[Everyone in the circle should be treated with equal respect because everyone in the circle is a leader, past, present, or future.]
--Bay Mills Indian Community Elder
On Tuesdays, womenatliberty.com presents #LeadershipTuesdays, a platform for a variety of voices and resources to develop, encourage and strengthen women leaders. Today in honor of Native American Heritage Month, we look at how leadership is viewed within Native American cultures and communities.
Martha McLeod, Ed.D researched and wrote a dissertation on leadership in the Native American Culture after serving the Bay Mills Indian Community in Michigan for many years. She is the founding president of Bay Mills Community College in Brimley, MI. She also was President of Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, New Jersey where she retired in 2013 after leading for 10 years.
In 2002 while still president of Bay Mills, President George W. Bush appointed her to the Advisory Board of the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities (WHITCU). The Board's purpose was to make recommendations to the President and the Secretary of Education regarding expanding and providing resources to tribal colleges and universities to ensure that they offered high quality programs and technologies to the communities they served.
As a part of her doctoral work, Dr. McLeod designed a leadership development program for Bay Mills Community College. The quote above comes from an article she wrote about what she learned during her research and provides some insight into how the Native American leaders in the Bay Mills Community perceive leadership. This is not to say that Native American culture is a monolith; it is not. There are over 500 federally recognized tribes. And not all tribes lead in the same way. However, there are a few common distinctions and one of those distinctions is that "Native Americans envision life as one great, interconnected web". This makes top-down leadership somewhat inappropriate for them. When leaders are viewed from a perspective of connectedness and in a continuum as the quote above intimates, they are either being prepared to lead, leading, or passing on wisdom to future leaders and modeling leadership for those behind. What a valuable way to view members of the community.
Click "Keeping the Circle Strong: Learning about Native American leadership" to read the article by Dr. McLeod. For more information on #LeadershipTuesdays, go to @LeadershipTues on Twitter. There you'll find resources to help you develop your leadership skills and learn from others who are successful leaders.