Leadership : Up Close and Personal

Vol. 12, No. 1
ISSN: 1546-2676

Guest Editors: 
Virginia L. Clark & Frances E. Andrews

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Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM,
Vol. 12, No. 1. 
1546-2676. Editor: Dorothy I. Mitstifer. Official publication of Kappa Omicron Nu National Honor Society. Member, Association of College Honor Societies. Copyright © 2000. Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM is a refereed, semi-annual publication serving the profession of family and consumer sciences. The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of the society. Further information: Kappa Omicron Nu, PO Box 798, Okemos, MI 48805-0798. Telephone: (727) 940-2658 ext. 2003

Interested in submitting an article to KON FORUM? Papers are now being accepted for review.


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Kappa Omicron Nu


For 21st Century Leadership: Knowledge Of Self

Frances E. Andrews

Dr. Andrews is Professor and Chair, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Montevallo.

Adapted from a presentation at the Kappa Omicron Nu Conclave, Chicago, Illinois, August 1995.

The multipolar world of the 21st century requires us and other leaders to embrace diversity and recognize, appreciate, and value differences as strengths. This kind of relationship with others does not come without effort on our part! The prerequisite strategy for the development of leadership in this multicultural society is knowledge of and understanding of ourselves as persons and as leaders.

Self-knowledge is the foundation of any contribution we can hope to make to other people, and it is an essential component of our personal and professional integrity. We must become conscious of the energy patterns rooted in our own history and culture. We must identify our own attitudes, beliefs, values, motives, actions, skills, talents, shortcomings, and abilities. Only then can we understand how our own prejudices and past experiences (a) influence our perceptions of reality, (b) lead us into stereotypical thinking and behaviors, (c) and prevent us from learning about and forming friendships with individuals who are different, from broadening our perspectives, and from exhibiting creativity in our personal and professional lives.

Awareness of self or self-discovery evolves over time. It is fluid, dynamic, and everchanging. For most of us, this process continues throughout our lives and is furthered by numerous interactions and relationships with others. In Valuing Diversity (1995), Griggs notes: “The degree to which we are able to form relationships with others is a measure of our own personal growth. We can become our fullest selves only through relationships and through reflecting on our responses to the relationships we form” (p. 215).

Culture is our way of knowing and doing. Our culture of origin greatly impacts the lens through which we see the world. Each of us grew up with a set of cultural messages we acquired from our families, environments, peers, and other sources. Throughout this process, most of us did not consider questioning the validity of the information we were absorbing and making our own. In Diversity Issues in the Workplace (1995), Kendall states: “We simply took on the attitudes, prejudices, and stereotypes about men and women, about people who are culturally and racially different from ourselves, about age, about work, and about what is and what is not considered normal” (p. 83). Many of us do not recognize that our culturally defined ways of doing things are so deeply embedded that we cannot imagine anyone thinking about doing anything any other way!

Myers and Spite, in Optimal Theory in the Psychology of Human Diversity (1994), conclude that “ . . . exploring the roles of culture, identity, and oppression in human diversity can help us grow toward wholeness, individually and collectively. In this growth, we will place less emphasis on the superficial diversity markers and focus more on the substantive aspects of humanity, having to do with who we are in terms of our character, ethics, values, and morals rather than on the way we appear superficially” (p. 112).

In each of our cultures, beliefs are necessary to make our lives understandable. It is through these beliefs that we come to know the nature of our society and the meaning of the things that occur within it. Obviously, beliefs affect our relationships, fuel our thinking, and direct our behavior and our emotions. Often, beliefs that we hold are the result of our own cultural conditioning and determine whether we will seek rapport with individuals who are different from ourselves. Whether we wish to acknowledge it or not, most of us are trapped by our own belief systems, our own unexamined values, our past experiences, and the emotions of fear, anger, and mistrust that have become frozen over our lifetimes.

Unless we have a clear and accurate picture of our style of interaction, our values about communicating, our cultural biases about openness, honesty, conflict, language, and about how our biases affect interactions, we will not be able to forge a meaningful relationship with others.

An effective relationship, regardless of the culture of the individuals, has several characteristics. These were identified by Truax and Carkhuff (Louw, 1995, p. 172). An effective relationship is one in which the individuals:

Are reasonably well integrated, non-defensive, and authentic in their relationship encounters;

Provide a non-threatening, safe, trusting, and secure atmosphere by reason of their mutual and unconditional regard for each other;

Are able to understand each other and their relationship on a moment-to-moment basis.

In the discussion of the Ubuntu philosophy in Applying African Philosophy to Diversity Training (1995), Louw indicated that “ . . . the baggage we bring from the past, combined with the unrealistic expectations we have for the future, are very effective in keeping us from being a fully participating member of society. We allow our preconceptions, our past associations, and our judgments to distort most of our present interactions” (p. 166). The sad thing is that many of us do not even realize what is occurring!

Knowing as much as we can about our own ethnocentrisms helps us recognize how our ignorance of and discomfort with differences literally prevents us from seeing others as “fully human.” Intrapersonal and interpersonal factors and sociocultural history influence the development of personal prejudice and discrimination. Our attitudes and behaviors toward people are in part determined by the historical legacy of our interactions with people who are different.

