EPISODE 8: Dr. Judy Alston’s Lessons on Diversity

September 18, 2017

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Today I’m talking with Dr. Judy Alston who’s currently a professor at Ashland University, where her research includes black female superintendents, and the exploration of how the intersections of race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexual diversity, and ability affect leaders.

Dr. Alston is also the author of School Leadership and Administration: Important Concepts, Case Studies and Simulations, a book that tries to provide better training for education leaders by balancing theory and practice.

In this chat, we cover the ever important role of diversity in education, as well as how training can bring it all together.

Topics covered:

  • (00:45) – Background leading up to today.
    • (00:49) – Dr. Alston discusses how she first became involved in the field of education.
  • (03:39) – Diversity Fundamentals.
    • (03:47) – Dr. Alston gives us her interpretation of diversity and explains why it is an important issue today.
      • (03:52) – There’s not one way, there are many ways.  In opinion, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexuality.
      • (04:29) – Leading requires an appreciation and an understanding and engagement of those differences.
      • (05:20) – Diversity is difference, and difference is not defective.
  • (06:37) – Rethinking leadership training.
    • (06:52) – Examining what is wrong with the training many education leaders are receiving today.
      • (06:56) – The systemic problem with education in general.
      • (07:41) – The difference between training managers and training leaders.
      • (10:30) – Discussing proper ways to go about training leaders.
        • (11:08) – Whether the system needs to be completely rebuilt.
        • (12:10) – Ensuring people are placed in positions appropriate to their aptitude and talents.
      • (14:15) – How Dr. Alston has tried to address these issues in her book.
        • (15:42) – Introducing the concept of diversity and inclusivity.
        • (16:49) – How this expansion allows students to see themselves in the text and understand it more.
        • (18:29) – What Dr. Alston’s training looks like in practice.
          • (19:20) – Putting the theory into everyday language.
          • (20:32) – Getting students to make the theory personal.
        • (21:59) – Dr. Alston walks us through some simulations.
          • (22:05) – The ‘in-basket’ exercise.
          • (22:46) – Dealing with a call from a parent requesting their child be excused for a trip.
          • (23:07) – Dealing with a burst pipe in the basement.
          • (23:12) – Handling local television requests for comments.
          • (23:49) – How much time the students get to complete the simulations.
          • (24:25) – What kind of educators form the pool of students in her training classes.
  • (27:05) – Dr. Alston discusses the particular challenges and opportunities faced by black female superintendents.
  • (31:08) – Dr. Alston explains what ‘servant leadership’ means to her.
    • (31:27) – A leaders who serves first and then leads.
  • (33:01) – Dr. Alston shares the one lesson she would hope listeners would take away from this interview.
    • (33:27) – To think beyond yourself and lose any egotistical view of the world.

Rapid-fire Questions:

  • (35:49) – What do you spend too much time doing?
  • (36:27) – What do you not spend enough time doing?
  • (37:02) – What do you wish more people knew about your job?
  • (37:49) – What are the emerging trends in education you’re keeping an eye for?

Resources mentioned:

Where to learn more:

If you want to reach out and contact Dr. Alston, you can do so through her LinkedIn, which you can find here.


Pat: Today I’m talking with Dr. Judy Alston who’s currently a professor at Ashland University, where her research includes black female superintendents, and the exploration of how the intersections of race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexual diversity and ability, affect leaders.

0:00:17.3 Dr. Alston is also the author or, “School Leadership and Administration: Important Concepts, Case Studies and Simulations”. A book that tries to provide better training for education leaders by balancing theory and practice. In this chat, we are going to cover the ever important role of diversity in education, as well as how training can bring it all together. Welcome to the show Dr. Alston.

Dr. Alston: 0:00:39.5 Hi. Thank you so much, I’m glad to be here.

Pat: 0:00:45.4 Thank you. How did you first get involved in education? If you can start right at the beginning.

Dr. Alston: 0:00:49.9 Sure. Actually, I’ve told this story in a lot of places, and it’s kind of funny. When I initially went to college, I went to Winthrop College, which is now Winthrop University in Rock Hill South Carolina in 1983.

As a freshman, I wanted to be an attorney, so I decided that Political Science seemed like a good major for someone who was going to be an attorney. What I didn’t realize is that I didn’t like Political Science.

