Tellin’ Ain’t Leadin’

Academic Leader

Thereís a folksy saying that people sometimes cite when they want to talk about the merits of active learning: Telliní ainít teachiní. The idea is that if a teacher simply provides information, students donít learn to think critically or find out how to discover things on their own. The goal of the teacher is to make himself or herself unnecessary. And you canít do that if you merely spout facts and formulas. Youíre basically making yourself a walking encyclopedia, not a trainer of peopleís minds. In much the same way, I think we need a parallel folksy saying: Telliní ainít leadiní either. If a provost, chair, or dean merely tells a faculty member what to do (and by the way, if youíre ever successful doing that to begin with, let me know how you did it), the administrator is failing in his or her responsibility to be a mentor to others. The goal of the academic leader is to make the work of the faculty and students more fruitful. And you canít do that if you merely spout rules and regulations. Youíre basically making yourself a walking policy manual, not a genuine academic leader.

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