he is the Associate Editor of New Directions for Student Leadership, the Senior Research Fellow for LeaderShape, Inc., and the host of the NASPA SLPKC Podcast.
Dr. Tony Middlebrooks explores the intersection of leadership, innovation, creativity, and design. He is Clinical Full Professor of Leadership at the Warrington College of Business at Florida. He has taught aspiring leaders from youth through executives, creating a wide range of courses and programs. Dr. Middlebrooks is the lead author of the textbook Discovering Leadership: Designing Your Success, now in its second edition.
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Note: Voice-to-text transcriptions are about 90% accurate, and conversations-to-text do not always translate perfectly. I include it to provide you with the spirit of the conversation.
Scott Allen 0:00
Okay everybody, welcome to the Phronesis podcast. Thank you so much for checking in wherever you are in the world. Today I have two guests. I have Dr. V. Chunoo. And he is an Assistant Professor of Organizational and Community Leadership at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. He teaches courses in leadership communication, leadership ethics, collaborative leadership, and social justice leadership. His research focuses on the cultural aspects of teaching and learning in leadership as well as the social justice outcomes of leadership development programs, V has co-edited ‘Changing the Narrative: Socially Just Leadership Education,’ and ‘Shifting the Mindset: Socially Just Leadership Education.’ In addition, he is the Associate Editor of New Directions for student leadership, the Senior Research Fellow for Leadershape Inc, and the host of the NASPA SLPKC podcast. I also have Dr. Tony Middlebrooks, and he creates programs and tools, designs learning experiences, and explores the intersection of leadership, innovation, creativity, and design. He is a clinical full professor of leadership at the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida. He has taught aspiring leaders from youth through executives, creating a wide range of courses and programs in the process. Dr. Middlebrooks is the lead author of the textbook ‘Discovering Leadership: Designing Your Success,’ now in its second edition. He's published numerous articles and book chapters and delivered hundreds of presentations. He's also the co-author of ‘Public Sector Leadership,’ co-creator of the ‘iDea Fan Deck,’ and ‘Design Thinking Cards.’ And serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Leadership Studies. Dr. Middlebrooks has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Thanks to the two of you for being here today, I think we are going to jump into this fun conversation. It was mentioned in your bio, Tony, that you are the lead author of a new textbook, a second edition of ‘Discovering Leadership: Designing Your Success.’ I was also an author of that textbook. And so, we have been busy, I know this to be true. We've been busy. And an author that we featured throughout was V. And V, thank you so much for being here. We really, really appreciate you taking the time to be with us today. Longtime listeners will know Tony, and we'll get to him in a moment. But V, What do people need to know about you? What do they need to know about you, sir, beyond your bio that we just went through?
V. Chunoo 2:37
Oh, my gosh, that's a good question. So first of all, thanks for having me on the show. Also, thanks for letting me contribute to your work. It's always helpful to see other people who care about the kinds of things that I do. I find that the more I put myself and my own ideas out into the world, the more people gravitate toward me who also want to work together. It does make for a lot of work, right? Like, I’ve been working all the time. I didn't stop myself, but yeah, it's really wonderful to be connected to both of you in this way. What do people need to know about me? That's a great question. So, I'm originally from New York, but I live most of my life in Florida. I lived 25 years in Miami, I have a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from the University of Miami. And unlike lots of other people who, when they graduate, leave their alma maters, I stayed. I stayed on and I was an academic and career advisor in residence for 10 years. So I was a supplemental academic advisor. I had an office on the first floor of a residential college that sat more or less between the front desk of the college and the laundry room. So, I had people coming in and out at every hour of the day, and all kinds of statuses and states. And it was a predominantly first-year student housing building. So, there were 900 first-year students that lived in my building that I would help as they were willing to accept it for 10 years. And the last four years of that, I was also my university's academic ombudsperson. So, helping students work through grievance processes and procedures. And, as an academic advisor, as an academic ombudsperson, I spent a ton of time with faculty; learning about the life of a faculty member, understanding their career paths, and their goals, and aspirations. And for anybody listening, if you're the kind of person who spends a lot of time with faculty, you may have the experience I had, which is, one of them turns to you one day and says, “You should get a Ph.D.”
V. Chunoo 4:26
So, enough people give you this advice over a long enough period of time, I started to believe it. And so, I ultimately applied to and got accepted into Florida State University's Higher Education Ph. D program. So, you can imagine what the transition might have been like, for those of you that are familiar with college football in Florida, to go from the University of Miami to Florida State. Tony, I think, is nodding from his office at the University of Florida, which is also a wonderful school.
