Episode 01 with Dr. Nick Pace
Drs. Shavonna Holman and Scott Sturgeon interview Dr. Nick Pace, chair of the Educational Administration Department at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. Their discussion included books that are informing his work, a definition of leadership, his varied work experiences and their impacts, and some encouraging words for future educational leaders.
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[00:00:00.833]You are listening to the Lead Big Red podcast
[00:00:03.438]from the university of Nebraska Lincoln,
[00:00:05.970]educational administration department with your hosts,
[00:00:08.770]Dr. Shavonna Holman and Dr. Scott sturgeon.
[00:00:11.219]Welcome to the very first Lead Big Red podcast.
[00:00:14.950]I am Scott Sturgeon assistant professor of practice
[00:00:17.131]at the University of Nebraska Lincoln
[00:00:19.430]in the educational administration department.
[00:00:21.417]My co-host is,
[00:00:24.140]I'm also an assistant professor of practice
[00:00:25.800]in the educational administration department.
[00:00:27.755]And we are joined today by Dr. Nick Pace,
[00:00:31.350]the chair of our department.
[00:00:32.763]Welcome Dr. Pace.
[00:00:35.221]Good morning, Dr. sturgeons, Dr. Holman,
[00:00:37.391]happy to be with you.
[00:00:38.514]Thanks so much for inviting me.
[00:00:40.469]This is really exciting.
[00:00:41.992]It's exciting for us as well.
[00:00:44.725]If we could start off with just if Dr. Pace,
[00:00:48.970]you could just tell us a little bit about yourself.
[00:00:50.704]Sure, it's my privilege to serve as the chair
[00:00:54.879]of the department of educational administration.
[00:00:57.028]As Dr. Holman said, this is my fourth year
[00:01:00.520]at the University of Nebraska Lincoln,
[00:01:01.877]former social worker, teacher, coach, principal.
[00:01:08.373]Prior to my time here at Nebraska
[00:01:11.560]was at the University of Northern.
[00:01:13.300]I was for 17 years as a faculty member
[00:01:15.001]and a program coordinator
[00:01:17.337]and they call it a department head.
[00:01:19.557]And just really really honored to be in the role
[00:01:27.101]that I serve to support students and faculty.
[00:01:29.872]And leadership is a passion of mine, which doesn't mean,
[00:01:36.034]which is not to say I'm an expert on it, I just
[00:01:41.110]I know how important effective leadership is
[00:01:43.910]and contributing to the success of scholars and leaders
[00:01:48.705]through our programs here at Nebraska is a real joy.
[00:01:54.050]Fantastic, that's a great segue
[00:01:55.750]into my first question for you.
[00:01:57.195]What would you consider to be your best attributes
[00:02:02.142]as a leader?
[00:02:04.420]Wow, exchanges like this are sorta hard
[00:02:13.070]because it can sound like you're, you know,
[00:02:15.150]talking yourself up or, you know, whatever.
[00:02:20.574]I think that one of my strengths is
[00:02:27.913]I try really hard to be fully present.
[00:02:31.795]I try really hard to be all in.
[00:02:34.557]I think a lot of it is about, you know,
[00:02:40.550]being all in for other people and their success
[00:02:43.680]and their opportunities.
[00:02:45.135]Years ago, when I was a high school teacher,
[00:02:48.130]I was a member of the optimist club in the town
[00:02:50.360]where we lived.
[00:02:51.424]And I don't remember when we would meet
[00:02:53.610]on Friday mornings for breakfast.
[00:02:56.149]And I don't remember all of the optimist creed,
[00:02:58.115]but one of the creed part of it that we would recite
[00:03:01.946]was to be just as enthusiastic
[00:03:04.750]about the success of others as you are about your own.
[00:03:07.399]And I have kept that or tried to keep that
[00:03:09.804]with me to just, you know, be fully present enthusiastic
[00:03:16.000]about the success of others, try to support it
[00:03:20.154]and be just as mindful of that and as committed
[00:03:27.150]to other people and knowing them as people, beyond students,
[00:03:31.144]beyond faculty members, beyond principals, superintendents
[00:03:36.340]higher ed administrators, whatever they are.
[00:03:38.230]But, but also appreciate that, you know,
[00:03:40.330]behind that title is a person with skills
[00:03:47.040]and talents and joys and fears and pain and humanity.
