Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Humane, Creative, Empowering Culture

As readers of this all-too-infrequently posted blog know, I will be completing my full-time service at American University, this spring, after 35 years. The recently published School of International Service Newsletter (The Diplomatic Pouch) included a “farewell” interview in which I described creating a “humane, creative, empowering culture” in AU organizations that I helped develop and lead as a major accomplishment. (The complete interview is posted at

http://www.american.edu/sis/news/upload/DPouch_Spring_2011_F_web.pdf )

A colleague wrote that she liked the concept but that it was new to her. In response, I provided the following elaboration.

I’m glad you liked the concept of a humane, creative, empowering culture, (perhaps sub-culture would be better) though I haven’t thought of it as all that revolutionary. This was my goal both as Director of Doctoral Studies and especially as Director of the Centre for Teaching Excellence. Creating such a culture simplifies the task of leadership since those functioning within it come to behave appropriately as a matter of habit - like not picking up food with your left hand in rural India and Sri Lanka and presenting a credit card or accepting a cheque deferentially with both hands extended in Singapore. If the culture is, indeed, humane, creative and empowering, members of the organization come to look forward to their work day - my staff often told me so and they stayed on, turning down higher paying jobs. I believe most human beings want a work environment where they feel productive; feel that they are making a difference; feel that their creativity is being affirmed. This is a self-reinforcing process. In such a culture individuals become more productive and the rewards they receive, both intrinsic and extrinsic grow.

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