From Riga: Teaching Leadership & Literature

Posted by jlubans on April 08, 2019

Caption: Barefoot Rainis. Look carefully, past BIG Rainis, down the slope in the background, is little Rainis. Big Rainis is about 12 feet tall (4 meters) Little R, under 5’. Big Rainis looks skyward unconcerned of those many taking selfies. Little R, when you are seated next to him, looks disconcertingly into your eyes, wondering who you are and why you are here.
(Photo by Viktorija Moskina.)

On the road again, I am for the next few months in Riga, Latvia. What takes me here? A Fulbright award to teach a short class on leadership concepts and theories at the University of Latvia.
I’ve puzzled on the topic. First, I’d use my Fables for Leaders book and we’d have long discussions about the morals and points of these ancient and modern stories.
But, I began to worry – could we really spend 3 hours (the length of each class) in discussion of a book?
Perhaps another book, but not mine.
I began to revise the original idea, now months back. Un-jelled, each class will change a bit but I think I have got something to run with.
Here’s what’s become clear as a basis for the L&L class:
- Literary and cultural examples of leadership and leadership qualities. In literature, I've included a variety of the other arts.
- How culture (including art and music and politics) affects leaders and followers and vice versa. It’s a two way process; bounded by culture we take from it and we give to it.
- On occasion, I’ll take a separate track and elaborate, briefly, on the prescriptive theories of leadership, management and organizational behavior. This separate track is independent of art, culture and literature. In other words the fodder of management. We’ll add some mustard with paradoxical questions.
- A new twist: hearing from Latvian leaders and artists and their experiences; their use of metaphors, legends, philosophy, and inherited values to influence culture. We’ll consider what it means to act heroically.
- Finally, I’ve added something I call “Artistic Insights”. We’ll step aside to view a propaganda film from 1977 about a successful manager of a Soviet era farm collective: we’ll wonder what Tom T. Hall means when he demands, “Who’s Gonna Feed Them Hogs?” and, we’ll discuss the meaning of a Latvian pop singer’s take about a national leader/hero, the Poet Laureate, Rainis (pictured).
My first class was last week. Twenty bright students, all with good English and interest in the topic. My next class is this week. I keep revising.
My book, “Fables for Leaders”, is only a click away:

And, my 2010 book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

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