On Leadership….

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Many organizations are over-managed and under-led. Daily routines are handled, but no one questions whether the routine should be done at all. Over time, the organization may find itself humming along efficiently, but not terribly effectively.  Outsiders begin to question the need for the organization – and a crisis in leadership ensues.  At this time of rapid social and economic change, leadership will help determine which organizations prove sustainable.   This post shares a few thoughts on effective leadership.

Dr. Robert Terry, former Director of the Reflective Leadership Program at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs of the University of Minnesota, presented six common views of leadership (and then adds a seventh) in his classic book, Authentic Leadership: Courage in Action.  The six common views of leadership are are follows;

  1. The first is called the trait theory. There are “born leaders” – like John Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and perhaps Barack Obama.
  2. The second type of leadership is called situational. Leaders respond to the situation – the war years “created” George Washington, Winston Churchill, and FDR. The “times create the man or woman.”
  3. The next leadership theory is called organizational. In this view, leadership is a function of position or rank in a hierarchical structure. This type of leadership is functional in many corporations, universities and of course the military.
  4. The forth view is the power theory, which suggests that position in a hierarchy isn’t as important as the ability to stimulate action. We all know people who passively occupy positions of authority, while people without impressive titles make things happen.
  5. Terry’s fifth type is called visionary. Leadership understands the past, scans current trends and helps point people toward a meaningful future. The visionary leader always asks the question “where are we going?”
  6. The sixth view, the ethical assessment theory, is also visionary, but it is a vision that involves ethical reflection. This leader not only asks “where are we going?,” but also asks “why are we going there?”

Terry believes that each of these six views of leadership is important, but incomplete. He proposes a seventh view that is a combination of all the others, which he calls the theory of fulfillment. In Terry’s view, leadership is exercised when people organize to engage and fulfill the needs of the people in the institution, while serving the mission and working toward a shared vision.

Terry’s seventh view is that “leadership is a particular kind of social and ethical practice. It emerges when persons in community, grounded in hope, are grasped by unauthentic situations, and courageously act in concert with followers, to make those situations authentic.”

I’ll restate the seventh view with some explanations in parentheses; “…leadership is a particular kind of social ( we are people in communities) and ethical ( thinking and acting for the sake of others) practice ( leadership is doing). It emerges when persons in community ( together), grounded in hope ( things can get better), are grasped ( see and called forth) by unauthentic situations, ( something is wrong), and courageously ( it won’t always be popular) act in concert with followers ( together), to make those situations authentic ( right).

Leaders are visionaries, dreamers, idealists – with their feet firmly planted on the ground. Effective leaders nurture a shared vision within the organization. They do this by constantly acting on their vision.

I’ll conclude this essay with two examples of visionary leadership. On the day that A. Bartlett Giamatti assumed the presidency of Yale University (July 1, 1978), he sent the following memo to the Yale faculty:

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In order to repair what Milton called the ruin of our grand parents, I wish to announce that henceforth, as a matter of University policy, evil is abolished and paradise is restored.

I trust all of us will do whatever possible to achieve this policy objective.

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I’m sure “the abolition of evil and restoration of paradise” is indeed a worthy vision. The only problem is that it wasn’t shared. The Yale faculty were shocked and upset by their new President’s lack of decorum.

Leaders must recognize the “boundaries” of institutional vision. Warren Bennis wrote in his book, Leaders: “…vision should be projected in time and space beyond the boundaries of ordinary planning activities – but not be so far distant as to be beyond the ability of incumbents in the organization to realize.”  Bennis suggests that: “boundaries are set by the values of the people in the organization.”  Sometimes leaders don’t recognize the boundaries until they are crossed. Giamatti crossed the line his first day on the job.

The second example is a truly shared vision from a slave rebellion in 70 BC against the Roman Empire. When the Roman General Crassus told the outnumbered slaves if they turn over their leader, Spartacus, they would not be punished (remember the 1960 movie with Kirk Douglas), each of the former slaves stood up, stepped forward and shouted out to Crassus “I am Spartacus.”

Now that was a shared vision.

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Please check out my Just Food Now Resource Page and see our Sustainable Food and Farming page. Please share this blog with anyone who might be interested in either the Bachelor of Sciences degree or our 15 credit Certificate Program at the University of Massachusetts.

UMass announces new Sustainable Food and Farming B.S. major

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The university that began as “Mass Aggie” recently announced the approval of a new Bachelor of Sciences major in Sustainable Food and Farming.  Interest in this area of study has been growing steadily over the past 10 years.  Originally a “concentration” within the Plant and Soil Sciences major, Sustainable Food and Farming grew from just five students in 2003 to seventy-five in 2013.  This rapid growth in student interest provided impetus for the elevation of the former-concentration to a full-fledged major 2013.

At the same time that Sustainable Food and Farming was attracting more student attention, the University of Massachusetts re-vitalized the applied agriculture programs by moving faculty from Plant and Soil Sciences, Plant Pathology, Entomology, and Animal Sciences into a new “super-department” – the Stockbridge School of Agriculture.  Building on its nearly century old tradition, the newly configured school (which is part of the College of Natural Sciences) will help energize agricultural teaching, research and outreach programs in service to the people, businesses and communities of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Under the leadership of Dean Steve Goodwin, the College of Natural Sciences has made several new investments in agricultural programs including the UMass Center for Agriculture which administers the agricultural research and extension functions of the college.  Plans were unveiled recently for a new Undergraduate Agricultural Learning Center, which will offer hands-on education to students at a location within walking distance of the heart of campus.  These new investments are critical to the continued growth of the new major, which is building on a resurgence of public interest in local food and farming systems.

