Do You Speak My Language?
By Abigail Sugahara
Students from the Spring 2010 "Integrative Leadership: From Theory to Practice" course, taught by Professors Jay Kiedrowski and Paul Vaaler, will post their reflections on integrative leadership throughout the course of the semester on the Time to Lead blog.
Do You Speak My Language?
One of the great things about the Integrative Leadership course I just finished--- something that I don't think Professors Vaaler and Kiedrowski listed on the syllabus---was the opportunity to work with students from other programs. I'm getting my MBA at Carlson, but working with MPA and MPP candidates from the Humphrey Institute during
class simulations and especially when putting together our final group project helped to drive home many of the points we talked about in class. It was the real-life component that we couldn't get from reading or even listening to lectures.
One lesson I learned in particular is that integrative leadership is more successful when leaders can find a common language. My final project case looked at Bono, lead singer of U2, as an example of an integrative leader. My favorite anecdote was how he won over
octogenarian conservative Republican Senator Jesse Helms by presenting the issue of AIDS and poverty in Africa through the lens of Christianity, the faith they both hold very dear. Helms initially believed that people contracted AIDS through their own immorality
actions and did not want to give financial or any other support to the cause; Bono showed him that as a Christian, he couldn't turn his back on the families who were suffering.
It seems obvious that people need to understand each other, and one would think that this would be easy with two native English speakers. But different groups have their own lingo and buzzwords, and the same word can have different connotations to different people. We don't realize this when we spend most of our time with people like us---even
after only 9 months of business school, I sometimes forget that terms like /value proposition, ROI, /and /core competence/ are not part of your average American's everyday vocabulary. Or even those of other University of Minnesota graduate students. When my group got together to build our final presentation, there was a little bit of an
adjustment as we worked out where our "languages" overlapped and where they differed. We became not only collaborators but translators---creating a final product that everyone in the class would be able to understand, and building our integrative leadership skills in the process.