Lecture looks at leadership’s downside

Jordan Alcasas
Staff Writer

Rich Whitney, professor of organizational leadership, presented “Leaving Leadership: The Process of Moving Through Point Person to Past Person,” Tuesday in the Quay Davis Board Room before an audience of roughly 20.

Whitney began by making it clear that his intention was to have the audience consider how they view moving into and out of leadership. He then presented his view on leadership – as  a process. 

“Leadership is the process, but the leader is the one who leads,” Whitney said. 

In Whitney’s experience, most people do not think about getting in and out of leadership at the time they do, but rather that it comes as a reflection. 

He said in leadership, everything is prone to change. 

Whitney compared the process of leadership to chaos theory. One small change within leadership or for a leader can affect a whole system, he said.

“Things that happen and the randomness and order of chaos theory is how these things happen,” Whitney said. 

Whitney said there are a few stages to the process of leadership. 

He saw that at the start of the process, people learn of their potential to be a leader and in the next stage they choose to test their leadership skills. Then they decide to be a leader, leading to acceptance of being a leader. Eventually they get ready for their next role. 

Whitney learned of this process through two studies he conducted focused on sorority and fraternity leaders. In the first study, he found that 44% had a defining moment of leadership, while 40% did in the second study. 

Whitney described other places he has seen the leadership process in action. 

One of these places was in Boy Scouts.

Leaving leadership can hurt when it is a part of someone’s identity, he said, adding that it may be accompanied by grief.

Boy Scouts he observed leaving leadership experienced fear, numbness and anger for feeling replaceable.

The process of going in and out of leadership is marked by ups and downs, Whitney said.  

The talk “illuminated our role and responsibility in supporting our student leaders at the University,” said Jennifer Killham, an assistant professor of child and adolescent development, who attended the talk. 

Others resonated with Whitney’s lecture.

“I’ve experienced the same idea of the curve with this honeymoon phase, a cultural shock, and finally you have the recovery stage, and I’ve been through that,” said Yousef Daneshbod, associate professor of mathematics. 

“You have to be ready for the changes,” Whitney said. “Be your best self here, at the top, and don’t wish for tomorrow yet.”

Jordan Alcasas can be reached at jordan.alcasas@laverne.edu.


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