Written by: Emily Fritcke
Edited by: Javaria Tareen
On February 26, 2014, Dr. James Stavridis, Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, retired U.S. Navy Admiral, and former Supreme Allied Commander of the NATO Alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013, shared his perspective on resolving global issues with an audience at Tempe Center for the Arts. In his lecture entitled, “Learning, Literature, and Leadership,” he stated, “Walls don’t work. We must create bridges.” He went on to profess that he believes that it is through literature, reading, and studying that we create the ultimate bridge. I was inspired and encouraged by Dr. Stavridis’ comments, because I too believe that exposure to great works of fiction, expressive poetry, and thoughtful biographies provides us insight to world issues, international perspectives, and human strengths and challenges.
As a notable advocate for the study of the humanities, Dr. Stavidris, referenced an article, “Don’t Say Goodbye to Intellectual Diversity,” written Lt. Alexander P. Smith to outline why the humanities are critical to the development of a successful military commander:
“Engineering, math, and science tend to draw certain types of people. Humanities draw different types. The first are inward-focused, rule-bound, risk-averse, and bureaucratic. The outward-focused, improvisational risk-takers who hate bureaucracy and embrace Verantwortungsfreudigkeit—joy in making decisions and taking responsibility—are usually drawn to the humanities.”
Dr. Stavridis acknowledges that there are certain qualities that are essential for a dynamic military leader and claims: “An education in the humanities, especially history and literature, is the best preparation for thinking militarily.”
Violence, regional instability, ruthless dictators, and religious radicalism are unfortunately a part of the fabric of the 21st century. These factors are the greatest deterrents to solving the most persistent global issues. We can possess effective solutions for disease prevention, sustainable agricultural development, safe-water treatment, and economic challenges, but, without the ability to connect, the implementation of these resolutions is unachievable. To effectively build bridges to create an atmosphere for successful resolution of critical worldwide issues, it is essential to have an advanced sense of global awareness and understand the foundations of certain beliefs and actions of specific cultures. According to Dr. Stavridis, this is best accomplished through reading great literature, fluency in languages, genuine interaction with the people of foreign nations, and drawing on the contributions of all disciplines. As Admiral Stavridis stated in his closing comments, “No one of us is smarter than all of us connected.”
The first thing that struck me in this article (and something that has struck me since I took my first journalism class freshman year) is how unfortunate it is that the industry didn’t adapt to the changing world quicker. What I mean by this is how journalists failed to charge for their content online from the very beginning. Had they done so, the Internet would be a much more profitable realm than it is today. Rather than relying on advertising and hit-or-miss paywalls, the general news content online would all be paid for by the public accessing that information. Those payments might lessen with the development of social media like Facebook and Twitter, but people would have been accustomed to paying for access to news content and the online news stories would take in much larger profits. But because so much of the Internet’s appeal early on was how nearly everything was so free, news assumed that position as well. By failing to recognize how prevalent the Internet would be just a few years down the road, particularly in the area of news consumption, our profession was not prepared for the Internet boom.
Second, I found the connection between the humanities and journalism to be interesting. The author is correct in writing that a return to in-depth stories could result in more profitability. People who enjoy in-depth stories usually enjoy them because they recognize the substantial amount of effort and research and reporting that goes into writing them and therefore, would not be as opposed to paying for more quality work. For example, in sports journalism, ESPN’s 30-for-30 productions rake in a large amount of viewers and even more money when they are released on DVD. The in-depth reporting of Sports Illustrated requires a subscription and online, ESPN.com visitors and site regulars pay for the best analysis with an Insider account they pay for. In other words, in-depth stories attract a specific audience willing to pay for that kind of content.
Finally, the most interesting thing I took from the article is also the most uplifting piece of information it had to offer: namely, journalism is not dead in the water by any means. Yes, the industry will have to struggle to find ways to stay profitable (particularly online), but there is always room for experimentation and innovation. The author mentions there is no set game plan, but if journalism can mingle with the humanities as they once did, the profits may soon follow.
Given that March is Women’s History Month, and based on recent blog posts on various leadership blogs, I thought it might be interesting this week to reflect upon the female leaders in our lives. One blog in particular, Lip-Sticking, focuses on women’s issues and women’s roles in society, particularly as leaders and businesswomen. I enjoy it because it often makes me reflect upon how I can be a strong, female leader in my generation and an example for younger generations, especially if I am fortunate enough to one day have a daughter.
