Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy derives from several diverse experiences. First, I was fortunate to have a range of teachers and professors, and to be profoundly influenced by one high school teacher and two university professors in particular. In many respects, these three people remain important role models for me. Second, over the past decade, I have had the opportunity to be extremely involved in developing and working with a variety of different leaders, including union shop stewards, military generals and organizational executives. Third, I have also been actively involved in research on leadership, focusing in particular on transformational leadership. The first two experiences undoubtedly shaped my teaching philosophy, while my research on the nature and effects of transformational leadership has helped me confirm and articulate my philosophy.

believe that the role of the professor has changed dramatically. Traditionally, professors were assumed to know more than anyone else in the classroom; hence their role was to convey knowledge and information. My experience with students over the past two decades, and the recent transition into an era of knowledge-based work, have taught me that this perspective is no longer appropriate. Instead, I believe that the role of the professor is to challenge students to think for themselves, and to continually challenge their most cherished assumptions and convictions.

believe that the first responsibility of the teacher is to create the optimal environment within which learning can take place. I believe strongly that learning and growth take place in an environment of mutual respect and trust, that is fun, interesting and challenging, rewarding of risks but also accepting of well-conceived mistakes.

believe that the educational experience is enhanced when the teacher serves as a role model for students. The central tenets of transformational leadership—a theory that I teach and research—guide my behaviors as a teacher in the formal classroom setting, and in informal interactions with my students:

  • "Idealized influence" teaches me to build respect and mutual trust by doing what is right rather than what is expedient, by admitting my own mistakes.
  • "Inspirational motivation" teaches me to help students attain more than they thought was possible by setting high expectations, and convey meaning through stories and symbols with which students can identify.
  • "Intellectual stimulation" teaches me that that the challenge is not whether I can answer students' questions, but whether I can help students learn to answer their own questions.
  • "Individualized consideration" teaches me that people are at their best when their individual needs are considered, and their efforts and accomplishments encouraged and recognized.

believe passionately that there is a strong link between effective teaching and research, a belief guided by more than two decades of the joy of teaching and the pursuit of research excellence. My exposure to the diverse questions that students at different levels pose, and the suggestions they make, have all enhanced my own research. My active involvement in research has also made teaching more exciting for me. Conveyed appropriately, the conduct of, and findings from, research studies have tremendous lessons for students.

I believe in the role of stories: Using story-telling as the medium, students have endless patience and interest in learning from research, and very often appreciate research findings when they reflect on their own personal experiences, and generate wonderful research questions based on their experiences.

believe that learning is an active, developmental process. The process starts with students looking to their professors for knowledge. But this is only the beginning. I believe passionately that the end point occurs when students can stand, metaphorically, on their teachers' shoulders, and see a horizon further and wider than their teachers could offer.

believe that the real criterion for learning is not simply whether students have amassed huge amounts of facts. Real learning takes place when they are inspired to ask questions, take action, and implement the lessons learned.

believe I will only be successful as a teacher when my former students achieve all this, and outshine me.