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

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Some Notes on Leadership

Keith N. McFarland

Dr. McFarland is Dean and Professor Emeritus, College of Human Ecology, University of Minnesota

I’m not sure that one “decides” to be a leader. Leadership takes many forms and is frequently situation specific. Individuals who are identified with leadership roles are those who have a commitment to the subject or the task at hand, the habit of being responsible, applicable resources developed in or drawn from previous experiences, and some feel for human relationships and the ways in which groups and individuals work toward defined objectives.

My work in the field was administrative. I was an agriculture graduate anticipating employment with the George A. Hormel Company. But WWII intervened. Following the cessation of hostilities in Europe in 1945 I was a short-term student at the University of Edinburgh where I enjoyed a course in the History and Philosophy of Education taught by an engaging educational psychologist. Because of the excitement generated by this experience I was motivated to accept a University of Minnesota offer to serve in the College Office, College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Home Economics, and to undertake a graduate program in Educational Psychology. After a rigorous apprenticeship I spent 10 years as Director of Resident Instruction, learning at first hand the intricacies of faculty administration and relationships and of student progress. Developing and administering a student placement program was a key influence in my later philosophic position that students in home economics would be better served in job seeking and placement if identified by specialization, rather than the more general term, “home economics.”

During this period I worked on common problems with other Deans and Directors of Resident Instruction, serving at one time as Chair of the Resident Instruction Section, Division of Agriculture, National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. The requirements of this latter activity paralleled those encountered at a later date as Chair of the Association of Administrators of Home Economics and board member of the National Council of Administrators of Home Economics.

In the 1960s I was a member of the University’s lobbying team to the Minnesota State Legislature. The insights gained were most helpful at later date as I served as Vice President for Public Affairs for the American Home Economics Association. They applied even more directly when, as Acting Dean, later Dean, of the newly autonomous College of Home Economics we sought legislative funding for much needed construction and renovation. The contacts established at earlier times were most helpful as faculty, alumni, and students worked to secure approval of funding for what resulted in a splendid physical plant for the college.

Field experience in World War II and subsequent extended service as training officer of a sizeable reserve unit led me to, or forced me to, become somewhat adept at building cooperative effort within a unit and in securing positive contributions from unit personnel. This was quite analogous, indeed, to the work of a dean with his/her faculty.

I thoroughly enjoyed my 17 years with the College of Home Economics and had a hearty respect for its programs. In addition, I was married to a most effective home economist who was during this period President of the Minnesota and later the American Home Economics Association. And so at the office with faculty, students, and alumni, and in my home, the worth of the field was constantly reinforced. Previous administrative contacts were helpful in expanding the outreach of the College, in securing increased research support, in encouraging program re-examination, and in strengthened business/industry cooperation in curricular planning, in establishing internships, and in other forms of support.

Does the above tell anything about the development of “a leader”? My experience was touched by circumstance. Each phase rested upon and/or grew out of preceding phases. Perhaps the most crucial element in whatever success I had was in a fortunate ability to work harmoniously with others. This faculty quite probably was rooted in a childhood home wherein mutual respect for its members was the norm and where sensitivity to the needs of others, and the considerations implied, were paramount.