Before she entered academia, Dr Shari Read, Senior Lecturer in the ANU Research School of Management wrote a book about birth skills for expectant mums, taught yoga and meditation, was a qualified Buddhist psychotherapist and founded two businesses.
So how did she end up at the ANU teaching management and leadership?
Dr Read grew up in Tasmania, completed an undergraduate degree in psychology at James Cook University in Townsville, and then a PhD at Murdoch University in Western Australia in Social Psychology.
“I was attracted to social psychology because I am interested in how people behave in their social environment,” Dr Read explained.
In 2014 Dr Read took up a research position in the Research School of Management at ANU, where she undertook research into professional identity.
“It was interesting to research how people adapt or perform to the perceived expectations of their job and the degree to which this may or may not be a representation of how they see themselves,” Dr Read said.
“For some people, their work identity is who they are, and for others it is just something that has to be done, and not integrated into their sense of self.”
When she went on to begin lecturing in Management Leadership and Foundations of Management at ANU in 2015, Dr Read decided that she wanted to connect with more students, and to influence and inspire them in such a way as to create a strong, positive ripple effect throughout society.
“What I teach in the classroom about leadership is aimed at helping students think about the sort of leader or manager they are going to be, so when they show up in the workplace, they do so with intention,” Dr Read offered.
“We do a lot of activities around self-awareness, understanding levels of resilience, and understanding emotional intelligence.”
Dr Read says ‘emotional intelligence’ is how aware people are of both their own emotions and those of the people around them.
“Can you regulate your emotional reactions? Are you aware of other’s emotions, thoughts and feelings? As a manager, are you creating a context that helps others regulate their own emotions?”
The undergraduate unit Dr Read teaches is called ‘Management, People and Organisations’ – a course that she says was traditionally about planning, organising, leading and controlling.
“This is a somewhat outdated view of management. I prefer to help people understand how they see themselves as managers, or leaders, the skills and experiences they bring, and identify opportunities for further development,” she said.
“These units are more about leadership as a process and how to identify and leverage, group processes to enhance leadership effectiveness. I also teach how to adapt this practice of reflexive leadership to the change management processes, and in particular, digital transformation.”
Dr Read’s teaching philosophy closely relates to the Theory of Self-Determination proposed by researchers Richard Ryan and Edward Deci. The theory supports the idea that someone who is energised or activated towards an end goal will be motivated to act in alignment with that end goal.
In creating an engaging and motivating learning environment, her classrooms are spaces that support autonomy, that provide feedback on competence and an opportunity to develop relationships and networks. These three elements of autonomy, positive feedback and sense of relatedness are transferable to the workplace.
“To achieve this, managers need to have empathy. This all comes back to ‘intellectual autonomy’ which I address in my new course ‘Thought Leadership’.
‘Intellectual autonomy’ is the ability to see which thoughts you pick up through socialisation and how to choose what you think through critical thinking and being a ‘free thinker’.”
Mindfulness – that is, taking notice of the present moment without judgement – also plays a big role in Dr Read’s teaching.
“As we collect information, it is filtered through biases and assumptions, and we judge information as we collect it. This restricts our ability to think freely, innovate and be creative.
“Combining mindfulness with other management approaches enables managers to collect a wider range of information and increase their capacity for empathy and understanding of multiple perspectives – by not judging.”
Through teaching management and leadership at ANU, Dr Read has influenced and inspired well over a thousand students to engage in a deeper connection to the world around them, have a stronger alignment with their core values and have a vision for how they personally can have a meaningful and positive impact on the world’s businesses, societies and economies.
Dr Shari Read is at the forefront of management leadership in Australia – and we are lucky to have her right here in Canberra at the Research School of Management in the ANU College of Business and Economics.
Do you think that Dr Shari Read is onto something with her emphasis on ‘mindfulness’, ‘intellectual autonomy’ and ‘emotional intelligence’ in management leadership?
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