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"The Loop" Blog

Additional Mobile Food Distribution: April 3

In response to community need, HandsOn Kansas State, in conjunction with Harvesters Community Food Network of Topeka, has rescheduled their Mobile Food Distribution to Friday, April 3. The event will start at 3 p.m. (one hour earlier than normal) in parking lot C-1 of the Chester E. Peters Recreation Complex, and will continue as long as supplies last.

The mobile food distribution is open to all members of the K-State and Manhattan community with fresh fruits, vegetables and non-perishable food items offered at no cost.

Food in boxes

To adhere to social distancing guidelines and best public health practices, some adjustments will be made to the distribution. Fewer than ten volunteers will be managing the event, and will practice social distancing while distributing food. Participants will be asked to open and close their vehicle trunk or door, and volunteers will place pre-packed boxes into vehicles. Individuals who do not have a vehicle may walk over to pick up food. However, transportation back to their home will not be provided due to social distancing orders.

Additionally, the distribution scheduled for April 17, will still take place and begin at 4 p.m.

HandsOn Kansas State is a program housed within the Staley School of Leadership Studies that promotes civic learning and leadership through meaningful volunteer and service opportunities between campus and community. HandsOn strives to develop socially-responsible citizens, knowledgeably equipped for active participation. For more information or questions about the mobile food distribution contact HandsOn Kansas State at handson@k-state.edu or call 785-532-6085.

Social distancing during COVID-19 does not mean we abandon the activity of relational leadership

In this special blog series, Staley School of Leadership Studies faculty members Brandon W. Kliewer and Trish Gott will consider how our academic framework, research agenda, and the associated leadership studies literature can contribute understanding and support the exercise of leadership during the COVID-19 outbreak.

If you’ve been in our classrooms, engaged in our programs, read our blog or our Tweets, you know the Staley School curriculum, research, programming and ethos includes the assumption that leadership is an activity done in relationship with others. We didn’t invent this – in fact, there is an extensive body of research literature that considers how leadership emerges through people’s communication patterns and interactions in various real-world contexts. (See the Footnote for additional resources.)

This approach to leadership can carry with it a major and often unexamined assumption: that relational leadership activity requires a material and physical closeness. Social distancing is already — and we would assert appropriately — understood as physical distancing and is a required and appropriate response to COVID-19. Prevention and reduction of groups from forming in person is required so that each of us can help to flatten the curve of this pandemic. The contemporary moment feels like an unprecedented time, and it is not clear how this outbreak will be resolved. But, times of crisis and uncertainty require leadership activity. The moment deserves reflection on how COVID-19 and social distancing practices impact the ways in which leadership will be exercised.

Below you will find a series of leadership insights and questions that are informed by the larger leadership studies literature. These insights are organized by how they pertain to exercising relational leadership in a time of social distance at the level of self, community, and system. And, we hope that you’ll do more than just consider these questions. Advance these as points of discussion in your family, community, organization, and as you consider how to adjust your practices to lead in this uncertain time.

Relational Leadership Model

Exercising leadership in self during social distancing

Taking account of self might include thinking about your thinking. In times of stress and uncertainty, it is easy to let your understanding of self slip into unhealthy leadership patterns. The practice of examining, understanding, and becoming aware not just of self, but your own identity surfaces in your practices, beliefs and values is part of the process of leadership. When our fight or flight response is activated, slowing down to account for self becomes more challenging and remains necessary for intentional leadership. Leadership activity, from a relational and socially emergent perspective, requires an awareness of how your understanding of self is situated in relation to others and larger leadership challenges. Making sense of how self is situated within larger networks and systems shifts leadership activity from the individual actions of one person to the complex relationships and interactions of organizations and systems.

Questions to consider:

  • How are you taking account of “self”? How are you managing yourself?
  • How are you checking in with how you make sense of your leadership challenge?
  • What thoughts, ideas, routines, practices, or habits might you have to let go of in order to manage self in times of COVID-19 uncertainty? For instance, if face-to-face meetings are your “go to” for navigating difficult negotiations, what practices will you let go of and how will you change them in this time of social distancing. Or, if the movement you lead requires groups to gather, what can you do virtually to sustain presence and advance the movement?

Exercising leadership in community during social distancing

In a relational orientation to leadership, we recognize that the possibility of social action is held by and advanced through groups of people. Leadership challenges from this frame require us to think about how interpersonal, process and structural conditions of community can be reframed in ways that mobilize an ever-expanding sphere of community to engage in leadership work. For instance, we have already seen incredible acts of leadership through social media, online classrooms, and by leveraging technology.

We have also seen moves made to go low tech this semester – another admirable approach to navigating change and leading by returning to what we know works, and is required, to support people in times of change.