[00:03:55.376]Great, and so you don't feel like
[00:03:57.870]you've been bragging about yourself.
[00:03:58.930]The next question will help out with that, which is
[00:04:01.840]whose work in education are you following right now
[00:04:04.300]or that you're reading right now?
[00:04:05.540]Somebody you're leading on.
[00:04:07.469]Oh boy, well, I'm reading a 'Cast' by Isabel Wilkerson,
[00:04:12.656]which isn't exclusively a leadership book, although
[00:04:19.803]if you're not attending to and aware of, you know,
[00:04:24.505]and concerned about, and struggling
[00:04:27.890]with issues of equity and justice and opportunity
[00:04:31.450]and racism, individually, systemically, et cetera,
[00:04:35.430]then I don't know what you're doing.
[00:04:38.350]And so, you know, Wilkerson's book
[00:04:40.690]is a tough read in terms of, you know,
[00:04:46.880]acknowledging things that have gotten us
[00:04:49.571]to some of the challenges that we're dealing with.
[00:04:53.960]But it really, I really, really enjoying the read.
[00:04:58.800]I really, I really like Simon Sinek.
[00:05:06.340]I really have enjoyed his leaders.
[00:05:09.790]I think as leadership last that really approaches leadership
[00:05:13.500]from a service orientation.
[00:05:15.252]I think at the end of the day,
[00:05:16.837]leadership is service to others, period.
[00:05:20.922]There are a lot of components to it, but I think for me
[00:05:24.790]if you boil it down, that's a lot of it.
[00:05:28.759]Scott I like anything by Bolman and Deal.
[00:05:31.412]I find reframing organizations to be really valuable.
[00:05:36.874]I think F Scott Fitzgerald said that
[00:05:40.081]the mark of an intelligent person is someone
[00:05:43.810]who can hold two competing ideas in their head
[00:05:46.060]at the same time.
[00:05:47.136]And I think Bolman and Deal sort of get at that
[00:05:50.559]through those four frames of leadership.
[00:05:52.419]You know, there's this symbolic in the human relations
[00:05:55.290]and the structural and how all those things come together.
[00:05:57.950]And, you know, I think
[00:06:00.690]if leaders are only attending to one piece of the problem,
[00:06:02.984]there's a whole lot that's gonna be missed.
[00:06:06.375]So I think Bolman and Deal do a nice job with that.
[00:06:13.654]I'm a big Parker Palmer fan.
[00:06:15.890]I try to read anything by Parker Palmer.
[00:06:18.744]I just find that he's got such a sense of balance
[00:06:25.150]and you know, his place in his role in the world and sort
[00:06:32.590]of the reasons why we do some of the things that we do.
[00:06:36.350]I'm just really a fan of Parker Palmer.
[00:06:40.340]And the person. I really,
[00:06:42.692]one of the other people I really enjoy is Margaret Wheatley.
[00:06:46.320]I read an article by Wheatley.
[00:06:49.828]It's a 2011 article it's called
[00:06:52.602]'From Hero to Host Leadership in the Age of Complexity.'
[00:06:57.080]And I have really, really benefited from that.
[00:07:02.480]So it's a dangerous question
[00:07:04.743]because I can always probably throw out five or six books
[00:07:07.570]that I'm not finished with.
[00:07:09.687]I'm reading Obama's book 'Promised Land' right now
[00:07:12.550]which is terrific, terrific read.
[00:07:15.250]I read a lot of Sharon Salzberg also.
[00:07:18.234]Sharon Salzberg is a mindfulness meditation guru.
[00:07:23.950]So I got five or six that are somewhere
[00:07:26.301]between this far and this far off the ground.
[00:07:28.389]You're right, that's good.
[00:07:30.428]People like to to pick other people's brains or
[00:07:33.000]at least I do about what they're reading and
[00:07:34.870]who gets them excited about whatever part of the world
[00:07:38.123]that they're thinking about,
[00:07:39.710]whether professional or personal.
[00:07:41.130]So thanks a lot for that.
[00:07:44.200]Great, so you've mentioned a little bit
[00:07:46.980]about what it means to be a leader to you.
[00:07:49.866]And in general, there are some different thoughts
[00:07:52.680]and ideas and definitions that float out around and
[00:07:56.250]about leadership as it relates to education in particular.
