Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dean Ishee on Leadership

Dr. Jimmy Ishee
We were fortunate to have the grand opportunity to interview Dr. Jimmy Ishee, Dean of the College of Health Sciences before he leaves his position as our leader for another deanship at the University of Central Arkansas. Since he is in a position of leadership and health educators are often called upon to be leaders, we felt he was the ideal candidate to interview about leadership skills and leadership roles. This post is a tribute to his leadership of ten years in the College of Health Sciences of Texas Woman’s University.

We asked him questions about his journey to leadership, his views on leadership and advice for leadership. Dean Ishee told us that he began his journey with nineteen years of moving up the academic ladder at the University of Central Arkansas in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education. He started as an assistant professor and shortly after receiving tenure he moved into the position as Associate Dean. He desired a deanship and landed the position at Georgia College and State University as the Dean of Health Sciences. In 2005, Dr. Ishee came to Texas Woman's University as Dean of College of Health Sciences.

When asked what are the characteristics of a leader Dean Ishee explained that each leader has different characteristics, but they have each have a quality that people want to follow. “You cannot be a leader without people following you. Sometimes that’s charisma, intelligence, good decision-making skills, and sometimes it is it all of those together.” He also explained that sometimes the leader has to have a certain skillset for the position of an institution to move forward and it depends on the circumstance of the institution as to what skills are needed at that point in time. Dean Ishee continued, “I think a leader needs to help people to move to the next place. How they move to that next place may be being told to move to there, being guided to move there, or being persuaded to move there. All of those would help them get to next place, but there are different skills to do that. Of course, the people have to be willing to listen to those particular skills in moving forward."

Our next question was “How do leaders motivate others?” Dean Ishee explained that there are several ways to motivate others. The one way that works the best is through self-motivation. He explained that it is difficult to motivate a whole group of people. Communicating a common goal can help also motivate individuals and groups and it also enhances those who are self-motivated.

Dean Ishee explained that leadership in higher education has changed over time. Leadership in higher education has become much more legalistic. The number of laws influences how operations take place in higher education such as confidentiality, immunizations, and conditions of admittance to graduate school are influenced by some legal perspective. He also explained that a new crop of students bring in new techniques and strategies. Students today are more technology based and that impacts how leadership communicates with the students, faculty, and department chairs. For effective communication and an effective learning environment, leaders in the university need to use the common technology that students have access.

When asked about how leaders handle hardship Dean Ishee stated, “Whether it is university issues, student issues, faculty issues, or budget cuts, if the leader does not handle them well then you can very quickly be viewed as an ineffective leader. Handling it well, means that everybody believes that is considered in the situation; understanding of the whole situation.” He continued to explain that it is important to not make biased decision and that all options were considered prior to making the decision. No matter what decision you make as a leader there are those that are going to feel that it is the incorrect decision. In some situations the decision is not fair, but the decision is appropriate for that situation.

When asked, “What is the different between networking as an individual versus networking as a leader?” Dean Ishee explained that both are very important not only career wise but influence wise. “A network is a group of people that you influence and those that influence you. Your network consists of people you value, respect and people you wish to influence or want to be influenced by. As a leader you are networking with a greater purpose in mind. Individual networks for to further individual purposes and what needs to be done to become a greater influence. Networking as an individual, you communicated your interests, accomplishments, and opinions. As a leader of the Health Sciences, I network with the purpose of displaying the accomplishments and successes of the faculty, students, and focus on the group as a whole. As a leader there must be a balance between individual networking versus networking as a leader.”

Dean Ishee continued with the subject of networking and leadership. He said that as a leader, it is important to work for both the present and future. If a leader just works for the present then there is no planning for the future; also if you are just planning for the future you are not taking care of the present in order to get to the future. There is a balance because what you are doing in the present is what will either get you to your goal or not. Strategic planning starts in the present and then progressively moves toward the future. He encouraged future leaders to make sure to think and plan for both the present and the future. You cannot do one without the other because the future eventually becomes the present.

Next we asked Dean Ishee how the College of Health Sciences collaborates with other disciplines. Dean Ishee stated since the second word in the college is sciences, there is a need to have biology, chemistry, and math to better understand the human body and how it works. The College of Health Sciences collaborates with the other departments and colleges heavily through curriculum development and team teaching courses. There is also collaboration with English department for students who do not have English as their primary language. Finally, the College of Health Sciences also collaborates with other degree programs such as education, physical education, and special education.

We then asked Dean Ishee what he looks for in students. He stated, “Self-motivation is the key with students. I never taught a self-motivated student that I could not keep from learning. External motivation is useful too, but external motivation usually goes away or is taken away and eventually the learning stops. Along with self-motivation is self-responsibility.”  He also looks for students who are self-responsible for their learning, situations for they are in, for the mistakes they have made, and take responsibility for their lives.  A self-motivated and self-responsible student does not necessarily make perfect grades, but s/he is a deep learner and approaches courses for self-betterment. He continued to explain that it is important to provide students options, which give them the responsibility to make decisions about their future.

Lastly, Dean Ishee gave advice to those who want to take on leadership roles. He recommended first asking yourself, “Why do you want to take on that leadership role?”  The answer will be an indication of your success as that leader and your satisfaction of being that leader. If you want to be the leader because you enjoy leadership roles there is a different approach to the role than if the reason is that you want to make a change and influence outcomes. The approach will still be different if you want to a leader because you want to help people. There have been leaders with all of those motivations and great leaders as well. He recommended heeding caution if a group asks you to be a leader because no one else wants to lead the group. You may want to reconsider the leadership role for that group because of the lack of self-motivated people involved.  Once becoming a leader, there will be different criticisms and it is important to take those criticisms as a learning opportunity.

We hope you as our readers will take his advice into consideration when seeking out leadership roles. We want to say, thank you to Dean Ishee for taking the time for this interview about leadership. We also are thankful for his years of service as the Dean of Health Sciences and his leadership at Texas Woman’s University. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.

Interview by Amanda Hinson-Enslin

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