One question I have for all of you this week is: what woman in your life do you perceive to be a leader? Do they lead out loud, or in a more silent, powerful manner? I fondly recall one of my high school English professors, a woman named Dr. Conway, who lead in a silent but very powerful way. She was quite the feminist and ever the intellectual, and really spurred my passion for literature into action. She left my sophomore English class with many words of wisdom, including the insight to never feel limited by the roles people saw for us. If men or even other women perceived us a certain way, she dared us to break that mold and show that we were more than what they thought. I always appreciate that one of the ways she saw for us to do this was education, and that she lead by example with a Ph.D in English Literature!
Speaking of perceptions, there was an interesting article posted on Lip-Sticking on March 2 entitled “Copping Out of Opting Out.” It addresses the idea that many women choose to “opt out” of the workplace still in favor of raising children and focusing on family, or taking on other ventures, and that other women often opt out of the professional areas they have come to dominate. This latter category includes women such as Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey, both of whom recently chose to break out of their comfortable roles in daytime TV, in which they were prominent leaders, to try something new. The author of the article, Yvonne DiVita, goes against what many critics are saying about them now and asserts that just because “their new endeavors are not yet wildly successful, is not to say they don’t still deserve our admiration.”
These women and other powerhouses like them are enduring struggles just as they first did when they entered their original professions. Just because they chose to break out of the roles in which we are comfortable seeing them does not mean we should write them off as failures. Rather, we (men and women alike) should all be so brave to break outside of the mold and past our comfort zone to become leaders in a new field. Even if we fail, we can still lead by example and pick ourselves up again, learning from our mistakes and becoming better people and leaders for it.
So I pose the following questions to the class this week: what women leaders make or made a difference in your life? What kind of leaders are/were they? And what role, if any, do you think you need to or want to break out of in your personal/professional lives? I still sometimes find myself arguing with my mother and grandmother about the concept of “having it all”–a family and a successful professional life, and I’m working to find a balance of both.
Image courtesy www.oprah.com
I’d like to write and talk to all of you this week about a topic that I think about fairly often, particularly as I read my favorite blogs and then again when we have discussions about leadership. The main point here being, how do blogs make leaders out of ordinary people in unexpected ways?
I read several blogs, typically about interior design and travel, two of my biggest interests. I’ve noticed that some of the blogs I read reference back to others fairly frequently, citing ordinary people as leaders in a particular niche or field. What’s so fascinating to me is that just a few years ago, a lot of the people that write blogs like this one, Young House Love, were actually employed in other fields and have since made blogging their full-time job, devoting much of their time and resources to it.
I realize that the blogs I’m pinpointing here aren’t exactly journalistic or heavy in any way. However, they are well organized, well-written, and, most importantly, extremely impactful in a certain field. The authors of Young House Love used to work in advertising as a copy writer and account executive respectively. When they moved to Virginia from New York City and the wife started working from home, their blog started gaining momentum as she had more time to devote to it and build a community among their readers.
After being featured on a wide variety of other significant home improvement, do-it-yourself, and interior design blogs (like this one), Young House Love became a hub of knowledge on home improvement and the husband quit his own, secure full-time position at an ad agency to work full-time alongside his wife on the blog!
I think we can learn a lot from this blog and others like it. Here are a few key points that I’ve gleaned from reading their blog for the past two years:
- Organization develops strong leadership skills. The Petersiks write the blog, edit their own posts, respond to comments, shoot/edit videos, and are even writing a book all while raising a baby girl and a chihuahua! They’ve got a lot on their plate, but because they stay organized, they’re able to establish a certain posting and commenting schedule and stay accessible to their readers.
- Leaders learn and lead by trial and error. One of the biggest reasons I think this blog is popular in this niche is that the authors are so open about their triumphs and mistakes. When one of their ideas works, they share step-by-step how they installed their own dishwasher or how they successfully remodeled their kitchen. Then, if one of their ideas fails, they share those details, too. Their forthcoming attitude is not only endearing, but also honest and truly helpful.
- Communication and a sense of community can do wonders! People look to this couple to answer their own home improvement/DIY/interior design questions because they know they’ll be honest with them and because they’re accessible. The comment section on their blog is its own mini-online community and their Facebook page is a place where ideas can be exchanged in a free and safe way.
I think it’s vital to recognize the power of the Internet and blogging to build community and create leaders out of all of us. Sometimes leaders come from the most unexpected places and don’t expect to become leaders. When they do, though, and fully embrace their new role, then they can have a real and lasting impact in whatever community, niche, or organization they find themselves. Here’s one example of how they “lead” their readers–DIY home videos with their personalities shown throughout! I think it’s just another of the reasons people trust them so much.
So here’s a question for all of you: are there any blogs you read daily in which the authors are recognized as leaders in their field? Are they the same kind of unexpected bloggers as the Petersiks? Blogging can lead to some truly fascinating jobs/leadership roles!