Leadership, Connection and and Change: Ethical Leadership at The College of Mount St. Joseph

Mount News: alumni magazine

Since it began in 1920 and now, as more than 370 freshmen arrive on campus, mission and leadership have formed the Mount, intertwined as a constant guidepost. How does the Mount community tend to these crucial tenets that celebrate the College’s history while directing the future? We begin with insights from Andrea Stiles, director of mission and ministry, and Tim Bryant, executive director for ethical leadership development.

Which comes first — mission or ethical leadership?

Andrea: Mission. Mission is the backbone of all that we do and ethical leadership is one of many things that can stem from the mission.

Tim: Mission is foundational. Mission gives voice to our values and permeates what we do as a college. The ethical leadership initiative is an outgrowth of the values that we hold close as an institution.

 When folks hear the word “mission” some think of the mission statement and others think of the work of the College. Which is correct?

Andrea: The mission conveys who we are and what we stand for, where we came from and where we are going. It guides what we hope the graduates of the College embody and what we hope those who work here embody as well.

Hasn’t mission always been part of what we do?

Andrea: Yes. Mission has been part of what we do for quite some time, but the new Office of Mission and Ministry gives mission a specific home on campus and allows an office to be dedicated to furthering the intentional focus on the mission at the College. 

Does the new Office of Mission and Ministry mean a new mission? 

Andrea: No. The Sisters of Charity values are at the heart of the College and guide and inform who we are and why we do what we do. I feel my job is to develop relationships with people across campus helping us all to realize our role in being a part of this mission.

Ministry, as part of the title, is really related to Campus Ministry, which has been a strong presence on campus for quite some time. When students heard about the new Office of Mission and Ministry they were concerned because the Campus Ministry name was not there anymore. But really it is there! We need Campus Ministry to remain alive and well for our students who seek opportunities to grow in their faith.

What does ethical leadership look like?

Tim: In many ways it means being and acting out of personal and organizational integrity. For instance, recently we had a student honored by the state of Ohio for the work he did in gathering support of other students to bring to life an exciting new initiative, Students for a Better Cincinnati. I think this is a wonderful example of what ethical leadership looks like. The Mount provides an environment that empowers students to apply their talents and skills to influence others to become involved in something greater than themselves.

What do you believe is the key to helping folks understand ethical leadership?

Tim: Terms like leadership and ethics can mean different things to different people. I think it is helpful to think of leadership as a process that is ethical and relational. For instance, leadership is the process of working with others to bring about change. Leadership is value-centered and provides for a cause larger than oneself. The leadership process requires that others are involved in the endeavor, the personhood and voice of others are valued, context is considered, and influence flows between those involved in the process. Change is positive because the practice of leadership is to address an issue or problem and make it better.

In your time here at the Mount, what specifically have you witnessed that reinforces that the foundation is in place for an ethical leadership initiative?

 Tim: My leadership development philosophy takes into account the value and worth of individuals, the importance of a connected community, and our responsibility to use our knowledge, talents and passions in concert with others for the common good and betterment of society. The college years are a critical period in the formation and maturity of student belief systems. I believe it is our responsibility as educators to challenge students to think about how they will use their chosen disciplines to address the multitude of needs they will encounter in the world. In my brief time at the Mount I have met with a number of individuals who have echoed the importance of community to the Mount, concern for the common good and respect for one another. I am encouraged that these reflected values are consistent with the Mount’s mission and help to provide a context and shape an environment in which we can emphasize ethical leadership development.

How does ethical leadership complement the Mount’s mission?

Tim: I think it is easy to see the connection of ethical leadership with the Mount’s mission and values. Also, deeply rooted in that mission are values shared by the Sisters of Charity and the justice work that they do. In many ways, we are saying to students come here and let us help you learn your chosen discipline. And that it is equally important to not only contribute to your profession or field of study, but also to the common good and betterment of society.

What does a renewed spotlight on mission mean for Mount students?

Andrea: For students I think it means being more intentional in connecting what we already do through Campus Ministry and other areas of campus with the mission. One very obvious example is service learning and the overwhelming focus on service across campus. Social responsibility is a key element to our mission and service learning is a prime example for our students. For those of us who teach and support the students, a member of the Mission Committee best described what it means: education, reflection and action. We need more education and understanding of what our mission means for us. We need to reflect on how we live the mission in our work lives. And, we need to have opportunities to act upon the mission because actions speak louder than words. The result is a common sharing of our mission with the campus community and the greater world community.

How does a young adult grasp ethical leadership? Further, what more can experienced leaders learn?

Tim: I think a big way that we connect is through experience. Students enjoy doing things. Another important factor is time. That is why we are approaching this initiative through a developmental lens. Sometimes it takes practice and time for us to begin to realize the importance and relevance of things. We have to provide learning opportunities that peak students’ interests so they can eventually get to that “aha moment.”Another thing that I believe resonates with students and with experienced leaders is understanding that leadership is just as much about following as it is leading. Leadership is a process that involves the participation of a number of people. Understanding that process can help you become a better participant. Sometimes ethical leadership means being the follower who stands up and says, “Hey, there is something wrong in the way we are going about this.” Even experienced leaders sometimes lose sight of the importance of the relational process of leadership

 What professional accomplishment are you proud of? 

Andrea: I am proud of the commitment, dedication and loyalty of our students to Campus Ministry. I have been reflecting on how a number of our key student leaders are seniors this year and graduating in May. Some other students I know at the Mount who are also seniors and not as involved in Campus Ministry are “checking out” of their involvements and commitments to clubs, activities, etc. But I am not seeing that from our Campus Ministry students. I think that we are doing something right with our students. We welcome them, give them a place where they belong and where they are engaged to grow spiritually, personally and in their leadership. I am very proud of this

Tim: I enjoy the recognition and acknowledgement shared with students by community organizations who realize that they could not do the work they do without student involvement — their service, their fresh ideas, their energy level. I equally enjoy the realization by students that there is a connection between what they learn in class and the “real world”… that there can be a connection between their education, training and vocational choice to addressing issues of importance in the communities in which they live.

Who or what inspires your work here at the College?

Andrea: Students inspire my work at the College. They are the reason I am committed to working in higher education because they are our future. I truly believe in that and believe that working with them keeps me fresh and renewed to be a good model for a future worth living for. Students offer me energy, inspiration, joy, challenge and acceptance and they make coming to work every day very much worth my while.

Tim: I particularly enjoy connecting college and community. A big influence, or inspiration, for deciding to come and work at the Mount was the connection with the Sisters of Charity. They are a huge inspiration and model many of the values that provide meaning for our approach to ethical leadership development.