Real leaders learn to follow

Published 6:27 pm Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Naomi Ludman (Submitted photo)

Naomi Ludman (Submitted photo)

Dr. Naomi Ludman never forgot adult education scholar Dr. Stephen Brookfield’s advice that teachers should put themselves in situations their students face.

“At least once a year, find something you don’t know how to do that terrifies you, then learn how to do it,” Phi Theta Kappa’s keynote speaker said. “He took swimming lessons as an adult. He said teachers need to put ourselves in a position where we feel viscerally in our gut like our students might, what it’s like to be in a position where you don’t know anything at all.”

“I think that’s important for leaders as well as teachers,” said Ludman, retiring as Southwestern Michigan College’s Developmental Studies Department chair.

She has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, a master’s degree in professional writing and a doctorate in leadership.

Ludman taught high school English, worked in medical records, served as a Head Start home visitor and hung wallpaper professionally, but she found her passion at SMC teaching the community college mission that all students deserve an opportunity for higher education.

Brookfield wrote a book, Learning as a Way of Leading.

“Leaders have nine learning tasks to accomplish,” Ludman said, “but I’m only going to talk about three. First, a leader must learn to be open to contributions of others. As Dr. (Scott) Topping, our dean of arts and sciences said, he’s rarely seen an idea which couldn’t be improved by discussion with others. Listen to colleagues, fellow students, teachers. Be open to modifying or even abandoning an idea. Always give credit to people whose ideas you adopt.”

Second, develop a habit of critical reflection.

“As a leader, it’s important to be honest with yourself,” Ludman said. “It’s very easy to blame others when something doesn’t go right. Take time to think about what you might have done differently or what you could learn about yourself from the experience. What skill might you need to develop? What attitude or personal attribute might you need to change?”

Third, support others’ growth. “Get to know people on your staff, in your church group, in clubs or organizations. Let others take on tasks, then support them. Maybe the task won’t be done exactly the way you wanted, but your colleagues will learn from the experience.”

“Finally,” Ludman said, “I want to talk about the importance of being not just a leader, but a follower. Effective leaders know one of their major tasks is developing a shared vision or you won’t be able to lead anywhere.”

While Abraham Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, the president stopped short of advocating equal rights for blacks and whites because he knew that to end slavery he needed followers to support him.

“I’m not talking about abandoning your principles,” Ludman said, “but there is a time when to move forward and function effectively, you as a follower has to get behind that shared vision and accomplish it. Being a good follower is as important as being a good leader. And take time this summer to learn something new you avoided because it scares you.”

Sigma Psi, SMC’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter, hosted its first recognition reception May 2 in the theatre of the Dale A. Lyons Building on the Dowagiac campus.

PTK, an international organization in existence since 1918, recognizes and encourages scholarship among two-year college students by providing opportunities for service, leadership and fellowship.

More than an induction, Sigma Psi welcomed back alumni, introduced prospective officers, honored volunteers such as Tina Hazlett, who helped create a chapter newsletter in March, and looked like a color run was about to break out with its sand ceremony.

Each inductee accepted a pin, signed the chapter record book and poured small amounts of different-colored grains into a large bowl, where they will swirl together in ceremonies to come.

Once back in their seats, new members repeated the pledge, officially becoming part of PTK.

Medallions were awarded to advisors Colleen Welsch, director of library services, and English instructor Natalie Anagnos; and Beth Bressler, 2011-13 advisor.

President Michelle Canfield of Cassopolis and Vice President Kara Edge of Edwardsburg will turn the reins over to officer candidates President Katie Nimtz, a public relations student from Eau Claire, and Vice President Candice Kramer, a business student from Illinois.

Co-Chair Vice President McKenna Wolf of Jones graduated with an SMC business degree and is transferring to Ferris State University’s business program. She worked three jobs while being a fulltime student.

Secretary Caitlyn Rifenberg of Niles is working toward a social science degree.

Treasurer Paige Linback of Edwardsburg graduated from SMC in 2013 with a fine arts degree and is pursuing a Ferris professional and technical communications degree.

All-A graduate Mary Kate Stewart of Dowagiac transfers to Benedictine University for chemistry with a $2,500 PTK scholarship.