Tony Middlebrooks 4:52
Thanks. Thanks for that.
V. Chunoo 4:54
No problem. Go Gators. Go Gators. So, yeah, I was there for five years finishing my Ph.D. I stayed on a little bit after to do some teaching and research work. And then, I got hired here at the University of Illinois in January of 2019. And many of my colleagues who were trying to prepare me for the experience knew I was from New York, and so they would say things like, “Oh, the weather is going to be tough but…” Even my dad told me things, my birthday is in January, he says, “You were born in the snow, you'll be fine.” My first three weekends here were a blizzard, a snowstorm, and a polar vortex, and I started to wonder how normal it was actually in the Midwest for this to happen. Every winter since has been much more manageable. And yeah, as you mentioned before, I teach classes in a variety of topics in leadership, I do research on a few different areas related to cultural reality and leadership, as well as social justice outcomes. I write as much as I can. I find myself doing a lot more editing now than I do writing. And I try to do kind of public-facing things, get myself out of the ivory tower of leadership education as much as I can. So, I do things like host podcasts, and present at conferences. And I also do workshops and retreats with the Illinois Leadership Center, trying to get kind of my take on leading, how we prepare leaders, and how much of every form of leadership is actually teaching people to either be just as good as we are, if not better, as possible. My spin on all of this is about making the world a fairer, more equitable, and more just place where more people have protections to be either who they already know themselves to be or to continue to explore who they want to become in the future. And I think that, in many regards, the way that we do that is through leadership. If we're going to save people from the nefarious forces of the world, what better shield to take into those conversations, into those situations, in some cases, into those battles, and those protests than the shield of leadership? I'm not sure if that's everything people need to know about me, but I'm sure that's enough for right now.
Scott Allen 6:49
(Laughs) That's great. And I like the phrasing ‘the shield. I like the phrasing there. I love it. Tony, you are a longtime guest of the podcast. I think you might have been in episode seven, or eight, or something like that. And you have the ninth most popular episode ever. So your certificate’s in the mail.
Tony Middlebrooks 7:06
Scott Allen 7:07
It’s coming in the mail. Yes, it's the ninth most popular. And, of course, we recorded episode 150 together, which was a really, really fun conversation. So thanks for being with us today. And any updates that you have for listeners, anything that you want to share with folks that might give them another dimension of you?
Tony Middlebrooks 7:26
Well, a couple of very quick things. First, I'm curious as to what color the ninth-place ribbon is, but I guess I'll be surprised when it comes to the mail.
Scott Allen 7:35
Yeah, it's like a taupe.
Tony Middlebrooks 7:39
Yeah, that's excellent. And I'm thrilled to be at the University of Florida. I absolutely love it. Here, V and I have switched locations. V, my first three weekends here, it was hot, hot, and hot. So, I believe I truly was born in the snow up in Wisconsin, and I'm very happy to be here. Some amazing people, amazing culture, fantastic potential. And, Scott, you know this V, you know this, all three of us share the goal of trying to maximize the value that people bring to themselves and to maximize their impact in whatever world that they operate in. So, the whole purpose of writing this textbook, the whole purpose of bringing V and our other guest authors into this project, was to really try to help folks understand the practical importance of leadership and creativity. That's kind of been my life goal at this point. Add a little bit of each of those to whatever world you operate in, and you will find your unique value add. So, beyond that, Scott, thanks for continuing to bring me on the show despite the bad audio. Eventually, I'll buy a real microphone, I suppose. V, endless thanks for your work in adding to this textbook. I'm eager to get into the conversation about content.
Scott Allen 8:59
Well, it's interesting, I'm reading the 2023 version of ‘The Leadership Challenge,’ Kouzes and Posner. And the first addition to that book, I think, was in 1985. I have a conversation coming up with Jim Kouzes to talk about this most recent version of the textbook. It's fascinating to have a conversation with him about how things have shifted since 1985. The model hasn't shifted, but the context around us has shifted in any number of ways. And Tony, it was pretty fascinating to observe that even in our own work on this text, where the original version comes out a few years ago, and then we get to this version and so much has changed. And as we started talking about the importance of having conversations around DEI in the text, V's name was one of the first to come to our heads. And, of course, we approached him. We reached out, we said, “Hey, would you be interested in doing this,” and weaving it throughout the text. Next not having a chapter, something specific focused on DEI, but entering that conversation throughout. Right, Tony?