0:01:23.4 It just sounded good at the time. You know, you’re seventeen and you go, “Oh yeah, that sounds great.” And so I took classes and I was not doing well in those classes because I had no interest. 0:01:36.3 And all of my schooling, all of those twelve years of schooling before, I never made poor grades. Never made poor grades. Until I was a freshman in college.

And when I brought those grades home and the university said, “You know what, either you get yourself right or you have to take some time off.”

And my mother said, “I’m paying for this and so you need to figure out what you want to do with your life and what’s going to work.”

And I said, “You know, I really am interested in English. And I love that area. I love that discipline.”

And she said, “That’s fine, but what are you going to do?”

And I said, “I’m still going to law school.”

And she said, “If that doesn’t work, what are you going to do?”

And I said, “Well, it’s going to work.”

And she says, “No, I’m going to tell you what you’re going to do. What you are going to do is you are going to have a backup plan. You have to have something to fall back on. So, you are going to, while you’re an English major, you are going to also get your teaching degree.”

0:02:37.4 And so, it was from the pushing and the unction of my mother that I actually got into education. And she knew something that I didn’t know, which was that was really my calling. That’s really where I needed to be.

So, as an English major, I added on the education to that and graduated in 1987. Had applied for my license in the State of South – or in that time, certification in the State of South Carolina.

0:03:08.8 Received my teaching certification and I started teaching in August of 1987 at Cainhoy High School 0:03:16.6, which is in Huger, South Carolina. Berkeley County, outside of Charleston where I am from. And I started high school there 30 years ago.

And 30 years later here I am still teaching. And enjoying what I do.

Pat: 0:03:31.5 Incredible journey. I’m sure – and you’ve made incredible efforts to further the study of diversity and social justice.

Dr. Alston: Absolutely.

Pat: 0:03:39.7 What does diversity mean to you and why is it such an important issue for – especially for superintendents to consider today?

Dr. Alston: 0:03:47.9 Diversity. You know, that’s a really good question. What does it really mean? Because everybody has a different definition.

03:52 Diversity for me means that – means many things. It means that there’s not one way, there are many ways. There’s not one opinion, there are many opinions. There are many ethnicities.

0:04:13.1 There are many – all kinds of – there’s the gender variance and all of what we are coming to understand about sexuality, gender, gender identity, etc.. 0:04:29.5 So diversity is a plethora of things.

Why is that important for superintendents to consider? Well, you know, leading requires an appreciation and an understanding and engagement of those differences. Those varying differences that we see in society.

0:04:51.8 Yeah, the globalization of industries and organizations that make us appreciate the differences, the individual and group differences that we see. We don’t have just one faction of people coming into schools, no matter what that may look like, they may all look the same, they may all have the same skin colour, but that does that – they’re still different.

0:05:20.4 So diversity is difference. And difference is not defective. That’s the other piece. So, leading requires that you as the head leader in charge, in this case the superintendent, embrace all of these differences that you see on a daily basis. Not only with students, but also with staff and faculty and the community in which you lead.

0:05:49.8 So you don’t lead from — you can’t lead from a vacuum experience. You can’t just lead from your own personal life’s experience. You have to be – you have to embrace and see the beautiful rainbow. 0:06:08.6 I think a rainbow is a very apropos metaphor. It’s the rainbow of people, of life that we have. So that’s why diversity is important for superintendents and other leaders to consider in schooling.

Pat: 0:06:28.8 That is so powerful. Thank you for sharing that. And what really jumped out, what you said was, “Different is not defective.” That at its core is so powerful.

0:06:37.4 So, let me segment from there. You know, it goes back to training. In the sense that, you know, training, ingraining that attitude in the leaders today. Sort of broad level when you zoom out. Not just limited to diversity issues. 0:06:52.0 What’s wrong with much of the training many education leaders are receiving today, and how can we do better?

Dr. Alston: 0:06:56.5 Oh my goodness. We don’t have long enough to have that conversation. Ahh, ok, you know what it boils down to is that we have a systemic problem with education in general. With schooling.

We still have schools – a school system that functions on an agrarian calendar. And as I say to my students – I ask them often, “How many of you are actually farmers?”

0:07:26.6 And they look at me like, “Ohhh well I”, you know a couple of them are like, “I grew up farming.” I said, “But that’s not what your livelihood is.”

So we are on an antiquated system to start with. 0:07:41.2 So, and in this antiquated system, we also have antiquated thinking and antiquated training. We are still, I would suggest that, in many cases, we are still training in our leadership preparation programs, managers and not leaders. You manage things and you lead people. You lead initiatives. You have vision and we are not – we’re still, we’re still behind on that – in that area.