This growth of local food and farming is particularly important today as the world experiences the “perfect storm” of climate disruption, peak oil, and economic stress.  Students have recognized this as an opportunity and are gravitating to the study of sustainable farming, working toward careers in local food and green businesses, urban agriculture, permaculture, herbal medicine, and related jobs in farm-based education, public policy, community development and advocacy.  The time is right for the re-emergence of “Mass Aggie” built upon its historical and timeless mission of research-based public service and teaching.

Related Student Projects

Just a few of the projects that were either initiated or are actively supported by students studying Sustainable Food and Farming at UMass are:

  1. The UMass Student Farming Enterprise is a yearround class that gives students the opportunity to manage a small organic university-owned farm and sell their produce through a CSA, farmers market, and to university and private food service and retail markets.  See the video!
  2. The UMass Permaculture Initiative is a unique class and program that has converted underused grass lawns on the campus into edible, low-maintenance, and easily replicable food gardens. See on of the program videos!
  3. Permaculture in the Pioneer Valley is a class, sponsored by the UMass Dining Services UMass Permaculture Initiative that designs and installs permaculture gardens off-campus in local elementary schools.
  4. The UMass Student Food Advocacy group supports several projects, including the national Real Food Challenge, which is working toward a campus commitment to purchasing 20% “real food” by 2020.   Students earns academic credit to create supportive networks which promote education, leadership and activism around just and sustainable food systems. See the video!
  5. A celebration of local food cooperatives was sponsored by Sustainable Food and Farming students introducing the UMass campus and students to work opportunities in local foods!

New Courses Established

In response to the increased student demand, many new classes have been added over the past few years (in addition to traditional agricultural courses in soil science, vegetable production, plant pathology, fruit growing etc.), such as:

  • Organic Weed Control
  • Community Food Systems
  • Introduction to Permaculture
  • Clinical Herbalism
  • Sustainable Soil and Crop Management
  • Nuestras Raices: Community Farming & Food Security
  • Permaculture Design and Practice
  • Agricultural Systems Thinking
  • Food Justice and Policy

One of the most important aspects of student education is the emphasis on getting practical experience either with local farms and markets, or non-profit public policy and advocacy groups, and farm-based education collaboratives.  Practical education built on a solid foundation of biological and ecological sciences prepare students to explore creative options and good work Its surely a good time to be an “Aggie.”

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If you are interested in sustainable food and farming, please join my Facebook Group Just Food Now on FB.  Check out my Just Food Now Resource Page and please see our Sustainable Food and Farming blog. Please share this page with anyone who might be interested in either the Bachelor of Sciences degree or our 15 credit Certificate Program.


Antibiotic Resistance at Factory Farms “Scares the Hell Out of” Scientists

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The headline above caught my attention when it first appeared in 2009.  Johns Hopkins University Scientists declared that antibiotics should be banned from animal feed.  If we didn’t take action, they warned we are likely to see an explosion of human deaths from previously preventable bacterial diseases as antibiotics become less effective.  I was sure this news would result in a public uproar….. I was wrong.   So when the latest news reports on antibiotic resistance appeared outlining the potential crisis in human healthcare, I had to wonder – maybe this time?  Will there be a public outcry about the use of antibiotics in the animal industry now?  Well, not yet!

While we have known this is an emerging global problem for some time, recently the medical profession is talking about a “catastrophic threat –  as big a risk as terrorism.”  There seems to be two point-sources for antibiotic resistance; one is hospitals which need antibiotics to safely do even simple surgeries.  The other place antibiotic resistance is developing is CAFO’s (concentrated animal feeding operations) or “factory farms.”

A well-documented report on the use of antibiotics in factory farms states:

Animals live in close confinement, often standing or laying in their own waste, and are under constant stress that inhibits their immune systems and makes them more prone to infection.  When drug-resistant bacteria develop in industrial livestock facilities, they can reach the human population through food, the environment (i.e., water, soil, and air), or by direct human- animal contact.  

In response to this problem, the FDA asked the animal industry to voluntarily reduce the amount of antibiotics used in factory farms.  The Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA) requires drug companies to report the amount of antibiotic drugs sold or distributed for use in food-producing animals (although the industry seems to be fighting back to keep this information out of public eyes).  So how did the animal industry respond to this reasonable request?    A recent report of the Pew Charitable Trusts (a reputable group) reported that antibiotic sales for meat and poultry are soaring!

If we have known about this problem for a long time, why is nothing being done?  Last November, several hundred thousand citizens, including many senators and congressmen, urged the FDA to take action. It is doubtful however than anything will change without a public outcry. Pew Health Initiatives asks you to take action! They write;

On April 16, 2013, Pew will be hosting the second annual Supermoms Against Superbugs Advocacy Day. Concerned moms, dads and other caregivers will come to the nation’s capital to lobby the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Congress and the White House to rein in the overuse of antibiotics in meat and poultry production – a practice that breeds dangerous superbugs that can infect humans.  Learn how you can get involved

There is a safe way to raise animals for meat without antibiotics!  You can make a clear statement of support for changes in legislation by signing the petition here refusing to buy meat products produced in a factory farm.  Learn more about the safe raising of animals and find producers non-factory farmed meat at Eat Wild or at your local farmers market!

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I’d appreciate it if you would share this post with your friends.  If you are interested in sustainable food and farming, please join my Facebook Group; Just Food Now.   And please check out more of my World.edu posts or my personal webpage.