Leadership Research In The West For Students In The East

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

The Dead Poets Society” was a 1989 award winning movie.  A few years later, The Dead Fukuzawa Society (TDFS) was created by some of Chalmers Johnson‘s students at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego (GPS/UCSD), where I am an alumnus. The inspiration for the establishment of TDFS was Fukuzawa Yukichi’s belief that Japan should learn from the West. The members of TDFS thought that the West should learn from Japan and the East.  Over 20 years later, in March 2017 before the TESOL convention in Seattle, I traveled from Japan to visit GPS/UCSD. My purpose during my research trip was similar to that of Fukuzawa. My aim was to learn from leaders in the West (i.e., San Diego, California) in order to provide better leadership development and professional communication training for my undergraduate students in the East (i.e., Japan).  In San Diego, I was able to meet with leaders at GPS/UCSD and at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL).

The University of California, San Diego, School of Global Policy and Strategy

Discussion about leadership with Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) graduate student leaders

My research interest has been to explore leadership as a conceptualization using discourse analytical approaches (see Knight, in press).  David Robertson, Director of GPS Career Services) arranged a lunch meeting with a focus group of eight very busy and talented GPS graduate student leaders, four male and four female, with whom I was able to explore conceptualizations of leadership. Further, David spoke to me about leadership (because he had taught leadership to undergraduates in the past) and shared a publication that describes a leadership project (Robertson & Lubic, 2001).

Meeting with JUMP leaders

I was also able to meet with Ulrike Schaede, professor and director of the Japan Forum for Innovation and Technology (JFIT), and  Takashi Kiyoizumi,, JFIT executive manager, leaders of JFIT’s “new immersion program for female executives in Japan [that] equips participants with the skills and confidence to be managers on a global scale.” The program is titled the Josei/Women for Upper Management Program (JUMP). In addition, I spoke in a Japan discussion group and explored leadership conceptualizations with doctoral candidate Jonathan Shalfi, who was a former leader of the GPS alumni chapter in Japan.

The Center for Creative Leadership, San Diego Campus

Meetings with leadership consultants

Thanks to an introduction from David Robertson to the Center for Creative Leadership, which is ranked in the global top 5 for executive training programs, I was given a very warm welcome  from the Managing Director, Russ McCallian, and three leadership consultants: Kevin Liu, Maggie Sass, and Sam Soloman. These four leadership experts shared conceptualizations of leadership that inspired me to think about leadership and to conduct leadership development in new ways.

I left San Diego with a deep appreciation of, and deep gratitude for, professional connections. Through these connections, I was able to acquire information and inspiration to pursue my professional goals. As a linguist, such connections were especially valuable because my interactions with leaders exposed me to the communication skills and professional and leadership discourses that will inform my training programs. (For this reason, I was very pleased to see that Ulrike Schaede was creating networking opportunities at a recent GPS event in Japan, which I was unfortunately unable to attend.)

In connection with my leadership development goals, I also like to watch the TED Talks related to leadership. In some talks, leaders are telling their stories. In other talks, experts are talking about leadership. As I focus on the communication (in the talks), I tend to ask the question, “Why?”  For example, “Why is this talk being given?” “Why now?” “Why is leadership being conceptualized in this way?”

In this increasingly digitally interconnected world, traveling abroad would seem to be unnecessary because everything is at your fingertips. However, my research trip to San Diego has changed my thinking, and thanks to an hour-long discussion with Russ McCallian at CCL, I am looking at leadership now in terms of inspiring the creation of movements. Further, from such discussions, I begin to see more clearly how leaders use communication as a tool to create and achieve their visions.

All the best,


Knight, K. (In press). Exploring leadership conceptualizations in semi-structured interviews from multiple perspectives. In C. Ilie, & S. Schnurr (Eds.), Challenging leadership stereotypes through discourse. Singapore: Springer.

Robertson, D., & Ludic, B. (2001).  Spheres of confluence: Non-hierarchical leadership in action. In C.L. Outcalt, S.K. Faris, & K.N. McMahon (Eds.), Developing non-hierarchical leadership on campus: Case studies and best practices in higher education. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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One Response to Leadership Research In The West For Students In The East

  1. Amira Salama Amira Salama says:

    Dear Knight,

    This is a very interesting topic! I’m wondering what discourse analytical tools did you use to understand and analyze your data. I’m an MATESOL graduate student and I’m interested in this topic.

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