Tony Middlebrooks 10:09
Absolutely. And I think three of the things that really changed over the course of while we were updating this; one was that we had to figure out how to deal with crises. And so, we invited an expert on that. Two, we found that a lot of people were questioning what their purpose was because they were either losing jobs, or pivoting within jobs, or deciding to retire and do something different. And so, we added to that. Most importantly, throughout the entire text, was this notion of impact, and the conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how those could be practically applied to maximize what you were trying to do as an organization. So, that's the great value that V brought.
Scott Allen 10:55
Exactly. And there's one other little subtle shift, Tony, that I want to make sure we highlight. Ired Shaylaf and Sharna Fabiano wrote the foreword of the book, and they're followership scholars. So, out of the gates, we're starting to elevate and really increase this whole conversation around followership as well, which I think was another wonderful shift. And maybe we can get to that conversation with them at some point because it's a wonderful foreword that really puts that front and center. But for today, how would you like to start the line of discussion with V? What do you think, Tony, where would you like to begin?
Tony Middlebrooks 11:30
There are so many things here. I guess, V, what I would like to know straight out of the gates here is, why did you think this was an important and effective use of your time to contribute to a textbook versus all the other things that you do?
V. Chunoo 11:46
That's a great question. And I want to be transparent in that, one of the courses I teach as part of my introduction is a course in collaborative leadership. It's actually the capstone course for the leadership minor at the University of Illinois. And, as I inherited that course, I noticed there were some pieces that were missing. One of the pieces that was missing from that course was a module in systems thinking. So, I shifted the course so that everything that used to get taught in the first 16 weeks, we now cover in the first six. That creates two-thirds of the back end of the course of room. So, I used the middle third of the course for a module on systems thinking. And you can imagine where I'm going with this, the third module of the course was in design. And I was convinced that design thinking could and should be used as a leadership philosophy because of a popular article that I read. It wasn't even a researcher, I think it was just something on a website that said, “Design thinking should be used as a leadership philosophy.” And then I read the article, and I was convinced that they were right. I don't think it should be the only leadership philosophy, but I do think it belongs in the leadership philosophers toolkit, for lack of a better phrasing. And so, I actually used the first edition of the book as part of that module. It was the skeleton from which all of the other conversations, all of the activities, all the interactions, all of the assignments I gave students were born out of. And, in bringing my own lens to that pedagogical experiment in some ways, I was bothered by the fact that the DEI content was missing, and so I stood in the gap. As we were having these interactions, these conversations, doing these assignments, working through these ideas together, I was filling in the gap of, “And if you have this kind of social identity, or if you're a leader who's oriented towards social justice, or if you care about the way social change happens from a diversity, equity, inclusion standpoint, here's how we would have to modify these ideas.” A big part of taking any of my classes and saying, “Okay, here's what the authors have said, what do we agree with? What do we disagree with? And how would we fix it if this was going to be our book, our text, our impact in the world?” And so, in many ways, I was very excited to be invited as part of this because I was already doing the work. All I really had to do was write it down.
Scott Allen 13:57
Well, I have to imagine -- well, and challenge this if it wasn't -- but I have to imagine it was a little bit of an interesting experience taking all of these different topics, and kind of layering that lens on. Was that an interesting exercise for you? Did it challenge you to think about any of these topics in a way, maybe, you hadn't thought of before? I'm just really interested in that.
V. Chunoo 14:20
Oh, absolutely. I don't identify as somebody who had or even still has a great deal of expertise in design thinking, I do identify as somebody who is learning more, trying to take in more information. And so, in many regards, trying to do that integration and trying to do that layering, as you put it, was, for me, both a planful activity to think ahead about what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to say it, and what I wanted students to do with that information. And some of it was live-action improv, asking a student a question that even I didn't necessarily have an answer for, knowing that whatever they said was going to be their truth and their truth is just as valuable in that environment as, say, my truth as the instructor. And so, in many regards, it was exciting, exhilarating, challenging, terrifying to not be able to have that level of control. But what I learned was that, when I treat students as though they are emerging scholars, they show up as emerging scholars, and they start to feel as though their opinions matter, and their voices can and should be heard. And I try to own the fact that my ideas aren't perfect, they're just my ideas. And then, we can sort of polish one another through that dynamic exchange of a writing assignment, a reading assignment, a conversation we have in class, an activity that doesn't necessarily go the way I intended it to, but is in result exactly what that student needed, or that group of students needed. So, in many regards, approaching collaborative leadership from a design orientation required me to exercise some of the principles of design thinking lo and behold. Like being innovative, being creative, being able to take a step back from command and control, and being iterative. I will say, each time I try this, it looks a little bit different. I learn something new and I try to take that learning with me into the next time I do with the next crop of students. And so, in many regards, I get to learn design thinking from my students by watching how they receive the ideas, use them, or not use them, and then iterate on that semester after semester, year after year, class after class.