So, the issue is, in a lot of cases, with us in leadership preparation programs and how we go about this idea of training. 0:08:23.2 And I think training is a dangerous word in a lot of ways too. Because leadership, like teaching, leading in education, like teaching, really has to be a calling.

It’s not that you just hear – and I say to my students, “What is in your tool belt?” You know, like we’re all walking around with these leadership tool belts. But you do have to come to the table. You have to start with something.

You can’t come, you know, absolutely empty and void of any experience, void of any gift or talent that can be built upon to do the leading. 0:09:06.1 And so I think we in leadership preparation programs tend to not see it from that perspective.

We really do need to see leadership from a more holistic, human perspective versus this, you know, the typical old school three B’s. The budgets, butts and books. 0:09:30.0 We don’t – it’s not that – I mean, you know we’re not – we don’t have widgets in schools. We have children. And even at – even in post-secondary, these aren’t widgets, these are adults. And so how do you then teach but – not train, but teach and help adults and children get to having the best potential of their lives?

Pat: 0:09:59.7 That’s such a loaded answer, I could take off in ten different directions.

Dr. Alston: Yeah.

Pat: 0:10:06.0 Let me dig into that. You said, “Rich experience makes for a better leader.” You know, that, that, you know, it’s hard to argue against that. But here’s my point. You cannot – there’s a limited pool of leadership available at the top for you to choose from.

So with that – within that pool, what is the most effective way a superintendent can stop making the direction – so sorry, the districts more inclusive? 0:10:29.2 [Edit out] Because you’ve got to work with the pool you have. And how do you train them? How do you put that on top of the priority list?

Dr. Alston: 0:10:38.4 Yeah. You know, that’s that’s – and that’s a difficult – there’s – 0:10:42.9 [Edit] it’s difficult to answer that because the priority list now is guided by standards and mandates right? So we have these particular things that we have to do in schools. And we have to have these particular tests and we have to meet these numbers, and if we don’t. And so…

Pat: 0:11:04.9 It’s the BBB you said. Triple B.

Dr. Alston: 0:11:08.4 Yeah, it goes back to that and so now we aren’t focused on the right thing. I don’t know how you refocus other than to – and it’s beyond having – because we do this in higher education all the time. We have conferences about all of this stuff, but where’s the implementation?

It’s almost like you have to go back and raze the entire system and build it from the ashes. But I think what you can do, is on some very individual levels, you know, the kind of the ground swell from the bottom up. To begin to identify what is going on in my particular district. 0:11:54.5 Where am I seeing the needs.

And then, if I don’t have the talent here, go out and find someone who can come in and actually do the training. Actually do the teaching and the leading to help what you already have there. 0:12:10.5 Because often we do have – we have what we need we just haven’t identified in the people. And I say this often. What we end up doing, is we put the people on the wrong seats in the bus. Just because we want to fill up the bus. So we just put you anywhere.

0:12:31.2 Now that becomes – and that becomes an extension of the problem because then what happens is, if I’m not good in a particular area and you have me working in that area, maybe I’m not good at leadership. Maybe I’m really much better at followership and I’m better in a classroom, and I’m better with kids, so why am I working with adults? If you – just because you decided, “Well, I need you there.” Yeah so that’s what happens.

So what the leader in this case, really needs to do is do the assessment of – and this takes a whole lot of time – and that’s the other thing, we don’t have time. But this does take some time to assess what gifts and talents are already there in the people that are in that district.

And then how can you move them into those places where they excel. Where they really are doing a much better job. 0:13:39.8 And when they excel, then your district starts to move forward. Then you will see that your students will begin to excel because you’ve got the right people in the right seats on the bus.

Pat: 0:13:49.1 So I see loud and clear. Talent matching is one of the biggest priorities in the district in the top leadership level.

Dr. Alston: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Pat: 0:13:59.5 Now let me zoom back a little bit and ask about – you co-authored this awesome book which talks about school leadership and administration. Important concepts, case studies, simulations. You go really deep into it. 0:14:15.5 So how have you tried to address this in your book and if you can talk us through that.

Dr. Alston: 0:14:20.5 Sure. I am – what you really – what is really interesting about this particular book, is when I was a graduate student, I was a masters student at the University of South Carolina, probably around 1991, and I was working on my second Masters in school administration. And this book was in one of my courses. And I at that time – and it probably was the second or third edition of the book.

