Southeastern Oklahoma State University offers an online M.S. in Native American Leadership (NAL) program designed to prepare graduates for leadership in all facets of business and life. The impetus for developing this unique program was to create leaders. The cultural subject matter is a natural fit for this purpose, as many Native American leadership values are timeless, transcendent, and imbued in this country’s character.
The SOSU program aims to cultivate these leadership skill sets, which have been proven highly effective in government, NGOs and business. The program fosters an appreciation for the tribal origins of these ideas, both in graduates and in the people they interact with as they move forward in their careers. In this sense, the program is valuable for members of all tribes and anyone who does business with tribes.
“No matter where a person is working at in a tribe or their role in working with tribes, we wanted to design a degree that provided the general leadership skills needed for people to be successful wherever they are,” says Dr. Tim Boatmun, NAL professor and founder of SOSU’s Native American Center for Student Success.
Fundamental and Versatile Leadership Skills
Four of the most fundamental skills students develop in all of the courses in this program are communication, presentation, critical thinking and problem-solving. Collectively, these skills unite people to work together toward common goals. These are among the most versatile leadership skills a postgraduate student can learn in preparation for opportunities available now and in the future. Here, we will examine what makes each of these skills so vital to the capabilities and character of a leader, and how they are developed in the online M.S. NAL program.
Communication: In a recent Quantum Leadership Group survey (described by Trainingindustry.com) of 195 leaders in 15 countries, six of the top 10 leadership competencies rated by participants involved communication. In an increasingly interconnected business world, where people collaborate in groups and communicate digitally through email, text and documents, verbal and written communication skills are paramount for leadership success.
Effective communication begins with listening in order to understand the meaning behind a message, and paraphrasing what someone else is saying. To be an effective communicator, one must understand basic principles of psychology, and know how to empathize with and relate to people. One must also know how to delegate communication responsibilities, and how to manage people once such responsibilities are assigned. Throughout this program, students learn, develop and practice these communication skills.
Presentation: Leaders need effective ways to communicate their vision. Presentation skills comprise all of the traits one needs to develop and deliver an effective speech or demonstration. They are necessary for small office meetings, corporate training, client meetings and speeches to thousands of attendees at industry conventions.
Throughout the program, students learn methods for being engaging and persuasive before any audience. The Effective Communication Through Presentations course focuses on knowing the audience, developing persuasive content, effectively using media, understanding delivery techniques and using stories in presentations. Students absorb these concepts by using examples from their own experiences to apply best practices and improve their own communication and leadership skills.
Today’s employers value versatile leadership skill sets over singular expertise. The world is changing quickly, but these are the trend-resistant skill sets that transcend cultural barriers and survive evolutions in the way we work.
Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Critical thinking skills enable leaders to objectively analyze a concept or situation, evaluate facts, weigh differing perspectives and come to a logical conclusion. Problem-solving involves using proven methodologies to approach a problem, work through it individually or collaboratively, and consistently generate workable solutions. Some people are more predisposed to thinking critically and solving problems methodically, but all leaders are well-advised to refine these innate talents through formal training.
The Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving course in this program examines the mental activities needed to effectively formulate or solve problems, make decisions, or understand and conceptualize issues. Concepts such as free will, determinism, truth, knowing and moral judgments are explored, as well as barriers to effective problem-solving. The course pays special attention to the roles of creativity and Native American culture in evaluating problems.
Students in this program often cite how its blend of leadership skills training combined with a cultural understanding of Native American traditions creates the ideal platform for their success. This compliment rings back through the ages and honors the tribal leaders of the past whose legacies continue to endure.
“All of them [SOSU M.S. NAL alumni] talk about how successful it’s been, how it’s given them confidence, how it’s given them the skill sets to succeed, not only in their jobs, but in life in general.” — Chief Gary Batton, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma