Return to The Leadership Strand

Where am I now?

This part of the leadership strand can be further divided into three assignments:

  1. In the Room Activity (January 24)
  2. Rocking the Boat (February 22)
  3. Setting Goals: Instrumental and Missional Thinking (March 14)

In the Room Activity (Due January 24th)

It’s time for a digital quickfire (everybody say, “Oooooo!”).  Before you begin this challenge, you must make us one promise: you will not read ahead!  As you read each section, make sure to complete the task(s) described before moving on.  For this challenge, you will need:

  • A piece of paper, notepad, or blank document.
  • Something to take a picture with (phone, camera, tablet, etc.).
  • A timer set for 1 hour.

Now, set your timer for 1 hour.  Ready, set, go!

Step 1:  Write down the room or space that you are currently sitting or standing in.  Then, take a picture of six random items in the room.  Each item must be different and must actually be in the space!

Step 2:  Reflect and Record: What connections do you see in the objects that you have randomly taken pictures of?  How does the space that you’re standing in impact you?  What is your current emotional state?

Step 3:  Now, you will use the six items that you randomly selected from the room to think deeply about leadership and what it means to you. As we move forward with the spring semester, our goal is to help you further develop your STEM leadership skills. So, let’s get started!

As you examine the six random objects that you have selected, think about how each one could represent a characteristic or element of leadership. In your document, record how each of the six random items represents or symbolizes leadership in your eyes. You may choose to use keywords only or short descriptions. Feel free to tell a story of leadership with the items, create a metaphor, create similes, etc. Take creative license in the connections that you find!

Step 4:  In your document, reflect back on Step 2 and the questions that you answered. How did being in this room impact you? What emotions were you experiencing? Now, think of it in the context of leadership. How does a leader impact the room? How are your emotions impacted by leaders around you? Record your thoughts in your document.

Step 5:  What does leadership mean to you? In your document, record a 1 to 2 sentence working definition of leadership and any other thoughts that you have on the topic.

Step 6:  It’s time to create and share! Your goal is to create a leadership collage (use your favorite Surface app, Pixlr Express, PicMonkey, or another favorite photo editor). Your leadership collage should include:

  • All six pictures that you took of your randomly selected items
  • Text that shares the connections that you made from your six items to leadership (may be a one word text box on each photo or your short description of each. Again, take creative license!)
  • Your 1-2 sentence working definition of leadership

Determine the way that you will share the leadership strand assignments on your website.  Post your finished collage with context to your website by January 24th.  In addition, tweet it out to #MSUrbanSTEM with your working definition of leadership.

Looking forward…This activity allows us to think about who we choose to be each time we step into a room. We actively make the choice to lead in situations or to follow, which can be influenced by the people in the room and their emotions. Each person in the room is different and comes with their own unique attributes, just as the random objects that you selected. Leaders may also have to find connections in situations where they are not easily visible.  While we must be aware of the four walls that make up the room – the boundaries of the people we lead and the boundaries of the idea – as leaders, it is up to us to also push beyond those four walls.


Rocking the Boat (Due February 22nd)

Now that you have your copy of Rocking the Boat, use the tasks below to guide your reading and reflection about your ability to make change happen.  For this assignment, please create one post on your website for all three responses.  Clearly label the responses to each task (task zero – three) on your page.  If you do not feel comfortable sharing some of this information publicly, please reach out to your advising instructor so that they can coordinate a method for privately sharing your takeaways and reflections on this book.


Reading: Meyerson, D. E. (2008). Rocking the boat: How to effect change without making trouble. Harvard Business Press.

  1. Skim and review
  2. Task Zero, Review: Write a short review, 300 words (max), as a response to the book. This review should reflect a general understanding of what the book is about and what you understand.  
  3. Task One, How am I different?: In her book, Debra Meyerson identifies three ways you can be different. How far do one or more of these apply to you? Is there something missing in her framework that you bring in? Write a response addressing these questions in 300 words (max).
  4. Task Two, Becoming a Tempered Radical: Chapters 3 to 7 in this book focus on how Tempered Radicals make a difference. Where do you see yourself lying on the continuum (see page 8)? Where do you aim to be on this continuum? What goals do you see yourself setting to move forward? What are some lessons you take from the stories in this book that would apply to you? Write a response addressing these questions in 300 words (max).
  5. Task Three, Facing challenges: Debra Meyerson talks about 4 levels of challenges. How do you see yourself dealing with some, if not all, of these challenges in your work situation? Write a response in 300 words (max).

Post your Rocking the Boat tasks to your website by February 22nd, organizing them in the structure you have selected for the leadership assignments.


Setting Goals: Instrumental and Missional Thinking (Due March 14th)

Having read Rocking the Boat and completing Tasks Zero to Three, you should now be able to situate yourself on the continuum of being a Tempered Radical. We will now focus on using what we have learned from our reading of the book and its application in our professional settings. In Task Three: Facing Challenges, you read Meyerson’s 4 levels of challenges and reflected on how you see yourself dealing with some of these challenges. Holding the thread from this task, let’s start thinking about setting some goals for ourselves. Now that we know the challenges we could face and ways to deal with them, what kind of goals do you visualize for yourself? Take a moment to write these goals down. In your vision, do you imagine your goals being more instrumental or missional? Don’t know what these terms mean? This quick reading will help you decide for yourself:

Instrumental Thinking

Instrumental Thinking is the tendency to fashion a vision for a tool or an idea around that tool or idea itself. That is, this is a tool-centric way of thinking. For example, here is something a person with instrumental thinking would say: “The focus of our technology plan is on adding interactive whiteboards to the classroom. We’re also interested in student response systems and thinking through Twitter use and applications.” Some consider instrumental thinking to be both prevalent and problematic. Sometimes, it can be one of the biggest enemies of vision.

Missional Thinking

Missional thinking, on the other hand, is generally thought of as based on a larger vision, strategy, or goal. For example, a missional thinker would say something like this: “Our technology plan is about increasing student engagement in learning. We know that the research is unambiguous in its view that meaningful student learning is realized only when students are active, invested, and engaged. We need technologies that help our teachers engage students who live in worlds dominated by computer mediated experiences. As such, we are exploring interactive whiteboards, student response systems, and social media like Twitter for classroom projects.”

The best articulation of the division between instrumental and missional thinking is found in the work of Professor Stanley Katz. Katz spent much of his career as a professor at Princeton (after studying at Harvard), and worked mostly in history and law. He is not a computer contrarian per se, though he can be critical of technological thinking. He published a piece in one of the Edu-cause journals (which exist to promote information technology in higher education) because he noticed a disturbing trend in higher education: it seemed that the conversations around technology at colleges and universities were about how to draw in technology for technology’s sake. This is what we term “instrumental thinking”: the focus is on the instrument and not the purpose the instrument must support.

Read Stanley Katz’s Don’t Confuse a Tool with a Goal.

Now, using your understanding of instrumental and missional thinking, set up two sets of goals: one set of short term goals, and another of long term goals. The short term goals are some things you aim to achieve in, say 6 months. And the long term goals are some things that you plan to do in next 5 years. Both these goals need to be STEM and/or leadership-related. We will use these goals to shape your 5 Year Plan in this semester’s culminating assignment.

Write a 300 word response defining your goals and post it to your site with context by March 14th. Make sure to post your response in a way that supports the organization that you have selected for the leadership assignments.