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Faculty Spotlight on Dr. Pettis Perry

The MS in Leadership faculty member says we must embrace differences to bring about social equality for all.

If you ask any 10 people to name today’s top leadership qualities, you’re unlikely to get two identical lists. But you are likely to see common leadership traits mentioned—attributes like integrity, decisiveness, confidence, resilience, passion, accountability, transparency, charisma, creativity, and empathy. It takes a lot to make a strong leader.

If you ask Dr. Pettis Perry, a core faculty member in Walden University’s MS in Leadership online degree program, he’d tell you that the leadership style needed today is also one that embraces differences, stands for equality, and works for social change.

Dr. Perry has been a faculty member in Walden’s master’s in leadership program since 2009, and has taught most of the online degree program’s course offerings. He also served as the program coordinator. His commitment to leadership development and diversity and inclusion is reflected in other service at Walden, too. He has served on Walden’s Center for Social Change advisory board and as a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group. He was the team leader for the MBA program for initiating social change and diversity and inclusion practices through instructional design. And he lives his commitment through his personal mission statement: “To assist individuals and organizations to maximize their potentialities; and to actively promote positive social change, social justice, and peace in all that I do.”

In recognition of Pride Month, Dr. Perry shared his thoughts about the LGBTQ+ community’s ongoing battle for social equality, equality for all, and the wisdom of Kermit the Frog:

As we enter Pride Month, I think it important to fully support the LGBTQ+ community that finds itself continuing to struggle for social equality. The 1969 Stonewall riots that launched the Pride movement in New York came on the heels of the broader civil rights movement that produced the Civil Rights Act of 1964. What emerged as a result of those riots was the Pride movement and a recognition that the civil rights movement did not go far enough with ensuring protections for all disenfranchised groups. What comes to mind when I think about the Pride movement is the rainbow flag that represents social equality—the one thing that all disenfranchised groups covet as a basic right.

My late father-in-law regularly reminded me that “it ain’t easy being green”—one of our code phrases to talk about difference. The reference pays tribute to Kermit the Frog of Muppet fame and the vocalist for the song “Bein’ Green.” Willie P, my nickname for my late father-in-law, was a wonderfully kind and gentle soul despite the substantial pain he suffered from a lifetime of discrimination. I sorely miss him.

You see, being green is a metaphor for difference and the pursuit of social equality. In fact, diversity means difference, and it is a recognition that nature is a diverse ecosystem—and we are part of that ecosystem, which is a beautiful thing when we embrace it.

However, we need to remember that what complicates things for many members of the LGBTQ+ community is that they face a double jeopardy as persons of color as well as members of this community. Very simply put, for anyone experiencing differential treatment solely because of who they are, it ain’t easy being green.

Truthfully, difference occurs as part of the natural order of things, but we as a species choose to socially categorize people into those who belong to our social group and those who do not. That is, we place people into social groups based on our own mental models—in this case stereotypes—about which group we believe they represent.

The ironic thing is that socially constructed groups are artificial constructions that we manufacture so that we can remain in our individual comfort zones rather than engage and appreciate the natural magnificence produced by the abundance of diversity that exists all around us to make life richer and more meaningful.

Life is a process of becoming, and every day we have a chance to become someone who is better than the day before. In recognizing that difference is neither inherently good nor bad, we can see difference as a really beautiful thing, if we choose to. It is the meaning we place on difference that determines whether something is good or bad; that perspective carries over to literally shape what we are able to see through the lenses we molded to view our respective individual worlds. In other words, we manufacture the rightness of difference and attach meanings to it in the direction of our preferences.

In this year of the pandemic and great change, I encourage you to celebrate—quietly or not—with the LGBTQ+ community, as will I, during one of the many virtual Pride Month celebrations around the world. Think about the meaning of the Pride flag that represents social equality and remember that while you may not be a member of the LGBTQ+ community, social equality means equality for you, too. Bear in mind as well that when social equality does not exist for all groups, it leads to the potential social disenfranchisement of all other groups.

If you believe in social equality, then embrace the Pride flag as a symbol representing pride in self and equality for all. And, the next time you see green, let it remind you to think about the large numbers of people who live every day without social equality, and the reality, at least for them, that it ain’t easy being green. But it does not have to be that way. We can choose to be better today than we were yesterday. I choose social equality for all. How about you?

Hone the Qualities of a Leader

What kind of leader do you want to be? Walden’s MS in Leadership online degree program can help you develop the leadership skills you need to advance your career and prepare you to create positive social change through effective leadership.

In Walden’s MS degree program, you’ll learn about your own leadership style in courses like Dynamic Leadership. You’ll hone communication skills, learn strategies for transforming individuals and organizations, and study problem-solving strategies you can use in complex environments.

In addition to offering a general program of study, Walden has four specializations: Executive Leadership, Integrated Communication Skills for Leaders, Leader Development, and a Self-Designed option that lets you customize your master’s program by choosing nine credits from any of the specialization courses.

And after successfully completing the first four courses in the master’s in leadership online degree program, you’ll receive a graduate-level certificate. You’ll have this valuable credential in your professional portfolio as you continue studying for your master’s in leadership.

As the world adjusts to a landscape changed by the coronavirus disease, there are challenging and rewarding days ahead for people with strong leadership skills. Enhance your leadership ability and inspire others to do their best work by earning an MS in Leadership online.

Dr. Pettis Perry has been a Walden University core faculty member in the MS in Leadership program since May 2009. He has taught all but two of the online degree program’s course offerings. He has also taught the MBA Dynamic Leadership course.

During his tenure he has served as the MS in Leadership program coordinator and on the CMT Petitions Committee, HLC Self Study and Special Emphasis Committees, College Scholarship Committee, Center for Social Change Advisory Board, and the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group. He also served as the lead ambassador for the five-month Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador Pilot Training program and as team leader for the MBA program for initiating social change and diversity and inclusion practices through instructional design.

Dr. Perry has produced university exemplars such as his automated My Course Survival Guide, which provides tips for writing improvements and preventing academic integrity issues; created multiple program evaluations enabling a spider graph to be produced and presented at a National Faculty Meeting as a HLC exemplar; wrote the 2014 MS in Leadership Academic Program Review; and brought the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group position paper to one voice. Since 2010, he has championed the creation of a leadership development program for indigenous populations and the creation of an academic program orientation for Walden University.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Leadership online degree program with four specializations. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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