Sunday, July 21, 2019
Last Thursday and Friday, I had the honor and pleasure of joining a large group of women interested in law school leadership at the second annual Women's Leadership in Legal Academia conference. The two days provided many opportunities for education and inspiration. Four of my UT Law colleagues started off the conference with a workshop focused on microaggressions. My mini-workshop entitled "Leading from Where We Are" (picture above taken by fellow BLPB blogger Colleen Baker, who attended the session) followed.
The workshop extended my thoughts on leadership as a concept distinct from titles--thoughts I had touched on in an earlier blog post for the Leading as Lawyers blog. It also offered me the chance to describe an optimal organizational structure, with leaders at every key juncture. In introducing my panelists, I noted leadership attributes that I had observed in each and told a related/relevant story about our relationship. Then, we offered for discussion two hypothetical situations in which a faculty member is challenged to lead. In each case, we started with small group work and followed through with a report-out to the "committee of the whole." One of the hypotheticals involved a (potential) misunderstanding between the dean and the faculty, and the other related to a traumatic incident involving one or more students from one of your classes. The small group discussions yielded excellent thoughts for consideration in the larger group forum.
Among the observations? I will highlight just two here. First, that the way a faculty member handles a potentially divisive situation involving the dean and the faculty may depend on the dean's leadership style (dictatorial or collaborative, e.g.) and the level of mutual trust between the dean and the faculty. Also, in exploring the various ways in which a faculty member might address traumatic events known to the public (e.g., fires and floods) and those that are more private (e.g., a student death under unusual circumstances), we identified different levels of faculty comfort in addressing trauma in the classroom. There was especial discomfort in addressing individual, personal trauma.
Colleen or I may have more to say about the conference in future posts. I was thrilled with the creative energy generated by this panel. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share and learn. What's more, organizing the session enabled me to reconnect with four fabulous leaders in legal academia and to meet many more. A total "win" for me.