0:14:50.8 At that time I thought, “Oh this book is so awesome because it is not only theory, but it is also case studies and simulations and it gives us an opportunity to practice.” Well lo and behold, you know, many years later, around 2005, I get this email asking me if I wanted to be a co-author on this book that I had used as a student, and also used as a faculty person. 0:15:16.0 And I jumped at that chance. So that – I was brought in on the 7th edition and we just – I just finished up the 10th edition.

Pat: 0:15:24.4 10th edition, oh I thought it was the 9th. Congratulations.

Dr. Alston: 0:15:27.6 No, no, no you’re right. The 9th edition has been out since 2012, but the 10th edition, we just finished the edits. Or it’s in the copy editing stage right now, so it will be out next year.

Pat: Congratulations.

Dr. Alston: Thank you. 0:15:42.9 What I brought to that was this whole notion of diversity and how we could really expand that in the conversation in the text. So to be – to go beyond the Great Man Theories, which generally will mean it’s the great white, heterosexual male theories of leadership.

Well, there’s more, there’s more – there’s other perspectives as well. And they’re other learnings in other teachings that we can – that can be included in that. 0:16:14.2 So, as an African-American female, that is the lens from which I proffer, and that I see things. And that I live my life.

And I noticed in my teaching, using this text and other text, that that voice was not there. So what I brought to this stage or what I brought to the text was that view of inclusivity. Of diversity if you will.

0:16:38.3 Of the difference, as I said, that’s not a negative. You know, it’s more inclusive. So that students can see themselves in the text. 0:16:49.7 If students see themselves in the text and they have a tendency to understand the text more. And so that was really important.

And it was also important to expand that. 0:17:01.1 Not only in the theory part, the theoretical section of the book, the first seven chapters or so, it was also important to include that in the conversations within the case studies themselves.

So to – the case studies that were there were already very well written, and some really good case studies, but they needed to have a little bit of diversity added to that. And so that’s what I did.

0:17:29.7 I also added a diversity spotlight to each chapter of the text. Of the first seven chapters. Of the theoretical piece. So it was a diversity spotlight and a research spotlight. Because what I wanted students to have was this seamless connection of theory and practice. Because often students say, “Ok well that sounds good in theory, but what does that look like in practice.”

So what we wanted to do was take that theory and make it practical for them so that they could actually see that in the spotlights in those chapters, but also take that and thread it through the actual case studies and simulations that are in part two of the text.

Pat: 0:18:15.5 Absolutely. So let me dig a little bit deeper. I know we could talk for hours just on this book, so let me ask you two questions. And I’ll let you piece it together in your answer. 0:18:29.4 So one, I just want to understand, how does your training look in practice. Like what are the practicalities of the training you suggest in the book? 0:18:36.6 And two, can you walk us through a simulation? Without getting in too much in the weeds. But spend a few minutes, if you can, to help us with this question.

Dr. Alston: 0:18:49.1 [Edit] So what this – how did, what was the first question?

Pat: How does the training look like in practice? How do you put it into practice. 0:18:55.9 [Edit out]

Dr. Alston: 0:18:56.1 Ok, so the training and practice for me, and actually, I’m using the text right now. And I have a master’s level licensure educational leadership course that I teach, and I always, always use the text.

19:20 The students will read the theory, and what I try to do in writing the theory, was not make it so theoretical in language, but make it everyday language, but still focusing on theory. 0:19:27.5 And then we will have discussions about what does that look like in reality for you. So if I talk about transformational leadership, Burns’ work, then what does that really look like in an everyday situation?

And I have students – students will unpack that and talk about how – what that looks like for them in their particular place. Not what it looks like any place but else, but where do you see that in the school in which you work.

0:20:00.7 What – how can you identify people who have these particular characteristics of a transformational leadership – of a transformational leader. So if we talk about the work of Kouzes and Posner 0:20:11.9, you know, what does that look like when somebody challenges the process? What does that look like when somebody enables other people to act? What does it look like when you model this behaviour? So if we’re talking about those five leadership practices, exemplary leadership practices that they talk about.

0:20:32.1 So I actually have students make it personal. I think that’s the key. So, make theory – make the theory personal to you. 0:20:41.3 And once you can do that, then you can have a better understanding of what it really means and then you don’t sit around and say, “Well it’s all theoretical.” What you begin to say, you begin to actually speak the language itself.