[00:08:00.484]And so can you share with us what you would think
[00:08:04.820]or what your true definition of leadership is
[00:08:08.233]as it relates to education?
[00:08:13.688]Yeah, boy, what a good question.
[00:08:19.494]I was reflecting on this a little bit,
[00:08:21.207]because I anticipated that you'd come at me with some kind
[00:08:24.970]of request for a definition or components of leadership.
[00:08:29.736]And I think one of the awesome things about the podcast
[00:08:33.530]and the project that you're doing is gonna be,
[00:08:37.000]your listeners and viewers will hear
[00:08:40.195]so many different answers to that question
[00:08:43.893]and none of them's gonna be wrong.
[00:08:45.785]You know, we all have a different take
[00:08:49.430]in a different set of strengths and a different perspective.
[00:08:51.830]And boy, you reflect on that and boil it down together
[00:08:57.830]and you're gonna have a world of ideas.
[00:09:00.536]There are a couple of things for me.
[00:09:07.230]One is I think it's really important for leaders
[00:09:11.960]to have a sense of perspective.
[00:09:17.910]What is the big picture?
[00:09:20.113]What is the ultimate goal?
[00:09:23.477]What is the overall trajectory of what we're doing
[00:09:28.424]or what we're trying to do?
[00:09:32.060]I'll out myself and say that like a lot of people
[00:09:35.732]I struggle with perfectionism.
[00:09:39.630]And so I had to be real careful about not having perfect
[00:09:45.820]be the enemy of good, you know, and figuring out
[00:09:48.870]what really can be good enough
[00:09:50.710]and what needs to be good enough and what has to be perfect.
[00:09:53.951]Because everything can't be perfect,
[00:09:57.010]that that's a recipe for burnout and disaster
[00:09:59.610]and unhappiness and some other things.
[00:10:02.659]So a big picture perspective, I think is important.
[00:10:06.262]I have a goal statement on the wall here in front of my desk
[00:10:15.380]that that kind of helps me try to maintain that perspective.
[00:10:22.943]Being fully present is a second component.
[00:10:26.033]Thought I mentioned that earlier, I used to call it.
[00:10:28.950]I used to refer to it as mindfulness.
[00:10:31.810]But to me it's more being fully present
[00:10:35.490]try to be present in every interaction
[00:10:38.644]trying to really listen to what the issues are.
[00:10:44.513]Listen to understand, you know,
[00:10:46.630]the Stephen Covey stuff about seek first to understand.
[00:10:49.162]Don't listen to make a point.
[00:10:52.059]Don't listen to win an argument.
[00:10:55.170]Don't think about what you're about to say next
[00:10:57.990]while the other person is explaining
[00:10:59.700]or presenting or speaking right there.
[00:11:03.801]That's a work in progress,
[00:11:06.670]especially in a multitasking world where
[00:11:09.180]there's so many things coming at once.
[00:11:10.794]You know, I'm making notes
[00:11:13.790]while I'm checking email and attending a Zoom.
[00:11:15.861]That's not good stuff.
[00:11:18.608]So I think, you know, presence, whether it's with students,
[00:11:24.048]whether it's at a conference,
[00:11:26.132]whether it's in a difficult conversation with somebody
[00:11:30.320]whether it's working on a project.
[00:11:31.153]And then service.
[00:11:34.083]I mentioned that earlier,
[00:11:35.667]a third component for me is a service to others.
[00:11:41.800]And, you know, that's a commitment
[00:11:45.480]to the overall trajectory.
[00:11:47.006]It's a commitment to progress.
[00:11:50.050]Very little of it happens as quickly
[00:11:53.780]as I want it to, or very little
[00:11:57.040]of it happens as quickly as I think it perhaps should.
[00:12:00.433]And what I mean by that is sometimes I think
[00:12:03.140]that I should be able to move it along quicker,
[00:12:05.650]whatever it is.
[00:12:09.350]And in one sense,
[00:12:10.183]I think that's a good thing probably for leaders to have.
[00:12:12.750]And you need a little bit of impatience
[00:12:14.630]and certainly a lot of passion to maintain some energy
[00:12:18.010]and keep things moving in a good direction.
[00:12:20.328]But there's also a danger that it's never enough,
[00:12:24.651]or it's never fast enough
[00:12:26.260]or the impact is never significant enough
[00:12:28.080]or the progress is not life-changing enough.