Tony Middlebrooks 16:14
You and I need to connect on this because I didn't realize you were this deep end of it, and that's kind of my jam. But one of the funny things I'll ask students is “Okay, iteration. When do you stop?” And, of course, the automatic answer is “Never stop,” because they're all in on iteration. And I'm like, “Well, come on, realistically, when does iteration stop?” And they think about it, and eventually, they come around to, “Practically, when you're out of time or out of money.”
V. Chunoo 16:42
Yeah, that's right.
Tony Middlebrooks 16:44
At some point, you need to shift from sling, problem-solving, and creating, to doing, and that's kind of the transition back into leadership from design thinking back into leadership, in a practical sense.
Scott Allen 16:57
I love it. Your feature throughout the textbook is DEI by design. Again, are we designing ourselves? Are we designing our relationships? Are we designing our organizations? And are we designing our leadership in a way that is inclusive? That is equitable? And I think I'm interested in hearing what were some themes that stood out for you as you entered into these different chapters with that lens now. Not only do we have the design lens and the content, but now we have the DEI lens that you are contributing. What was your experience of that?
V. Chunoo 17:34
My thinking, especially around design, is that leadership, design thinking, the human experience, it always gets better when we have better tools, or more tools, or more better tools. And so, as I was thinking about how does this content naturally integrate into what's already there? Where are we going to have to force some things in? Where am I as an author going to have to sit with the dissonance of the reader? Because there's dissonance associated with learning. And if I give somebody an idea, like, “Did you know salience was a thing, and that your social identities have differential importance to you over time and space? Intersectionality is a thing. Society teaches us how to operate, and those rules aren't always great for people, they're just great for the society's perpetuation.” There's discomfort in learning that the world you think you know doesn't operate the way you've been led to believe it functions, and the sharper, stronger, more durable tools you have to understand that the better served you are. So I think, in a lot of ways, what I was trying to do as I teach this content but also contribute to the book is to figure out, “You've just said something to me that may or may not resonate with my own experience of having lived it myself. If that happens to be you, what could you put at your disposal to draw connection between what you just read and what you know to be true from the evidence of your own eyes and ears?” So, in lots of ways, it was me trying to marry those two things that led to this outline of ideas. Just as the design concepts become increasingly more complicated, the social justice concepts had to match pace with that because that was the point, the point was to help marry what you read in black and white pages to the live-action color version of what happens in your day-to-day life. So, even just speaking briefly from a few examples, framework for leadership success, design your core. Core means something very specific in this context. But then, I thought to myself, if this was purely a book on social justice, what is the social justice core? What are the ideas from which all other things must naturally arise if we're going to continue on this journey? So, in that chapter one, I'm talking about things like equality, equity, the comparisons between the two, the differences among them as a core basic understanding of where we go from here. Moving forward into things like perception, you talk about how do we develop a perception of leaders, how we develop perception of ourselves, and how do we draw those ideas toward one another. Well, for me, social justice correlates as identity. You have a social identity, you have a personal identity, sometimes identity is ascribed to you, and sometimes you don't agree with the identities that have been ascribed to you. As I mentioned before, your environment might change what's important to you from an identity perspective. Well, not just like your leadership environment might change what's important to you about leading, or what's important to you, in your followers, or your members. So, that's where the idea is behind identity, identity salience, identity intersectionality, positionality, and social locational came from. And that's what I talk about in chapter two. So, in many regards, I think of it as we're building these two ladders to success for people simultaneously, the benefit I had was that your ladder was built. I could use it as a framework, a blueprint to build my own ladder, but I still had to figure out, “What does this rung offer that the previous or the next rung doesn't?” And how does it help you get from point A to point B to point C, so that, for somebody who goes through the entire text, page by page, chapter by chapter, you end up at the same place in leading and your design orientation to leadership as you do with DEI? And then, all of a sudden, my hope is that, when we stand at the top of these ladders, it doesn't look like two separate ladders, it's one staircase. We have always been connected, we just didn't realize it at the time, and that the process of going through the journey was actually not just building two ladders but integrating them as a full staircase.