Pat: 0:20:55.8 I think it goes back to your previous statement when you said, “Rich experience makes for a better leader.”

Dr. Alston: Oh absolutely.

Pat: 0:21:00.2 So 0:21:01.5 [Inaudible] more rich experience in the background in this pool of leadership, the more positive outcome you have out of your training. Is that right?

Dr. Alston: 0:21:08.8 Exactly. And see, and I think that’s, that’s what’s wrong with our training and preparation, is that we don’t have enough of that, that – it’s not really a bridging of theory in practice, it is an infusion of both. They have to collide and become one. It all has to go in together. 0:21:30.5 In those student’s lives.

Pat: 0:21:35.7 And proper training obviously can help on issues of diversity and social justice with our current leadership. Right?

Dr. Alston: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Pat: 0:21:46.4 [Edit] So, sorry go ahead. 0:21:52.9

Dr. Alston: 0:21:53.0 So part two of your question was the simulation.

Pat: Yeah, if you could walk us through a simulation, that would be good.

Dr. Alston: 0:21:58.1 Sure, 0:21:58.5 [Edit out] There are I think in the text, there are maybe three actionable simulations. 22:05 One is – well two of them are what we call in-basket exercises, where students have approximately 45 minutes to deal with a, you know, old school you walk in your office and there’s an inbox on your desk that has a whole bunch of stuff.

0:22:27.5 You know, all these messages from the administrative assistant, and how do you go through and prioritize what to do first. And then how do you deal with each of those little pink slips of paper or whatever colour they are now, that are in that inbox that’s sitting on your desk.

0:22:46.6 So that’s one simulation where students have to actually work through, “I got a call from…” — You got a call from a parent and their child is going to be out of school for the next week because the parent decided that they were going to go to Europe and they thought that that was a great educational experience and they want the student excused.

0:23:07.2 So, is that low priority, medium priority or high priority? There is a – there’s a pipe burst down in the gym, low, medium or high? And how do you deal with that?

23:12 You got a call from somebody in – you got a call from a local television station about a situation with the student at your school and they want your comments. How do you deal with that? 0:23:30.8

So that’s one of the simulations, or a couple of the simulations that we actually use. And students actually really love that. It’s not just a case study, it is me actually doing the work, and so they really have to tough it out.

0:23:49.4 I give them – sometimes I give them 90 minutes. Normally, if I’m in – if we’re doing it in a face to face class, I may give them 90 minutes. Otherwise I will give them 45 minutes to deal with this. Because you may only have 45 minutes when you walk into your office at school and you’ve got this pile of stuff that you’ve got to deal with. And students get a – it’s a reality check for them and they – you know, many of these students are teachers and they go, “I never, ever considered that this would be a part of what goes on in the day of the life of the principle in a school.”

Pat: 0:24:25.1 That is, that’s awesome. So just for the listeners, if you can give a little overview of what does a student pool look like. Are they all educators? Potential leaders? Superintendent? What seniority? What does – you know, if you could just walk us through that.

Dr. Alston: 0:24:40.6 Sure. At Ashland University, I am actually – my main job is in the doctoral program in leadership studies. Which is really organizational leadership. And so in that particular program, my students come from various backgrounds.

0:24:59.4 So we have education, we have law, we’ve had medicine, social service agencies, government, etc., etc.. And so with those students, we don’t focus on educational leadership, we focus on organizational leadership. But there are – you know, leadership is leadership, so the tenants of basic leadership speak across the disciplines. And so that’s one set of students.

The other set of students that I have are masters students and or licensure for the State of Ohio students in school administration or educational leadership. 0:25:34.2 And so most of those students are either classroom teachers or they are already administrators, either at the – either at the building or the district level.

Sometimes I’ve had superintendents. So those students have various degrees of experience. Right now, I have a couple in a class that it’s only their second or third year teaching. Others have much longer time in their teaching tenure, so those are the students that I have – that would I use this particular text, I use this particular text with those masters and licensure students.

Pat: 0:26:16.6 More senior, more the senior experienced students who’ve been there done that, who can – who have practically 0:26:22.3 [Inaudible] on a daily basis, right?

Dr. Alston: 0:26:24.7 Well some of them and some of them not. Some of them, maybe this is their first foray, they’ve decided, “I want to become an administrator, and so this…” — and also this particular class is a core class for all of the masters students. All of the master of education students in our college of education.