Questions to consider:

  • How has social distancing changed how my community functions?
  • What connection(s) within my community might require more intentionality during social distancing? What new connections may I need to make now and what resources can be leveraged through my community?
  • What technologies are required to communicate and coordinate community action? Who might not have access to the necessary technologies to remain engaged in community leadership work?

Exercising leadership in systems during social distancing

Leadership, understood as a relational activity, allows us to situate social action within Complex Adaptive Systems. From this lens, leadership work moves from the traits, actions, and behaviors of one person that holds formal position and leadership authority. Instead, we begin to understand leadership by accounting for our complex systems, our  communication processes, and through our relationships with people. Systems without intention tend towards atrophy. Said differently, there is no such thing as a broken system; Systems produce the outcomes as designed. Therefore, if leadership is required to change the outcomes of systems, then our activity has to respond to complex scenarios. We must see our leadership challenges in the context of our complex systems.

Questions to consider:

  • How is our system being stress-tested by the COVID-19 pandemic? Consider not just our micro-systems — your household, faith-organization, office, or community — but also what you see on a macro-level in healthcare, economics, business, and so on.
  • What are the outcomes of the current system during times of crisis and what do the outcomes of the current system tell us about what we assign priority and importance?
  • What can we learn about our commitment and capacity to advance equity and inclusion by examining this system? How is the system(s) distributing goods, resources and opportunities during crisis?
  • Where in the system(s) is leadership activity required?



Below you will find a short list of resources for further exploration:

  • Alvesson M and Spicer A (2012) Critical leadership studies: The case for critical performativity.
    Human Relations 65(3):367-390.
  • Carroll B, Levy L, and Richmond D (2008) Leadership as practice: Challenging the competency paradigm. Leadership 4(4): 363-379.
  • Cunliffe AL and Eriksen M (2011) Relational Leadership. Human Relations 64(11): 1425-1449.
  • Denis JL, Langley A and Sergi V (2012) Leadership in the plural. The Academic of Management
    Annals 6(1): 211-283.
  • Uhl-Bien M and Ospina SM (eds) (2012) Advancing relational leadership theory: A dialogue among perspectives. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
  • Raelin J A (2007) Toward an epistemology of practice, Academy of Management and Learning
    Education 6(4): 495-519.
  • Tourish, D (2014) Leadership, more or less? A processual, communication perspective on the role of agency in leadership theory. Leadership 10(1): 79-98.

Nominate students, community organizations and individuals for Staley School awards

The Staley School of Leadership Studies is seeking nominees for Celebrating Services and Leadership awards. The awards honor Kansas State University students, community partners and outstanding individuals who have volunteered their time and leadership to enhance, improve and impact the greater good of the campus and community.

In recognition of the “power of volunteers to spark change and improve the world through community,” the Celebrating Service and Leadership Community Service awards are modeled after the George H.W. Bush’s Daily Point of Light Award. These awards embrace the challenge of tackling a community need through volunteer service.

The Staley School values and practices civic engagement and service-learning opportunities through valuable coursework and student programs as part of our mission to develop knowledgeable, caring, inclusive leaders for a diverse and changing world. Volunteering and community service often lead to increased civic involvement and leadership for college students, youth and community members.

Nominate an individual or a group by Friday, April 10. Honorees will be notified by Monday, April 13. A virtual celebration will take place – details to be announced.

The following awards are open for nomination:

Outstanding K-State Student Volunteer
Eligibility includes K-State students who have participated in HandsOn Kansas State service or other civic engagement activities during the 2019-2020 academic year. Nominees have demonstrated exemplary leadership in service and addressed a need in the community. They should display dedication, responsibility, commitment and sensitivity to diversity while meeting the needs of the community.

Outstanding K-State Student Organization
Any organization that is recognized through K-State’s Center for Student Involvement or a K-State department/college and has been active with HandsOn Kansas State during the 2019-2020 academic year is eligible. The nominated organization promotes an ethic of service on and off campus through ongoing service or an exemplary one-time project. Nominated organizations are committed to involving others in service and activism and have effectively mobilized a large and diverse population on campus to address an issue of importance in the community.

Outstanding Service Champion
Eligible individuals are from the greater Manhattan area and have demonstrated outstanding efforts in volunteerism and service to meet a community need. Nominees have displayed excellence in community service, civic engagement, corporate responsibility and/or social change. They also have engaged in creative utilization of people, resources and opportunities while exercising leadership and advocating for positive change in their community. They are able to demonstrate their impact through measurable outcomes.