Scott Allen 21:29
I love that phrasing. That's just awesome. That's wonderful. And, as you're going through some of these different topics, we've got chapters on ethical decision-making, on power and influence, we've got chapters on any number of different systems, I have to imagine, for you, there was an interesting opportunity to look at some of that content through these lenses. And then, as you said, bring the reader, again, in this case, generally speaking, you have 19, 20, 21, 22 years old for the majority of the courses that would be taking and using this textbook, some graduate courses, some adult learners, of course, you're taking them on that journey. And I love that way of thinking about it. I hadn't thought of it that way.
Tony Middlebrooks 22:14
So, V, were there any moments or examples where, as you were writing about these different topics in DEI and social justice, and trying to tie that back to their practical applications in some of the specific chapters; decision-making, creativity, problem-solving, and such, where you started to look at different perspectives of some of these concepts, and it just opened a different avenue for you?
V. Chunoo 22:46
Sure. So, I think, I don't have the strongest background in, for example, social movements, then that's in part because my training is in things like psychobiology, and mental health counseling, and higher education. I don't have a super strong background in sociology. And I often tell people, if I had my academic life to do over again, I would have done more sociology, and I would have done more philosophy because I think having a background in psychology was great, but groups and teams matter too. Not everything can be isolated down to an individual person, the philosophical side of things really helps us understand the universality of decision-making in a lot of ways. Like, if you think about the major schools of thought in philosophy, that's what they are. It's a typology in decision-making, it tries to answer the question, “How should I live my life?” But so does psychology, so does sociology, so does leadership. And so, to try and answer your question, Tony, the ideas that I tried to bring in that weren't natural ones to me were ideas from sociology and from philosophy. And so, I think, even about, as an example, chapter 10: Utilizing change processes effectively, my DEI correlate for that was about activism and advocacy. And so, being somebody who doesn't have the strongest background in sociology meant I had to, not just pull from that, but be very careful about representing my own knowledge of these topics so that it didn't seem like I was out of pocket with some of the things that I was saying, because the sociologists out there are going to point to this and say, “Well, no, actually, that's not what this means.” And as soon as that criticism is appropriately levied, then every other argument that comes from that piece of knowledge is also questionable now because the origination piece of knowledge is flawed. And the same thing in philosophy. I'm not formally trained in the academic discipline of philosophy, but I love reading books about utilitarianism, and Machiavellianism, and all of the other ways of orienting around decision-making in life. And so, it did require me to step out of my comfort zone, to gain more knowledge and ability, to sit with my own dissonance and learning of, “I think this idea fits this chapter or the thing I want to say, but does it actually?” I need factual information about that. And so, figuring that out for myself helped me make better decisions about what to include, and also what to exclude. Some of my ideas were wrong. And in that investigation, I figured that out, and then, therefore, you won't see that because it's not there because it was wrong.
Tony Middlebrooks 25:00
That's fantastic. You know, I think that's a little-known secret that professors are probably the most consummate learners, really. I take more joy in all the things that I get to learn while prepping and teaching a course than the students probably realize. And so, it's kind of what we do for a hobby, isn’t it? V, I'd like to know if there's a favorite topic of yours, one that really resonates with you through all these different topics that were introduced. It's 16 chapters times multiple concepts per chapter, but are there a couple of favorites that really resonate with you, like the one that you would pull out and say, “You students really, this is going to really have impact for you”?
V. Chunoo 25:46
I want to point out, Tony just asked me to pick my favorite child.
V. Chunoo 25:55
The ones that made it into the book. No, Tony, every of my ideas are good, they're all mine.