Understanding the influence of past experiences and cultural orientation on how different racial groups view the world helps us understand the development of our own racial identity. From this understanding, we strive toward respect for the racial identity processes of others. As you study the sample model of racial identity development (Table 1), you will recognize that each of us may be in several stages of racial identity development at the same time.

Table 1. Racial Identity Development Stages for Minority and Majority Americans








At some point, minority members learn that they are of a certain ethnic group. They then idealize the dominant group and identify with majority attitudes and practices as they understand them.

In this stage, majority members become aware of the existence of minorities. There is a sense of curiosity and naiveté in early awareness, and no awareness within the majority person of him or herself as a racial being.




Often, minority members enter this stage because of a negative experience with the majority or because of a particularly positive experience with fellow minority members. The dominant feeling is a strong acceptance of self as a member of a particular minority.

In this stage, majority members become aware of themselves as racial beings and of the existence of racism. Negative attributes of the dominant culture pose a dilemma for majority members: one could attempt to protect minority people from racism by adopting a parental attitude, or take on attributes of the minority cultures and ignore one’s own culture, or one could retreat farther from the dominant culture, ignoring the existence of racism.





In this stage, minority members devalue the dominant culture. There is a sharp awareness of racism and racist attitudes and a belief that the majority culture is inferior.

In this stage, the majority member develops an animosity toward minorities, tends to deny any similarities between races and insulates him/herself from interactions with minority group members.



Pseudo-Independence and Autonomy


In this stage, minority persons emerge from wholehearted focus on identity as members of their own ethnic group, and adopt a broader view that includes wholehearted acceptance of self as minority member as well as an acknowledgment of the dominant culture. In this stage, minority members are also sensitive to oppression against others not of their ethnic group. Experiences with oppression are not forgotten but are no longer the focal point of self-awareness.

In these stages, a majority member develops a passive, intellectual view of racial differences. The naiveté of the Contact stage is gone, but curiosity about differences remains. In the Autonomy stage, the person becomes both intellectually aware of and accepting of racial similarities and differences. The majority group member seeks opportunities and interactions that reflect differences because they add richness to his/her perspective.

Adapted from Helms, J. E. (1984). Toward a theoretical explanation of the effects of race on counseling: A black and white model. The Counseling Psychologist, 12(4), 153-164.

Critical to our self-knowledge is an understanding of the roles relationships play in the process. As noted earlier, relationships are fluid and ever-changing energy patterns. They do not form overnight! Rather, they form over time and reform constantly. With every relationship we form, there is an opportunity for each of us to invest positively or negatively.

Various cultures build relationships differently. Individuals who grow up in the same environment more easily develop relationships than those who grow up in different environments. In part, this is due to the fact that those who share the same environment share certain cues, customs, behaviors, communication styles, and ways of understanding that environment. Thus, they have something in common.

Our personal history, childhood experiences, family and ethical backgrounds, and work experiences are but a few of the contexts that impact the type and quality of relationships we build with other people. Understanding and respecting the diversity of peoples’ personal gifts in finding areas where there is commonality of perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, values, and expectations are the early steps in forming relationships with people who are different. The bases for enhancing these relationships (regardless of the culture from which we come or in which we live) are trust, respect, and shared goals.

Learning to value diversity, to become conscious of our ways of relating to each other and their ways of relating to us, does not come easily to most of us nor is it something that can be imposed from the outside. In Valuing Relationship (1995), Griggs sums the value of knowing ourselves as follows: “Knowing myself is what allows me to know, understand, and value the diversity of others so that I can build trust with them. With more trust comes the ability to communicate more clearly, to problem solve and network more effectively, and to realize the value of synergistic relationships and productive interdependency. Investing in my relationships with self and thus enhancing my relationships with others is therefore an important insurance policy against lost opportunities” (p. 210).


Griggs, L. B. (1995). Valuing Diversity: Where from . . . Where to? In L. B. Griggs & L-L. Louw (Eds.), Valuing diversity: New tools for a new reality. New York: McGraw Hill.

Griggs, L. B. (1995). Valuing relationship: The heart of valuing diversity. In L. B. Griggs & L-L. Louw (Eds.), Valuing diversity: New tools for a new reality. New York: McGraw Hill.

Helms, J. E. (1984). Toward a theoretical explanation of the effects of race on counseling: A black and white model. The Counseling Psychologist, 12(4), 153-164.

Kendall, F. E. (1995). Diversity issues in the workplace. In L. B. Griggs & L-L. Louw (Eds.), Valuing diversity: New tools for a new reality. New York: McGraw Hill.

Louw, L-L. (1995). Ubuntu: Applying African philosophy to diversity training. In L. B. Griggs & L-L. Louw (Eds.), Valuing diversity: New tools for a new reality. New York: McGraw Hill.

Myers, L. J., & Spite, S. L. (1994). Optimal theory in the psychology of human diversity. In E. J. Trickett, R. J. Watts, & D. Birman (Eds.), Human diversity: Perspectives on people in context. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.