by Thomas Wall
On the first day of Professor Brenda Ellington Booth’s Personal Leadership Insights course, a simple question was posed to the class: what is leadership?
As students in a master’s program called “Leadership for Creative Enterprises,” it’s a question that we hadn’t yet taken the time to truly consider. Professor Booth asked us to see the forest for the trees when, to this point in the program, we had been focused primarily on the trees themselves: specific projects, deadlines, assignments, and due dates. This curriculum is specifically set up to help us develop both leadership skills and enhance our knowledge of the creative industries. So, upon finishing the fall quarter with Professor Jacob Smith’s Understanding the Creative Industries, it follows perfectly that the winter quarter would begin with an introspective and reflective dive to define leadership itself.
Professor Booth immediately presented us with a safe, open, supportive environment in which we all felt comfortable sharing personal stories, expressing our feelings, and learning a great deal about ourselves and each other. The small class size facilitated smooth and thorough communication. Through structured exercises and free-form discussion sessions, we identified our strengths, values, and needs as leaders. Learning about how we each operate, process information, and relate to others offered each of us a keen insight into our own unique leadership styles. As the course went along, Professor Booth guided us through exercises in giving and receiving feedback, tapping into visions of our futures, and had us create tangible development plans to help us set – and stick to – goals for professional and personal development.
The course concluded with a session in which each of the dozen students in the course took turns providing honest and encouraging personal acknowledgements and statements of hope for one another. Some students exchanged small gifts with each of their colleagues, and some assigned dog breeds or jelly bean flavors to each colleague as a way to demonstrate our new level of understanding of one another.
To students such as Brenna Cronin, the value of the course could not be understated:
“I cannot recommend this class enough. For leaders looking to do a deep dive and put in the work, you will be overwhelmingly rewarded,” said Cronin. “Brenda’s framework for the arc of the class was masterful and allowed us to hand over a lot of trust in the process. From discovering our strengths, to reflecting on values and visions, we left class with both tangible tools and full journals, ready for the next step of the journey.”
With a renewed understanding of ourselves, and a deeper empathy for each other, alumni of this course will all take away slightly different and personalized definitions of leadership as it relates to themselves or their colleagues, but the course itself was a unique experience that we all shared together, truly brought us all closer as a group, and helped each of us to see the forest for the trees.
Interested in how our curriculum prepares students for leadership roles in the Creative Industries? Learn more here!