Engaging Difference through Empathy: GLC Newsletter February 2022

Group of diverse students standing in front of Penn Hall

Greetings from the Garthwait Leadership Center and welcome to the February edition of the GLC Newsletter.

How do we effectively develop the leadership capacity to engage difference in a meaningful way?

I recently wrestled with this question while designing a workshop with a GLC student leader for our Leadership Certificate program. This foundational session seeks to help students generate greater awareness of their own culture and their intercultural competence, while also building core skills to engage difference.

There’s no shortage of research and commentary that suggests this topic is a necessary leadership skill today. Scholars contend that diverse teams are smarter, even when engagement between team members can feel uncomfortable, and that there is a strong business case for diversity, equity, and inclusion amongst the executive ranks. But how do current and aspiring leaders develop the skills to engage difference efficiently and proactively?

One tool that we use at the GLC to help students grow in their self-understanding is the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). This cross-cultural assessment measures how we personally view and interpret culture. It suggests that each of us falls into one of five orientations mapped on a continuum—from having a monocultural mindset to an intercultural/global mindset. This level of self-awareness provides a launchpad for students to develop learning plans that examine their own cultural backgrounds and inspires them to expand their social circles and connect with people who are different than them.

In my experience with students—and even most professionals—goals in this area must be practical and accessible for significant learning to occur. Therefore, the GLC has recently designed a short but powerful empathetic listening exercise that we plan to use in our next Leadership Certificate workshop. As explained in this informative guide, empathy is a super-skill for leadership and engaging difference. These skills are also taught in our six-week virtual mindfulness and emotional intelligence-based Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. Using micro-practices and the latest insights from neuroscience, this interactive program gives participants helpful tools to lead themselves and connect more meaningfully with people from all backgrounds. I am hopeful that by developing empathy skills among our student leaders, they will be better equipped to engage difference effectively.

Now that we are a month into the spring semester at Gettysburg College, we have many exciting initiatives at the GLC to promote! On the heels of partnering with the Prof. Hakim Williams and the Peace & Justice program to pilot the Transformative Leaders Fellowship in January, we will be re-launched our coaching program for young alumni. If you are a young alum interested in working with a free Leadership Coach to develop your leadership skills, please apply online. We also have many exciting outdoor trips planned for students and will host several groups on our Challenge Course this spring.

As we celebrate Black History Month, I hope you find ways to practice and build empathy in an effort to engage difference more meaningfully. As always, thank you for reading and for your support of leadership development at Gettysburg!



P.S. Humbly, I admit that I am not an expert on diversity, equity, and inclusion and I recognize that my positionality, privilege, and social identities influence my perspectives on this topic. I welcome feedback, advice, and ideas on ways that I—and the GLC—can better live Gettysburg’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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