0:26:47.1 So I may have some early childhood people, and I may have – I’ve had some international students who are not seeking licensure, but they’re seeking a masters of education. So we have students from varying backgrounds that come through this program.

Pat: 0:27:05.4 So, Dr. Alston, there’s another focus of your research which particularly deals with challenges and opportunities faced by black female superintendents. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Dr. Alston: 0:27:20.4 Sure. I did my PhD work at the Pennsylvania State University. Starting in 1993 and I graduated in 1996. And while I was in my program, prior to going into my program, I – and teaching in this public school system in South Carolina, I knew that there were very few black women who were in administration period.

0:27:51.5 Either at the building level or at the district level, and I had the experience of essentially being told, “No, we won’t hire you because we already have hired one black female as an assistant principle.” And I went, “Well that’s very interesting.”

So I decided, well heck I’ll just go get a PhD and see who won’t hire me then. 0:28:15.7 And while I was at Penn State, I was really focused on the building level, but what I noticed was that there was even – there was an even lesser number at the district level, and I started to look at black women in the superintendency and there was little to nothing out there.

0:28:40.2 And the research itself was scarce, if any, and so I met one person, Dr. Barbara Jackson, who was at Fordham University at the time. She was one of maybe three women who was actually doing research on black females in the superintendency. And I might be overstating that three. It may have only been two.

0:29:02.6 And I found – like I tell my students. What – find the the area in the research that needs to be expanded. And that was it. I said, “That’s my niche. And that’s my interest.” And so I began my work on black female school superintendents in 1995. And have continued to do some of that writing over the years and there’s still – I’m one of probably four maybe five people who actually still does work on black female school superintendents. Because the numbers are still so very low.

And there has been a change on – of where they now actually are superintendents. So they used to be that you would find them in larger, more urban districts. 0:29:57.8 And now you don’t see that as much. So the numbers are changing. 0:30:01.3 And the other piece is that there’s nobody that really collects that data or warehouses that data.

So, like the American Association of School Administrators, AASA, does that ten year study of the superintendency, but it still doesn’t dis-aggregate that data down far enough to see, to show the actual numbers of black female superintendents, or even hispanic, Latina, that mix, superintendents either. So it’s still very important, because there are still women out there who want to do this work, they come from a rich history, but it’s just trying to find who’s out there doing the work.

0:30:47.0 So I still try to do that – I get calls from students often, because they have some interest in that area. And so the work is still there.

Pat: 0:30:56.4 Yeah I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there who look up to you and the research you do in these subjects and they are glad that you are a pioneer in this area. Thank you for your work on that.

0:31:08.6 Also, to segue into another very important near and dear concept you talk about – if you could explain what does ‘servant leadership’ mean to you, and if you could give a brief overview on what you think about it.

Dr. Alston: 0:31:22.3 Servant leadership, coined by Robert Greenleaf 0:31:27.8 1970 or so, is defined as a leaders who serves first and then leads. You serve, you give to others and so that’s what it is for me. It’s about not thinking that it’s about me. Because it’s never about you. And if you’re in education, it can’t be about us, it has to be about the least of these.

0:31:59.4 So, how am I providing for the least of these and the least of these in this case, for us in education, are the children. You know, they come, they’re not empty vessels when they come either. 0:32:10.2 They come with life experiences, even if they’re five or six. They’ve got five or six good years that they have lived on this Earth, so they’ve got some experiences.

But what can I do to make you more healthy, more wealthy, more wise, as Greenleaf would say. 0:32:28.3 In order to be a better person in this world, and to then pass it on.

So servant leadership is leading from a space of serving first and then in your service, your service is the piece that people see, and they follow that. They follow the service that you do. Because you can only be a leader if you have followers. So that’s what servant leadership is to me.

Pat: 0:33:01.7 That is so powerful, and thanks for sharing that. I’m sure a lot of listeners will have a ton of follow up questions on that. And so if we want to tie it all – I know the time is running a little short here – if you want to tie it all together and if you want the listeners – if listeners would walk walk away with just one lesson about diversity, what would that be? What would you want that to be?

Dr. Alston: 0:33:27.1 One lesson? I would want listeners to know that it’s not about you. We’ve got to get away from this egotistical view of the world. This is not about me. Because I exist with so many other people. Millions of other people in this world.

