Five Captains

When your dissertation committee shakes your hand and welcomes you into the ranks, you enter the job market with everything you need to be a professor. Everything, that is, except the training to be an effective teacher. That is something you are left to figure out on our own. So, who do you model yourself after?

You have your dissertation committee members, of course. You also have your college professors. Teaching, however, is so much more than the expert transmission of knowledge from one individual to a group of other individuals. Effective teaching requires leadership.  Your job is to lead a classroom of diverse individuals (some eager, others capable but shy, and still others anxious) into an intellectual territory well-trodden by yourself but uncharted by them. So, who do you model your leadership style after?

You have your parents. You have your coaches. You have your scout leaders. You have your former bosses. And, of course, you have your five Star Trek Captains.

Okay. Okay. Let me explain.

I believe truly effective teaching, transformative teaching, occurs when you and your students leap into the “let’s see what happens” expanse. Together, in there, you and your students will have no other choice than to co-create a course of action.  Not much different than the whole “Boldly go where no one has gone before” thingy.

So, which one of the five Captains do I model my leadership style after?

Jonathan Archer:

He was the first Captain. Everything that he and his crew did was a first. There was no handbook. Everything was created as they created it. He had a style of command that was more relaxed than the other Captains. You watch him struggle with the process of co-creation. For example, how do you strike an appropriate balance between being accessible and open to critique while maintaining authority? I can identify with Archer. On top of it all, he had to struggle against his own gatekeepers – the Vulcans.

James T. Kirk:

Out of all the Captains, he led from the front. He was the tip of the spear. He was quick with the fist. While I do admire his unflinching confidence, his bravado and look-at-me attitude turned me off.  On top of it all, he was too much of an intergalactic-man-whore. I will save you the suspense. Kirk has never been a model of leadership for me.

Jean-Luc Picard:

Picard was the cultured Captain. He loved classical music. He loved Shakespeare. He used multi-syllabic words. His office was full of leather-bound books. His desk was decorated with archaeological artifacts. He was a listener. He was a diplomat. His emotions were always under control. He set the bar for Star Fleet Captains and he set it high.  He led through nuance and intelligence. Here is definitely someone worth modeling leadership after.  On top of it all, he was short and bald!

Benjamin Sisko:

Sisko did not start off as a Captain. He had to earn it over two seasons. He was an outsider. He was gritty. He had a chip on his shoulder. He was quick to react. He was intense. He was raw. Passion, outright passion, guided him. Like Kirk, he led through physicality. If he had a goal you knew he would achieve it. If there was an obstacle in his way you knew that he would overcome it. He would accomplish both through sheer willpower and determination. Of all the Captains, you know that he worked the hardest. He put in the hours. Of all the Captains, his character resonates with me the most.

Kathryn Janeway:

Janeway displayed a visceral dedication to her crew like none of the other Captains. She took time and energy to mentor those under her command. The development and transformation of each crew member was one of her top priorities. She led through a core set of values. She built a community. No, she built a family. Janeway is another great candidate to model leadership after. She also loved coffee.

So, which Captain? Just a few years ago, I would have chosen Picard. Picard was immensely admired by everyone around him.  He was a lot of things I thought I would be if I had it to do all over again. I would listen to classical music. I would recite Shakespeare. I would know everything about everything.  I would remain cool, calm and collected in every situation. I would never show a sign of vulnerability.

However, he was also lonely. He remained separate from his crew. In essence, he led by marking off the distance between himself and others. In doing so, he would let those around him know where he expected them to be. Success was traveling the path to where he was. On occasion, he would extend a hand of assistance, but not often.

This is hard for me to say and I am sorry Jean-Luc…you are not the one. Effectiveness in the classroom necessitates choosing a leadership style that aligns with who I am, who I really am.

What is my leadership style? I invest fully in my students. Their success is my success. I do not stand above them. I stand along side of them. I do not point to where they need to go. I ask them where they want to go. I do not tell them how to get there. I let them know what has worked for me and what has not. I hold them to a standard they have never been held to before. However, I also match their investment hour to hour, tear to tear, and sweat bead to sweat bead. There are no affectations. I let them know who I am. I let them know how far I can travel their path with them. We travel the “let’s see what happens expanse” by building community…by building family.

So, I guess what I am saying is that you can call me Kathryn!