[00:12:29.982]And so, you know, leave it better than you found it.
[00:12:35.900]If I can leave it, whatever it is,
[00:12:39.076]the organization, the program, the people, the experience
[00:12:43.242]if I can leave that better than I found it in a market
[00:12:46.448]in a significant way, then whoever's in whatever the role is
[00:12:54.950]after me is gonna bring a new set of skills
[00:12:57.600]and talents and passions and abilities that I don't have.
[00:13:01.664]And they're gonna pick it up and move it forward
[00:13:07.060]in a more new and exciting way that I could never have done.
[00:13:11.592]I shared with the faculty, Dr. Holman
[00:13:15.570]may remember this Scott, Dr. Sturgeon.
[00:13:17.297]It was before you were here.
[00:13:19.290]I took a picture one day of a phone pole
[00:13:22.686]out on 14th street that I walked past when I'd come
[00:13:25.765]out of the parking garage on my way to work.
[00:13:27.427]And the phone pole, it's an old weathered crack pole
[00:13:31.020]and it's got all kinds of staples
[00:13:32.480]and nails and rusty, you know, things attached to it
[00:13:37.650]from signs and notices and announcements and lost cards.
[00:13:41.384]And there's a concert
[00:13:42.840]and there's a speaker and there's a, you know,
[00:13:45.010]whatever going on over years and years and years and years,
[00:13:47.969]there've been on that, stapled to that pole.
[00:13:51.637]And all that's left are those rusty staples and nails
[00:13:55.423]for whatever the very important announcement was
[00:13:59.121]that they were, you know, sharing.
[00:14:02.235]And I was just thinking about that in terms of
[00:14:05.247]each of those things posted on that pole
[00:14:07.212]were really important in that moment to somebody.
[00:14:12.183]But now we don't know what all the outcomes
[00:14:15.980]of those things were
[00:14:17.610]but just those staples and nails are left.
[00:14:19.372]And so that reminds me of
[00:14:21.926]and this maybe goes back to perspective.
[00:14:23.887]That reminds me that I get to serve in this leadership role
[00:14:30.890]for a limited period of time.
[00:14:33.471]I don't know what that time is,
[00:14:36.450]but we're all here for a limited period of time.
[00:14:39.038]And so I gotta be mindful that
[00:14:44.070]I'm benefiting from the good work of lots and lots
[00:14:47.041]of people that was done before I ever arrived.
[00:14:50.947]And the people who are coming later will benefit
[00:14:54.530]from the things that we're doing now
[00:14:58.312]and have to clean up some of the things
[00:15:01.110]that we're not doing well now,
[00:15:02.480]and then I'm not doing very effectively now.
[00:15:04.620]And that's all part of it.
[00:15:09.360]I think a final thing about service is that
[00:15:16.874]many of, or most of the people who benefit
[00:15:20.394]won't even know what happened
[00:15:22.947]because it was just taken care of.
[00:15:24.958]I think a lot of leadership is eliminating obstacles
[00:15:27.413]and trying to keep things out of the way
[00:15:29.872]from people doing good work.
[00:15:32.612]And so if a lot of those things get handled effectively,
[00:15:36.008]no one even knows that there was a lot of work that went
[00:15:41.670]into prepare that ground or to let those things happen.
[00:15:47.250]So that may be the rambling Lead Big Red podcast record
[00:15:54.650]for a twisting answer to your leadership question.
[00:15:58.170]But that's what I've got.
[00:15:59.750]No, it's great though, because as you were talking,
[00:16:02.050]it made me reflect about
[00:16:04.430]'cause I know you and I are very similar in some
[00:16:06.990]of our thoughts and ideologies and just
[00:16:09.014]in our processing of things and wanting to be perfect.
[00:16:14.922]And so it was a great reminder for me as I listened to you.
[00:16:19.160]And, here's some of the encouraging words
[00:16:21.120]that you have shared.
[00:16:21.953]So thank you.
[00:16:24.584]And, it, wasn't a set up your answer.
[00:16:26.710]I know it, wasn't a set up to the next question,
[00:16:28.584]but I appreciate it
[00:16:29.899]because you brought up in your answer to that question
[00:16:35.908]three themes that are part of our program,
[00:16:38.382]visionary thinkers, servant leaders and reflective learners.