0:33:54.7 And so, if it’s not about me, then who is it about? It’s about the next generation that’s coming along, it’s about educating and training and raising up some responsible people, because I’m not going to live forever. And so, in terms of thinking about diversity, think beyond yourself. 0:34:20.1

And when you think beyond yourself, and you begin to work beyond yourself, then you begin to serve beyond yourself. And when you serve beyond yourself, then other people will begin to follow you. And in that way, you will become a true leader.

Pat: 0:34:38.5 Thank you. That is so powerful. Thank you. So now, I’m just reading a couple sentences which really hit home for me in the process of your book. “The public expects more from schools than ever before. Including greater accountability, improved performance on standardized test, guarantees of school safety, more input from parents, better school community relations, and an acceptance and appreciation of diversity with equal opportunities for all students.”

And that really came out so powerful in the interview. We’ve been speaking for about 40 minutes now and it’s been such a fantastic ride. I know I could spend hours on this, but you also highlight the need for adequate supply of capable leaders willing to accept such challenges. 0:35:24.9 You know, has never been greater. So, you know, the mantle you carry is all the more important. So thank you for the good work you do and we look forward to, you know, greater things from you.

Dr. Alston: 0:35:37.6 Absolutely. Thank you.

Pat: 0:35:40.7 And before we wrap up, we also like to ask our guests a few rapid-fire questions. These questions will be quick, but your responses don’t have to be. 0:35:49.1 So the first one is, what do you currently spend too much time doing?

Dr. Alston: 0:35:55.1 Oh, that’s a good question. You know, probably procrastinating. Yeah. I spend far too much time procrastinating. Because I really am working on this idea of self-care, and so I have a list, I call it a ‘to damn do list’ because it’s stuff that has to be done right now, but I keep procrastinating. So yeah, I spend far too much time procrastinating. Yes.

Pat: 0:36:27.5 What do you spend not enough time doing today?

Dr. Alston: 0:36:30.9 I spend not enough time, ooh that’s good. I don’t know, you know I don’t spend enough time doing the healthy stuff. Doing the exercise that I should be doing. Yep. Taking care – taking physical care of myself. I need to spend more time doing that.

Pat: 0:37:02.7 What do you wish more people knew about your job?

Dr. Alston: 0:37:07.7 I wish people knew that it never stops. Because people think that I teach – because I teach an online class and I have a doctoral class that meets every other week, and they’re like, “Oh you’re only in your office every other week.”

Yeah, while physically I’m only there every other week, I’m always working. So I’m always at the computer, I’m always either reading a dissertation, grading papers, or reading through discussion boards with my students.

0:37:40.2 But the work never stops and I have to make myself stop. So this is a constant job. It’s not just a 9-5.

Pat: 0:37:49.1 Sure. What are the emerging trends in education you’re keeping an eye for?

Dr. Alston: 0:37:53.9 I’m keeping an eye out on how the numbers are changing in terms of the notions of diversity and difference and what that means as we look at who is – who are we schooling. Keeping an eye out on this notion of charter schools versus public schools and how that’s developing. I’m also keeping an eye out on who is continuing to be put in leadership positions. Those trends as well.

Pat: 0:38:30.4 Sure. Sure. That was great. So if listeners want to learn more from you and hear about what you’re doing, about the work you do, what is the best way to reach out to you.

Dr. Alston: 0:38:39.9 The best way to reach out to me would be on LinkedIn. And that’s under my name, Judy Alston, professor at Ashland University. So that’s the best way to reach out to me. Is LinkedIn.

Pat: 0:38:54.4 And we also want to tell the listeners to write out a little note which tells them – gives you information about how they’ve heard about it, so you know how they’re coming to you.

Dr. Alston: Yes, please. Please do that.

Pat: 0:39:10.1 Thanks Dr. Alston, this was awesome. I mean, we could have spent hours on this conversation. I know you have – are very tight on your time, so I just want to say thank you for your time today, it was great being able to pick your brain. I’m sure listeners will be – would have got a lot out of it, I’m sure there’s a lot of budding leaders out there who listen to this podcast and think, “Gee, there’s so many things I can go back and dig in and help myself be a better leader. So thank you so much for sharing all these words of wisdom today.

Dr. Alston: Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

Pat: And good luck and keep the good work and we look forward to hearing good and great things from you in the near future.

Dr. Alston: Thank you so much, you have a great day.

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