V. Chunoo 26:02
That’s a real standard professor answer. I will say there are a few ideas that have stayed with me, in that, I think many of these ideas were things that I wrote about. And because I know them well or work with them often, I don't feel like I need to keep rolling them around in my brain because I've already spent so much time with them. There were a few that were either relatively new to me, or new enough to the world that we just don't know enough about them yet. And I think that there's still space for any of us to step into that gap bravely and say, “This is something I want to continue to research on, this something I want to continue to write on, this is something I want to continue to explore.” And as I'm thinking about that list, in chapter 13, the book talks about designing a culture that cares. And sometimes we talk about emotional intelligence leadership, sometimes we talk about an ethic of care or concern, but it's often on the margins, it's not often central to leadership conversations. And, in preparing that area, I encountered an idea related to radical empathy. And I think that, when I look at the shifting values, especially after COVID, in educational environments, when I look at the shifting values in the workforce, when I look at people managing multiple responsibilities, the burnout that's pushing people away from their commitments, it's often not technical burnout. Things that are causing people to leave their jobs, it’s not that their jobs are hard. Many of these jobs, people have mastery over them by the time they get to a place where they're thinking about leadership. What's burning them out is empathy fatigue, it's the emotional cost of living in our very demanding world. And I continually and routinely try to interrogate my own teaching and the other parts of my job that I do to ask myself, “Am I exercising radical empathy for people in ways that they can receive it?” So, that's a hard question to ask, right? Am I being empathetic in the way that people need me to be empathetic? And then, the really hard question to ask myself is, “Am I being empathetic enough with myself?” And I still, like, I struggle. Every time I ask myself that question, I kind of want to shut down a little bit because it's so hard for me to ask the question on a routine basis, “Am I giving myself the emotional nutrition I need to make it to the next day, the next week, the next class, the next month, the next project next semester?” And I think part of the reason why I shy away from asking the question is because, implicitly, I know the answer is no, and the responsibility that comes with that no. “So, what are you going to do about V?” And I don't know the answer to that question either.
Scott Allen 28:27
You know what? At least you know that that is a question. (Laughs)
V. Chunoo 28:31
Yes, that's right. That's right. One of the values of the struggle is that I identify the question as being meaningful even if I can't answer it. Right.
Scott Allen 28:40
Yeah. I love it. As you look at the text, and as you are going through this, are there elements that you still feel need work? What are you seeing that maybe we aren't as opportunities for other editions or other scholars to really explore? Is there anything that comes to mind for you?
V. Chunoo 29:01
That's a good question. Yeah, there were definitely decisions that had to be made to fit everything into, say, a 16-chapter framework or a textbook framework. I will say, this isn't a direct answer, but it is an indirect answer. One of the things I'm super pumped about is I haven't taught my collaborative leadership course in a world where the second edition already exists. So, I have yet to put this in the hands of my own students and to test it in a real-time live-fire action series of exercises. So I think, in many regards, the way I'm going to figure out what's the new gap I need to stand in as the instructor, or as the facilitator, or as whoever is by watching their reactions and seeing how they make sense of the information because, at the end of the day, I didn't write these sections for me, I wrote it for them. The unknown, unnamed student who's going to one day encounter this in a classroom, in a program, in a workshop, in a retreat. The corporate trainer has to do this for their employees, or for their new hires, or for their people seeking promotion or elevation within the organization. Really excited to say, “Here's something I wrote for some people who are much smarter than me, what do you think about it?” And to figure out what resonates for them, what doesn't. And again, the world has changed so much. Even from when we started this project together to the time when this is going to be on a bookshelf for somebody to pick up and bring home, I'm sure that there are things that we didn't know because we couldn't have known them, which creates opportunities for the third edition, and the fourth edition. And Tony says, “When does iteration stop?” Maybe iteration stops when they stop paying us to write books.
Tony Middlebrooks 30:34
When I retire. (Laughs)
V. Chunoo 30:37
Yeah. And I think that, again, the limitations, the choices, they all matter. And one of the things that I could have maybe done a better job with are these practical stories. Like, what are the examples of this having been tried in an organization, and a community, and a family, and a classroom, wherever leadership happens, and what happened as a result of it? I can explain all of these ideas in isolation and it will make perfect sense, but anybody who's tried to use Google Maps, or Apple Maps to get to an unfamiliar location, you know that there is often a mismatch between the map and the terrain. What I've tried to do is provide as accurate a map as possible, but until it is road-tested until we see how closely it actually mirrors that path that we're trying to take, I'm not sure we will know what all of the gaps are. But certainly, having more practical stories of real-life people who tried these things, and, in most cases, succeeded, and maybe even sometimes failed, I think we can learn quite a bit from the initiatives that had every tool at their disposal, every resource available, every plan was vetted, and polished, and it still didn't work. There's something about the human experience that makes that happen, what is it? How can we either minimize those effects or anticipate them well enough that it becomes part of the plan, not the obstacle we didn't see or couldn't see coming?
Scott Allen 31:56
Well, I love the framing of that, V, because I couldn't agree with you more, in that, once we get it into the hands of the students, and we hear about their experiences, it's almost in a process of co-creation. And I loved your phrasing also of… Was it emerging scholars? That if you treat them like emerging scholars, they show up as emerging scholars?
