Feature Interview with Dr. K.A. (Sandy) MacIver – Leadership Through Relationships

Updated: Mar 24

Feature Interview with Dr. K.A. (Sandy) MacIver – Leadership Through Relationships

What are some of the key values you teach in this course and how does it reflect a Maple League education?

The single two key values that this course is about are genuinely caring about people and about doing quality work. Leadership through Relationships comes about through distributed leaders throughout organizations dedicating themselves to the goals value of sustainable organizational success through the means value of caring. This relates to our Maple League education in that we seek to provide quality Liberal Arts education that will set up our students for a successful life through caring enough to provide personalized learning and to build a community feel on each campus.

Relationships are arguably more important now in a COVID world than ever before, so what are some of the key strengths students will take away from this course?

Ha! We have realized in pretty dramatic and awesome ways through the threats and perils of COVID that we should not take connecting and stimulating ourselves through healthy relationships for granted. As beings wired for connection with other beings, the absence of connection has brought home that we must find ways to make human connection happen even in adverse circumstances. COVID will also permanently change the way some of us work and interact together. Students will take away from this course the virtual methods and techniques to be effective, happy and successful in a post-COVID world. These include deep virtual listening, virtual team-building, virtual decisions-making with others, virtual self-care and virtual learning, which are all part of our permanent future.

In your opinion, what is the most important quality a leader can embody?

Character, character and more character. Being a person of character enables a leader to build character-based trust, which in turn makes for permanent sustainable relationships but also leads to faster, better, cheaper, more creative and collaborative partnerships, teams and decision-making. That in turn links to task-related trust, where we are willing to rely on others to get things done despite the fact that doing so as leaders makes us vulnerable to those people we rely on (i.e., if they don’t do the job). Character-based trust is linked to key values like authenticity, courage, curiosity and the quality of what we do and how we live our lives.

What is your favourite part of teaching this course?

Teaching LtR is a “labor of love” for me. The things I value most and therefore regard as my favorite parts of the teaching the course: achieving results that change people’s lives for the better; teaching how to live build play into serious work (which is a feature of almost every one of the in-class exercises and is a difficult paradoxical notion for some people); demonstrating and getting students to live, for a time at least, the powerful experience of personal and group reflection, and storytelling, which truly is, as per Steve Denning, “the secret language of leadership”.

If you could give your 20-year-old self a piece of advice what would it be and why?

Boy, could my 20-year-old self ever have benefited from this course. I was a driven, bright, visionary, risk-taking, superficially hugely successful young leader about to win a Rhodes Scholarship and go to Oxford and change my life forever for the better. What I lacked was the mastery, or even the awareness of the importance of, soft skills. Primary among them are the listening and emotional intelligence. Although I was adept at self-renewal through mental stimulation and fitness/sports (living the mantra “a healthy mind in a healthy body” that I walked under daily on entering the MTA athletic building), I had not mastered nor really understood the significance of social/emotional self-care and spiritual renewal in a non- religious way. If I could have sat down with myself, I would have explained the value and the hard work involved in getting ‘good’ at all three of these things. I also would have offered the classic advice to driven achievers: slow down and enjoy the journey. I would have had a hard time convincing myself of all of this because, on the surface, I had enjoyed great success (and even had a bit of an achievement addiction going on) and planned to keep doing things the way I had demonstrated I could do them successfully in the student/academic world. I also would have said “heal yourself” with help from the right experts. You are carrying around fundamental damage from your terrible upbringing that someday you will have to deal with.

To read more from Dr. MacIver about Leadership Through Relationships, click here.

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