Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Leadership Journeys: Paths to Professional Practice

Carol A. Mullen
Past President, NCPEA
Virginia Tech

Do educational leaders experience breathtaking, all-consuming, transformative leadership journeys? Do they see themselves on a journey of growth and development, as humans and as leaders?
If educational leaders intuit that their lives and/or professional journeys/development are on a path, what are some implications for thinking about leadership, conducting research, and preparing future educational leaders?
These are overarching research questions that NCPEA Past Presidents Carol Mullen and Fenwick English are asking in a new book of theirs on the leadership journey as it intersects with the lived experiences of educational leaders, with relevance for the preparation of leaders and the educational leadership field. A primary source of inspiration for this book is American mythologist Joseph Campbell’s description of the university mythic pattern. We think that it very well may have applicability to your experiences as a leader, both in your work and in your life.
General Description of the Journey Theme
The educational leader (i.e., hero) begins in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unknown world of strange powers and events. The leader who accepts the call to enter this strange world must face tasks and trials, either alone or with assistance. In the most intense versions of the narrative, the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help. If the hero survives, s/he may achieve a great gift or “boon.” The hero must then decide whether to return to the ordinary world with this boon. If the hero does decide to return, s/he often faces challenges on the return journey. If the hero returns successfully, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world (Campbell, 1949/1973).
While Campbell describes 17 stages or steps along this journey, in fact very people (e.g., mythic heroes, educational leaders) experience all 17 stages. These 17 stages can be compressed into the following major phases.

Please share a transformative leadership experience that you have had that could very well contribute to the greater good of our profession. Thank you in advance for your time!
~ Carol Mullen

Specific Description of the Journey’s Phases ~ please comment
Departure deals with the hero's adventure prior to the quest
What call have you accepted (or rejected) in your work as an educational leader that turned out to be a significant decision? What feelings, thoughts, or struggles did you experience during this phase of your leadership journey?

Initiation deals with the hero's many adventures along the way
While on the journey, what experiences did you encounter? Who or what helped you, challenged you, or blocked you? What trials did you undergo? These take the form of a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation.

Return deals with the hero’s return home with knowledge and powers acquired on the journey.
What did you experience upon your return home to the ordinary world? What new insight did you gain from your journey? What wisdom did you come to and have you had the opportunity to integrate the wisdom gained on the quest into your work, life, consciousness, or being? Have you shared your wisdom with friends, colleagues, networks, or even the rest of the world?

Campbell, J. (1949/1973). The hero with a thousand faces. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University