V. Chunoo 32:16
Scott Allen 32:18
And I just wrote that. A student had written a post in one of my courses recently, and I said, “You sound like a leadership scholar, this is incredible.” And guiding through that process, and helping them critically think about some of the content -- the spirit of what you're saying is so accurate -- we're learning in that process as well. We're learning in that process for sure. Tony, as we begin to wind down, is there anything else on your mind that you want to ask V?
Tony Middlebrooks 32:45
Well, I'm going to push again for him to choose a favorite child because as any experienced parent knows, even if you don't admit it, you've got a favorite. Sorry, Scott.
Scott Allen 32:59
That is terrible, Tony.
Tony Middlebrooks 33:00
You can edit that out. But here's why, because as I'm looking at this, I have it in my hands, it's a quarter million words, and students may walk away and remember 15 words, hopefully, seven of them are the definition of leadership, at the very least. We all know, as educators, that, particularly with undergrads, they move from course to course, they have lots of demands on their time and their attention. And it is a process. So, over the course of their growth and development, all these things that they learn eventually come to fruition, Vis-à-vis, their identity and the direction that they want to take their life. Nonetheless, we have some specific outcomes that we desire in our specific course. So what would you most want students to walk away with having interacted with this material that you've created it?
V. Chunoo 33:56
A moment ago, I talked a little bit about radical empathy. So, I do think that's one of the ideas I would protect. I won't call them my favorite children, I will call them the ideas I would want to protect from the text.
Tony Middlebrooks 34:06
That's great. That's perfect.
V. Chunoo 34:07
So yes, the radical empathy piece, in part because of the emotional side of leadership, and the emotional toll of leading and following, to be quite honest. I think that those are really important ideas that need to be surfaced more often in a more detailed fashion in many spaces. And I will say, it was actually challenging to write the DEI section for the chapter on culture because it was already a chapter on culture, right? So, how then do I add value to an area that was already designed to meet this need in the first place? And what I was able to layer onto that were some of the ideas from the Culture Map. The value of the ideas from the Culture Map was that it talks about communication. And so, what is at the core root of our communication as it relates to culture? And it divides the world and many of its countries into high-context and low-context cultures along a spectrum. And those high-context and low-context cultures have implications for communication. If leadership and leading, in many ways, is founded on communication, then there must be something like high-context and low-context leadership, the taken-for-granted assumptions that we think followers and members have because we have it, not necessarily because they have it. And I think that when we see divisive rhetoric, when we see a mismatch in expectations, when we see values misalignment in families, communities, and organizations, sometimes it's because the communication style doesn't match. But when the communication style doesn't match, then the leader-follower match is also out of whack. I think it explains some of how cultures become toxic in organizations. That it actually has its roots in a mismatch of context and language expectations that manifest and translate, no pun intended, into leadership gone wrong, in many regards.
Tony Middlebrooks 35:46
V. Chunoo 35:47
Yeah. And the last idea I'll try to protect, really briefly, is in the very last chapter where we talk about systems and sustainability. I highlight some of the ideas associated with generativity. And I think generativity in leadership is one of the areas where design so naturally feeds into, because design is all about how do we plan for an unknowable uncertain future, and generativity is exactly about what is the legacy we want to lead, leave rather. And I think effective generative leaders leave a legacy that prepares members and followers for that unknowable, uncertain future that we need sustainable systems for it in the first place. So, Tony is pushing me, and I'm going to answer as best as I can. I apologize to all the other ideas I could not protect, they are all very good, I think, and useful. But, for me, right here, right now, radical empathy, high and low-context leadership, and regenerative design legacy are probably the three that I would protect right now, right here, if I had to.
Scott Allen 36:38
Tony Middlebrooks 36:39
Wonderful, thank you.
Scott Allen 36:40
As we wind down for the day, V, we always ask guests what they've been reading, what's caught their attention in recent times. And so, is there anything you've been streaming, reading or listening to? It could have to do with what we've just discussed, it could have nothing to do with what we just discussed, but what's caught your attention in recent times.
