How do you teach leadership? Can you truly train an individual to be a leader? An emerging interdisciplinary group of uOttawa faculty members is exploring innovative ways of doing just that. They are endeavouring to spread their leadership training methods across disciplines, to move leadership development beyond its traditional home in business schools, and to link the application of leadership directly to research. The experiment has already begun at the Faculty of Law.
Leadership as a way of being
This fall, the Civil Law Section’s Professor Margarida Garcia and Françoise Moreau-Johnson of the Centre for Academic Leadership are offering a new course to graduate students of the Faculty of Law, entitled “Exercising Leadership in Law, in Research and in Life”. The course is part of a larger effort to create a community of leaders and a culture of leadership, both within the Faculty of Law, and across the wider uOttawa campus. It makes the bold promise that any participant, regardless of their background, will come out of the experience being a leader. It is designed to teach students how to access leadership as a way of being that will have an impact on both their professional and personal lives.
“When I was first exposed to this course and this material,” says Professor Garcia, “I saw what a difference it made not only for entrepreneurs but also for people dealing with real-world social justice problems, innovation in research, or people passionate about public service, community development, and the greater good. I knew immediately that I wanted to share these tools with students and the whole uOttawa community.”
Building a community of leaders
To begin, Professor Garcia enlisted the support of like-minded faculty members with a similar broad vision for the future of leadership training at the University of Ottawa. “This opportunity holds a great deal of promise for interdisciplinary collaboration between faculty members,” says Ms. Moreau-Johnson, whose early support for and involvement in the initiative helped to prove that the idea could be a success on the uOttawa campus. “It also promises transformative learning for academics taking leadership roles across the University of Ottawa campus and beyond.” Joining Ms. Moreau-Johnson and Professor Garcia as early champions of this pedagogical initiative are Richard Dubé, Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Cintia Quiroga, Professor and Assistant Dean of Research at the Faculty of Law, and Marc Dubé, Vice-Dean of Research at the Faculty of Engineering.
A powerful invitation to students
The new course offering is based on the renowned course “Being a Leader and the Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological/Phenomenological Model”, designed by Werner Erhard, Professor Michael C. Jensen of Harvard Business School, Steve Zaffron, and Professor Jeri Echeverria, former Provost at California State University. At the Faculty of Law, the course aims to empower students to develop their research as a contribution and a form of self-expression rather than as something that needs to be done as a requirement or that should be done as an obligation. Professor Garcia invites students to be leaders in their disciplines, research projects, lives, communities, and societies.
“In a nutshell,” says Professor Garcia, “this leadership course reminds students that being – who they are – is as important as knowledge – what they know – as they pursue a fulfilling career and a meaningful life.” While the course will offer students tools to deal with organizational and academic challenges, it is not an academic inquiry into theories, models, and case studies about leadership. The promise of this course is that participants will leave the experience with a new understanding of themselves and new approaches to dealing with the challenges of their research, their careers, and their lives.
While the course is now being offered to law students, the eclectic group at the heart of this initiative asserts that leadership training is a rewarding pursuit from which all Faculties can benefit. “This is an exciting opportunity for the Faculty of Law and I am looking forward to replicating this experience in the Faculty of Engineering,” says Professor Dubé. “I can envision joint initiatives where law and engineering students come together to develop their leadership and benefit from a multi-disciplinary experience.”
Sharing a transformational experience
In April 2019, Professor Garcia and Ms. Moreau-Johnson taught an intensive version of the course over three weekend sessions to an initial cohort of ten uOttawa faculty members, each representing one of uOttawa’s ten Faculties. The experience was hailed by the participants as being transformational, creating a renewed energy amongst those running labs and research programs, and inspiring new plans for the future. “Participants in the course reported huge breakthroughs in performance and, interestingly, in the quality of their lives and their professional and personal relations,” says Professor Garcia. In July, Professor Garcia joined with Cintia Quiroga and Marc Dubé to journey to UCLA, where they experienced the course as instructed by its original authors. “This course is truly transformational and provides access to being a leader and leadership by developing skills that can be leveraged in every area of a person’s life, regardless of their title, job or position of authority,” says Professor Quiroga. “Its impact is wide ranging, providing participants with personal resources that can be accessed to dream up bigger and bolder projects, and foster better and more satisfying personal and professional relationships. I look forward to sharing its teachings with professors, researchers, and students in our institutions, as well as with the wider community.”
uOttawa as a hub of leadership training
These efforts represent the first steps, not only in bringing leadership instruction to the uOttawa campus, but in thinking about the science of leadership – and its application to academia – in innovative ways. “We want to develop powerful leadership training and ontological education in the sciences but also in the humanities and the social sciences. We need it as much as business schools do!” says Professor Garcia. “I have surrounded myself with great colleagues from different faculties around this common vision. And this is just the beginning. We hope to offer this course to the legal community and to the public in the near future, making the Faculty of Law and the University of Ottawa the place to go if you want to fully realize the promise of leadership and being a leader.”
“The Faculty of Law is extremely proud to have the opportunity to offer this new experience to our graduate students,” says Adam Dodek, Dean of the Faculty of Law’s Common Law Section. “Having this adventure at our law school is an important landmark in realizing our new vision of leadership at the University of Ottawa,” says Marie-Eve Sylvestre, Dean of the Civil Law Section. “We are grateful for the support and encouragement of the two deans,” says Professor Garcia. “This is only possible because of their commitment to offering innovative and enriching experiences to our students and faculty members.”
The Faculty looks forward to continuing to create and benefit from a community of leaders in law, in research, and in life.