A few weeks ago I made an early morning trek to a college campus two hours from where I live. I was scheduled to facilitate a discussion about academic leadership with colleagues around the state. I set my radio to C-SPAN and was soon listening to a morning call-in show. The host asked female listeners to share the policy issues that would matter most to them in the coming presidential election.
I listened for a while and heard a diverse group of women from around the country commenting from multiple perspectives about reproductive rights, environmental issues, immigration, health care, and more.
After listening for a while I pulled off the road to gas up and place my own call. When I had my opportunity to speak, I noted that one thing I will be watching for as I evaluate candidates will be their responses to women’s issues. I said that as an educator I see many young women out-achieving their male counterparts in college, but finding themselves far behind them in terms of salaries and workplace influence five and 10 years later, and that I want to see leaders who do what they can to support environments that make it possible for both men and women to achieve and lead.
My comments didn’t spark any great response — most callers wanted to either dispute something said by a previous caller or simply have their own ideas heard.
As I continued to digest this conversation, I thought about the coming presidential election, and its relevance to the conversation I was anticipating with my colleagues. After reading many books and articles about leadership in times of change, I boiled key tenets of good leadership down to this list:
I realized that this list offers a good guide for evaluating candidates, and I made a decision to approach this election with this rubric in mind.
In the past I’ve ranged from being very actively involved in campaigning (including being a campaign precinct co-leader) to minimally involved (pretty much just voting on the day of the election). This time I want to strike a balance.
Below you’ll see my pledge for this election cycle. I’d love to hear from others about their plans and commitments.
As we enter this stressful time of receiving conflicting and confusing messages, I hope others will use pledges like this to guide their decisions and actions, and both be and choose effective leaders who will govern with compassion and intelligence.
Melody Bowdon is executive director of UCF’s Karen L. Smith Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning and is a professor of writing and rhetoric. She can be reached at [email protected].