[00:16:43.333]And in those three things, what right now
[00:16:47.190]which one of those three areas right now,
[00:16:49.534]are you finding most needed in your work,
[00:16:53.768]supporting whether it's EDD candidates,
[00:16:58.488]supporting students in the med program
[00:17:01.068]or in your work supporting leaders outside
[00:17:05.178]whether it's school districts, ESU superintendents
[00:17:08.300]that come to you or that you are connecting with.
[00:17:11.430]So which one of those three are you finding
[00:17:13.785]most needed right now or most useful right now?
[00:17:16.181]That is a terrific question.
[00:17:24.130]I'm not sure I can identify one
[00:17:24.963]more than the others Scott.
[00:17:28.647]Visionary, the last 10, 11 months
[00:17:35.126]has been so challenging and so unique
[00:17:38.240]in so many ways when, you know, of course the pandemic
[00:17:42.780]and racial justice, racism, anti-racism efforts
[00:17:45.598]economic collapse, and on all of those kinds of things.
[00:17:51.310]And what are the impacts on educators,
[00:17:54.040]and education when you talk to preschoolers or, you know
[00:17:57.120]higher education professionals
[00:17:58.580]or higher ed leaders, superintendents, principals.
[00:18:01.515]I don't think we know what all
[00:18:03.860]of the impacts of this current environment are gonna be
[00:18:06.830]in terms of, you know, what school gonna look like?
[00:18:10.170]What's higher ed gonna look like?
[00:18:11.450]What should it look like?
[00:18:12.560]And what things have we not thought of
[00:18:14.691]and just clearing some space
[00:18:17.331]so that there can be some reflection
[00:18:20.502]and some vision about optimizing systems and
[00:18:25.260]what could and should things look like?
[00:18:27.151]I think that's a challenge.
[00:18:32.910]I think there will be on the other side,
[00:18:35.249]some good things that will come from these challenges.
[00:18:42.000]I think it's gonna be a heavy lift to get there
[00:18:45.328]as it always is.
[00:18:51.140]You know, I think of our work with with EDD students,
[00:18:56.320]you know, that's a practitioner's degree.
[00:18:58.270]And we encourage people to think about a problem
[00:19:00.850]or an opportunity that they want to address
[00:19:02.830]as a scholar or a leader.
[00:19:04.800]And so, you know, there's a visionary aspect of that too.
[00:19:08.023]That dissertation doesn't necessarily
[00:19:13.620]have to be a traditional five chapter document.
[00:19:16.542]It might take a form that's very different.
[00:19:19.926]It might be a professional development
[00:19:21.810]or mentoring program for new teachers somewhere.
[00:19:24.190]It might be a protocol or program that helps, you know,
[00:19:29.214]students of color, first-generation kids achieve success
[00:19:34.660]on college and university campuses.
[00:19:36.490]It might be a million things.
[00:19:38.220]Those are just, that's a small example of, you know
[00:19:40.505]the need for some vision.
[00:19:43.453]In order to create that space,
[00:19:46.870]I think you have to be very reflective,
[00:19:48.781]which is the second component or second core competency
[00:19:53.880]to our P 12 program that the faculty has coalesced around.
[00:20:00.330]And I think it's really hard
[00:20:02.619]in our current environment to be reflective
[00:20:06.404]because there's so much coming at us
[00:20:10.017]and just knowing when to step back or how, you know,
[00:20:15.354]and whether it's, where do you find that space
[00:20:19.510]and time to be reflective?
[00:20:20.840]Is it early morning, late at night. in the woods,
[00:20:23.568]on the water
[00:20:24.950]and your car walking the dog in prayer meditation?
[00:20:30.860]I don't know, but I think it's really important
[00:20:33.865]for each of us to understand where we can do that work,
[00:20:40.440]do that reflection.
[00:20:41.280]That's really important.
[00:20:43.506]And then, you know, service.
[00:20:49.840]I kinda think of it
[00:20:50.673]in terms of leadership and management, and sometimes
[00:20:53.572]in principle or in school leader training.
[00:20:58.258]Some people will present management
[00:21:01.694]as distinct or different from or in competition,
[00:21:05.574]you know, with leadership.
[00:21:07.240]And, you know, I.
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