V. Chunoo 36:59
So, it's not something I'm streaming, reading, or listening to, it is a video game I am replaying. So, I don't know how many of your guests play video games, but I have to believe that there are listeners out there who also play video games. And even my students are shocked when I tell them I play video games too because they think, “You're a 40-year-old man, what are you doing playing video games?” And my answer is, “I am having a good time. That is what a 40-year-old man is doing playing video games.” So, I'm sure many people are familiar with the HBO show ‘The Last of Us.’ I'm not able to watch ‘The Last of Us’ right now, but it's based on a video game, also called The Last of Us, which I am replaying. I picked it up in my younger days, and kind of fell off of it. I don't know why, but I'm replaying it now in my spare time, and I'm having a great time with it. For people who are unfamiliar, this may hit a little close to home for some people, but ‘The Last of Us’ is a post-apocalyptic story about a zombie outbreak, a pandemic that people did not have the ability to react to, and then the story of how the two main characters deal with survival in this post-apocalyptic zombie hellscape. Just coming off of a global pandemic, I think it does hit a little close to home for people. But what is surprising to me is that, what is otherwise a very violent and scary experience, is just full of empathy, and care, and emotion. And it really speaks to the survival instincts that we have as humans, and that we don't often think about care and compassion for other people as a survival instinct. But I have to believe, deeply embedded in our psychological DNA, there's this notion that none of us can be successful, or no man is an island. It actually does take other people, even under the worst of conditions, to help us manage to make it to the next day because it is the characters who try to go it alone that are the first ones to perish in this world. And I think that's a really valuable lesson that could come from a video game about zombies.
Scott Allen 38:49
I think there's lessons all around us in many number of different domains. So I get your zombie connection for sure. Tony, what have you been consuming, sir?
Tony Middlebrooks 39:00
Recently, I've been digging into a book called ‘Creative Acts for Curious People,’ which is put out by the executive director of the Stanford Design School. Just started a creativity course for our master's students in entrepreneurship here at UF. And that is one of three books that I asked them to acquire. And what I like about the book is it actually is filled with lots and lots of creative acts divided by about 12 different sections. And instead of them all focused on the problem-solving process, some of them are actually focused on leadership and management. So, it's not just how do you generate creative ideas or spot the opportunities, but how do you maximize the value of those ideas and put them into practice and all from a very design approach. So, I think it's going to be a real nice value add for this particular group of students. Master students in the business school here are very business oriented, even the entrepreneurship ones, and so trying to infuse a bit more creativity into their world. The other one is one of my old favorites ‘Orbiting the Giant Hairball’ which is by Gordon MacKenzie. And it is a book by a former Hallmark Card executive, where he talks about the notion of how do you remain creative but still survive in a corporate hairball. So, you can't fly off into space, and you don't want to get stuck in the hairball, so you orbit the giant hairball. And it's just hilariously written. Lots of great lessons throughout. It's a really fun weekend read.
Scott Allen 40:40
Well, I will contribute a couple. I'm reading ‘Leaving the Ghost Light Burning,’ which is by Valerie Livesay. And she's going to be on the podcast soon. I learned about that from David McCallum, and it's about fallback. So, in adult development theory, at times, we may not be at our best, and we experience these moments of fallback where we access our “lesser selves,” quote-unquote. That has been a fascinating listen. And actually, I've been reading that one. And then I just put into my audible, to go along your lines Tony, ‘Idea flow.’ I don't know if you've heard of this one, ‘The Only Business Metric That Matters.’ Idea flow. So, that's in the queue, and that's going to pop up here as soon as I'm done with ‘Leadership Challenge,’ listening to that audiobook. So, that's that. So we've got zombies, ideas, and hairballs, listeners.
V. Chunoo 41:39
Scott Allen 41:40
That’s what we got going on. Okay, everyone. Well, thank you so much for listening. V, thank you so much for stopping by today. We really, really appreciate it, Tony, as always, such a pleasure to connect with you. And everybody, go out and make a difference and help the world be a better place. Thanks so much for checking in. Thanks for being here. Bye, bye. Okay, so a couple of things come to mind that are the practical wisdom or just takeaways for me, at least, when I think about this conversation with V and with Tony. First, I think, at times, we have to answer the question of, “Leadership for what?” And, in my mind, at least how I think about that question, and all of you think about that in different ways than I do, but it's, for me, about creating a world where as many people have access to live their best lives as possible. And, for me, a world that values diversity, equity, and inclusion is an important ingredient in achieving that. So, the spirit of this work is that this topic is weaving throughout the text. That this isn't a standalone chapter, it's something that we value at the core, similar to how the concept of design weaves throughout the text. And I think listeners have heard me say it before, but one thing I love about this conversation of leadership is that we can look at it through so many different lenses. V mentioned sociology and philosophy. We're also weaving in design. We are weaving in any number of other topics that help us better understand this conversation about how do we develop individuals who are prepared to serve in formal and informal roles and do good in the world. So, speaking of doing good, go out in the world and do some good. And as always, thank you so much for checking in. Thank you to V. Thank you to Tony. Take care, everyone. Be well.
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