LRC Coordinator Dan Bernstrom learns the meaning of leadership at Luoma Academy
VP of Student Services Nate Emerson (left) nominated Dan Bernstrom to participate in Luoma Leadership Academy.
Even though it might have been hot outside, it was a very cold week indoors last July when Daniel Bernstrom attended his first retreat as a member of the 2015 cohort of the Luoma Leadership Academy.
As Dan remembers, "It was so cold! They set the thermostat low on purpose and they even told us to bring warm clothes. We had long days with lots of information flowing in and they wanted to be sure we'd be alert."
Luoma Leadership Academy is a leadership development program designed by MnSCU (Minnesota State Colleges & Universities, of which Southeast Technical is a member). Up to 54 people are nominated by their colleges to attend. The program includes two week-long retreats and a team-based action learning project which is completed during the academic year.
"I nominated Dan to participate because of his outstanding work with students in the Learning Resource Center. He is also taking on a leadership role within the college on issues of diversity," says Nate Emerson, Vice President of Student Affairs.
Personality types, leadership styles
Dan explains the first retreat revolved around recognizing different personality and work styles. "Before coming to the retreat, we took two online inventories, Strengths Finder and the DiSC, and brought the scores with us to the academy. The Strengths Finder gets at who you are as a person, what your makeup is. The DiSC explains your preferred working style."
DiSC stands for dominance, influence, steadiness, conscientiousness. (Learn more here.) Dan says that his personality style is almost a 50-50 mix, falling right on the line between steadiness and conscientiousness. You might think that would make it easy for others to get along with him, but Dan admits ruefully that isn't always the case.
Dan works with a student in the Learning Resource Center.
"I learned how different styles can really stress other people out. For example, I don't like to be rushed. I like to set up a plan and work at it very steadily. That can drive some people crazy! For example, dominance-style people want to see results, and they want action NOW."
Action Learning Teams
The cohort has been divided into small work groups of 5-8 participants, who will work on projects that stretch their leadership skills and benefit a college, university, or the entire system. Dan's team is looking at increasing faculty of color in trade and tech programs.
"Our action learning team is intentionally made up of people with different styles. Our goal is to prepare a report by January, but it's more important that we learn how to work together on a project than that we produce a deliverable," he explains.
Dan says that he has learned that leadership is focused on getting people with different styles to work together productively, taking advantage of the best qualities of each. "The retreat gave me a language for working with people who I didn't understand and those who don't understand me. In the long run it's about helping the organization."
"The Leadership Academy really gives you a language to understand others and appreciate their motivations," Dan concludes.