December

ScienceBlog reports on research showing that humility is key to effective leadership. A few excerpts:

Although the leaders were from vastly different organizations — military, manufacturing, health care, financial services, retailing and religious — they all agreed that the essence of leader humility involves modeling to followers how to grow.

The researchers found that such leaders model how to be effectively human rather than superhuman and legitimize “becoming” rather than “pretending.”

A follow-up study that is forthcoming in Organization Science using data from more than 700 employees and 218 leaders confirmed that leader humility is associated with more learning-oriented teams, more engaged employees and lower voluntary employee turnover.

Although the research is focusing on leader humility, it points out the a result of leader humility is learning—not only by leaders but also by followers.

This research fits in well with Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Here are a few excepts from his book:

Problem-posing education affirms men and women as beings in the process of becoming—as unfinished, uncompleted beings in and with a likewise unfinished reality… The unfinished character of human beings and the transformational character of reality necessitate that education be an ongoing activity. (p. 65)

dialogue cannot exist without humility. ... Men and women who lack humility (or have lost it) cannot come to the people, cannot be their partners in naming the world. (p. 71)

Dialogue cannot exist, however, in the absence of a profound love for the world and for people. (p. 70)

As can be seen, Freire goes beyond humility to include either elements of learning: dialogue, love, and elsewhere in the book, faith, hope, and critical thinking. For a little more on this, see Jim Knight's Requirements for Dialogue, in which he comments on Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

A few other interesting reads (and excerpts) on humility in teaching:

Cunningham, Lawrence. My lifelong lesson in humility

In fact, being a worthy professor is a lifelong exercise in humility.

The true humility of the teacher (and, equally, the administrator) becomes manifest when we have an open eye and a soft spot for the shy students who turn in barely satisfactory papers. The cultivation of that kind of humility (the word itself has an etymological root that calls to mind “earthiness") gives the serious teacher a certain slant on things which says, in effect, that this person is worth my attention although my reputation will not be buffed up because that student will not get a medal at the annual convocation.

Hare, William. Humility as a virtue in teaching

Some teachers, then, seem so assured of their own authority that humility is completely absent from their perspective on teaching, while others seem to have translated humility into a denial of their right to critically assess a student's response. Some, however, manage to hit the mark exactly and capture the delicate balance between authority and humility which teachers must strive to attain.

Reilly, Brendan M. (2007). Inconvenient truths about effective clinical teaching. Lancet, 370: 705-711.

If our profession is serious about lifelong learning, we must recognise that learning can’t happen without humility. Teachers who humbly think out loud help to show the way.



One goal of education is critical thinking, part of which is challenging assumptions. A recent example of challenging assumptions is NPR's investigation of GOP claims that raising taxes will stifle hiring by small businesses.

"It's just intuitive that, you know, if you're somebody who's in business and you get hit with a tax increase, it's going to be that much harder, I think, to make investments that are going to lead to job creation," says Thune.

That intuition apparently isn't matched by reality. Although not a randomized study, NPR found the opposite. Here are two small business owners' responses:

"It's not in the top 20 things that we think about when we're making a business hire," said Ian Yankwitt, who owns Tortoise Investment Management.

Tortoise is a boutique investment firm in White Plains, N.Y. Yankwitt has 10 employees and in recent years has done a lot of hiring.

As a result, Yankwitt says he's had many conversations about hiring, "both with respect to specific people, with respect to whether we should hire one junior person or two, whether we should hire a senior person."

He says his ultimate marginal tax rate "didn't even make it on the agenda."

Yankwitt says deciding to bring on another employee is all about return on investment. Will adding another person to the payroll make his company more successful?

For Jason Burger, the motivation is similar.

"If my taxes go up, I have slightly less disposable income, yes," said Burger, co-owner of CSS International Holdings, a global infrastructure contractor. "But that has nothing to do with what my business does. What my business does is based on the contracts that it wins and the demand for its services."

Burger says his Michigan-based company is hiring like crazy, and he'd be perfectly willing to pay the surtax.



Yaneer Bar-Yam, President of NECSI, issued a statementin support of the Occupy Wall Street movement and then summarized his research supporting that statement.

Basically, deregulation or inappropriate regulation due to corporate influence has "undermined the ability of our economic system to function and made it highly susceptible to crises."