Iceland 2017: Connecting Across Borders- Article 1

During the next few weeks, Associate Professor Chris Hamstra is teaching several sessions on leadership and communication (Authentic and Servant-leadership, leadership life-stories, etc.) at Bifröst University in Iceland. Chris is documenting his time in Iceland in a series of articles to be featured on his LinkedIn page.

This is his first article in the series.

Iceland 2017: Connecting Across Borders

I continue to find that there is still plenty to learn. It may sound like a duh moment, but I have found that I really do not know everything (surprise!).Getting older, there have been unexpected joys and a few sorrows through the different lessons experienced in life. Some of the education was intentional, like work place training, graduate school, and the doctoral degree. Some of the instruction was unintentional and brought me into contact with people, places, and perspectives that were unimaginable when younger. At some point in time I need to tell you about my ride in a Boston tax cab (smile).Today is another step with continued learning at Bifrost University in Iceland. Over the next few days I will serve as an instructor during the Summer Session Creative Leadership in the 21st Century. I have the opportunity to share thoughts and perspective about Leadership life-stories and Servant-leadership while also learning from students around the globe. Getting ready to Connect Across Borders, I have been thinking about the three areas of: international learning, communication and the role of storytelling, and self-directed learning.

International Learning

We (faculty and students) have the wonderful opportunity to enter into the global classroom through short-term and even longer study abroad experiences like this. Learning can surprise us when we open our eyes and get out to explore.

I like how author Richard Slimbach in his book Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning described the benefits of international opportunities. As I read his material, we travel not just to consume but also hopefully to contribute for the common good.

My experience priming for Iceland is interesting to consider. The learning has not been confined to just the days in the country. Learning has come from the weeks and months preparing to go. Additionally, learning will continue in the months and years down the road reflecting on the shared stories with others.

Unfortunately there are institutions and even some instructors that see these opportunities as a waste of money and resources. I understand how the currency can overshadow the culture. I passed up a semester in London because I did not want to spend the money. Looking back, I wish I would have taken the opportunity. I wonder what stories might have emerged?


Spend just a few minutes with any leader and eventually a leadership life-story will surface. Warren Bennis (2007) suggests that for continued relevance and inclusiveness, leadership “should always have room for inspirational stories about wonderful leaders as well as grim cautionary tales about bad one” (p. 2). Leadership life-stories are formative experiences (good or bad) that provide moments of learning for individuals. When shared with others, leadership life-stories may impact the larger organization and community.

I have been working through my thoughts and trying to develop the concept and practice of leadership life-stories. I admit that I spend a bunch of time thinking in my head. If you know me, this is not a surprise confession (smile). I believe that we think in narratives, not just data. So how do we use BOTH to help individuals, organizations, and communities connect authentically? I am looking forward to listening to and helping cultivate the leadership life-stories of my new class colleagues.

Self-Directed Learning

Malcolm Knowles’ work in Self-Directed learning has been an important addition to my learning as an adult. In my mind, his writing often encourages active participation as a key component. Adult learners must engage to discover for themselves the practical application. Learning resources are not limited to a specific time frames or place. Resources for learning can come through facilitators, great classroom discussion but also come through experiences.

I get excited with the possibility that learning can be engaged through an experience outside of a prescribed curriculum. I wonder what new insights will emerge from the intentional learning found when sharing and listening to a leadership life-stories? What learning may bubble up through the experience of hiking up a volcano?

I want to thank Steve Snyder and the office of Global Program for his support and encouragement. Support for this endeavor also came from the M.E. Davenport Legacy Endowment fund.

Looking forward to the personal and professional learning over the next few weeks and sharing these thoughts with you.

Here we GO!


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