Outstanding Community Service Partner
Eligible groups from the greater Manhattan area have partnered with HandsOn Kansas State in order to meet a community need. Nominated groups promote an ethic of service in the community through ongoing efforts or through an exemplary one-time project. These groups are committed to involving others in service and activism and have effectively mobilized a large and diverse population to address an issue of importance in the community.

Submit a nomination online for any of the above awards. Past recipients of the awards can be found on our website. Questions can be directed to handson@k-state.edu.

Mobile Food Distribution postponed

Due to unforeseen changes in the availability of our volunteer base and the precautionary measures currently being taken by our staff in relation to COVID-19, HandsOn Kansas State has made the decision to postpone the mobile food distribution originally scheduled for Friday, March 20. We are working with our partner, Harvesters, to reschedule in order to serve the needs of our community.

Here are some additional resources for those in need of food assistance at this time:

Cats’ Cupboard is serving previous visitors through the submission of an online form. You can find more information here.

Common Table is still operating and serving dinner seven nights a week in Manhattan. These meals are to-go only. You can find more information on their Facebook page.

Children are able to receive lunch and breakfast at Manhattan-area elementary schools from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on weekdays. Locations and other information listed here.

The Flint Hills Breadbasket is currently operating business as usual. Their hours and services can be found on their website.

For additional questions or concerns about the Mobile Food Distribution, please contact handson@ksu.edu.

What Matters to Me and Why postponed

The Staley School of Leadership Studies is postponing the upcoming What Matters to Me and Why featuring Greg Eiselein, Donnelly Professor of English, University Distinguished Teaching Scholar and director of K-State First.

The lecture was scheduled for Thursday, March 26, from noon to 1 p.m. We hope to reschedule this event and will announce the new details as schedules are confirmed.

Greg Eiselein to share “What Matters to Me and Why”

Greg Eiselein, Donnelly Professor of English, University Distinguished Teaching Scholar and director of K-State First, will present as part of the What Matters to Me and Why lecture series Thursday, March 26. The presentation will take place in Town Hall, Leadership Studies Building, from noon to 1 p.m.

Greg Eiselein

This presentation is about the joys (and struggles, but mostly joys) of working with others. We know that learning is social and that social learning environments work better than isolated or individualistic ones. In what ways is the same true of work? If our best work is done collaboratively, how do we support and coordinate with each other, and just plain get along in the ways most likely to achieve collective goals?

One of the keys may be sharing what matters most to us and why, thinking through the principles that guide and motivate our work and writing out the unwritten rules of a #modeloffice.

A free box lunch will be provided starting at 11:45 a.m., and an RSVP is requested by March 24. Visit the website to read a full event description and sign up. If you are unable to attend, a Zoom link is available. See who’s going on Facebook.

This informal lunchtime series supports K-State’s Principles of Community by encouraging reflection on matters of personal values, beliefs, and motivations in order to better understand the lives and inspirations of those who serve and shape the University. This event is sponsored by the Staley School of Leadership Studies, and supported by an interdisciplinary, cross-campus planning team.

Advancing the Staley School mission through sabbatical leave

Among the 45 Kansas State University faculty members that will be granted a sabbatical leave during the 2020-2021 school year is Kerry Priest, associate professor in the Staley School of Leadership Studies.Kerry Priest

The purpose of a sabbatical leave is to provide faculty members with the opportunity for scholarly and professional enrichment. Sabbatical leaves allow faculty to pursue advanced study, conduct research studies, engage in scholarly and creative activities, or secure appropriate industrial or professional experience. Once faculty members return from their sabbaticals, they are expected to share the knowledge and experience they gained with their students, colleagues and the K-State community.

The objective of Priest’s one-semester sabbatical leave will be to focus attention and energy into the development of a book proposal on pedagogies of practice for collective leadership development.

In her own words, Priest said:

Leadership activity that makes progress on complex, adaptive challenges requires new learning, recognizing values and loyalties and constructing new ways of being. A primary assumption is that learning and development is not simply an individual exercise, but socially constructed through relationships and communities. While there is emerging literature in the areas of collective relational leadership which call for new forms of inquiry and practice, there are few tangible examples from which to train others.

As a scholar-educator, I am committed to bridging theory and practice. One way to do so is to develop concrete tools and techniques to improve research and teaching practices highlighting the interdependent connections between the self and the groups in making leadership happen.

The Staley School is proud of the recognition our faculty and staff receive for their continued efforts to enrich and improve the diverse and changing world around us through their research.

“This is well-deserved institutional recognition of Kerry’s current and future scholarly contributions and is an important career milestone,” said Mary Hale Tolar, director of the Staley School. “While we will miss her presence in the building next spring semester, she will be advancing scholarship important to the field and critical to our work here.”

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