Friday, February 06, 2009

Deeper Leadership at Sookmyung Women's University

A fluke old friendship gave me the opportunity to discover Korea and a wonderful women's university. Sookmyung Women's University invited me to participate in the 2nd Global Leadership Conference on the recommendation of Adam Goodman, a leadership colleague and friend for over 20 years. Adam saw me last fall and said he gave my name to Sookmyung's director of their leadership program. I never expected to hear from them but, sure enough, they got in touch and I've spent the last three days in Korea.

Sookmyung is a select university with a specific focus on developing the leadership potential in their students. The motto for the university is developing soft power for a changing world. All students are touched in one way or another by the curricular and cocurricular programs. There were three panels of presenters - political, business, and educational leadership. I was on the educational leadership panel and, by stroke of fortune, was the last speaker. I joked as I came on that their had been so much wisdom shared that I didn't know if there was anything else to say. However, I went on with a presentation on deeper leadership based on Deeper Learning in Leadership.

I didn't know for sure if I would be able to connect with students due to a bit of language barrier and the cultural differences among students in Korea. I was delighted to find that they connected very well. In fact, the reaction is probably one of the best reactions I've ever had among a primarily student audience. The thing that was different culturally was that students in Korea have not been used to thinking of cocurricular involvement as part of their education and they have also not had the opportunity to participate in many student organizations and events. What was wonderful was that all the presenters, political, business, and education alike, advocated for deeper involvement and for testing the leadership theories they read in use in student activities. I was the last speaker and it was a pleasure to tie it together with ideas from DLL.

In addition to participating in the conference, I had my first chance to tour in Asia. It was very fun to see Seoul, a hustling, bustling, center of activity between China and Japan. One of the speakers commented that the only reason Korea has survived over the years is that it is constantly engaged in diplomatic exchange. It's interesting what geography will do to create character in a nation and its people.

The picture to the left is of the old Emperor's Palace - approximately 600 years old. It was the center of commerce and government during the period of Korean history when it was ruled by a monarch. The lifestyle was quite austere in comparison to the palaces I've seen throughout Europe. This is largely the result of the influence of Confucianism in Korea, China, and elsewhere in east Asia. However, there was a fascinating similarity between the Emperor's Palace and the Sultan's palace in Istanbul, and other palaces as well. Seoul's and Istanbul's palaces have several courtyards of increasing importance that lead up to the main palace and both have areas for the wives, children, and extended family of the monarchs. The palaces of Europe are most often multi-floor with towering ceilings while the Emperor's Palace of Seoul was one-floor, simple, and not characterized by the trappings of wealth. I found one of the most beautiful aspects of this culture to be the roof-lines of buildings, captured in the picture below that shows the layered roofs of the Palace as it extends in the distance.

Discovering Asia through Seoul, South Korea, was a wonderful way to begin to explore this area of the world. I'm likely to be back.

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