International Alliance for Invitational Education
Embracing Character Education for Our Future
Imagine a world where honesty, kindness, generosity, courage, freedom, equality, and respect are evident in great abundance. This is the world that Dr. Betty Siegel is laboring to develop. As part of the Character Education initiative, Dr. Siegel is actively spreading the knowledge that character is the basis for individual leadership.
Gold Globe Developing character requires that individuals examine their own personal value system and understand how their actions and decisions are affected by these values and beliefs. Ethical leaders emerge when individuals embrace who and what they stand for.
Character is not formed over a few short years. Rather, it is developed over a lifetime. Making character education available to as many people as possible, across the globe, is part of Dr. Siegel’s vision. Educational institutions that serve anydemographic of a society can be the conduit of this character building process.
Character education is about teaching basic human values. The five core beliefs are respect, trust, optimism, intentionality, and service. Teaching these beliefs throughout the world will create a common ethical language. From this common thread, together the peoples of the world can embrace the potential of the human race to do great things on an individual, community, country, and worldwide scale.
The common future that all individuals share will increasingly depend upon working toward resolutions using the core beliefs. Democracy cannot exist in hostile climates. It requires fertile ground that has been carefully cultivated. This cultivation cannot take place overnight. It requires great effort and intentionality. This reality requires the common language that character education brings.
Dr. Siegel’s recent travels to South Africa were part of an effort to strengthen the membership of the Invitational Alliance for Invitational Education (IAIE). This organization unites teachers, leaders, health professionals, and many others to identify and fight against forces that oppose the realization of human potential, a potential that can be freed through widespread character education.
In a society where citizens are productive and embrace the core beliefs, democracy can be planted and flourish. Leadership can govern with a greater concern for all. A common thread that can join the countries of the world can be created by the vision and belief that human potential should be discovered and developed. Character education is at the root of building societies like these.
Dr. Siegel’s vision of making character education available through learning institutions everywhere has the potential to reach those outside of the institutions’ walls. As the students, teachers, and leaders enter into contact with the community, they will disseminate the knowledge through word and example.
The future includes tomorrow and every day after. Planning today for the future is what the Character Education initiative embodies. The children of today will be the leaders of tomorrow. By arming them with tools of respect, trust, optimism,intentionality, and service, their potential to uplift and raise human potential will be great. The wave of change across the landscape will be felt beyond the homes and communities. It will be felt across the globe.
Building Character and Teaching the Value of Servant Leadership
Betty Siegel’s recent travels to South Africa were focused on strengthening the membership of the Invitational Alliance for Invitational Education (IAIE) in hopes of establishing an International Center in the region. Dr. Siegel co-founded the IAIE in 1982 with Dr. William W. Purkey. The primary mission of the non-profit organization is to aid in the realization of human potential worldwide. The Alliance aims to accomplish this through identifying and altering the forces that fight against this mission.
Susan Brown is the executive secretary for the IAIE, she discusses this alliance and how it fits into Dr. Siegel’s initiative.
How does the IAIE tie into Dr. Siegel’s Character Education initiative?
SB: In essence, children learn what they live. If their educational environment is built on respect, trust, optimism, and intentionality, it is concerned with more than grades, attendance, academic achievement, discipline, and test scores. It is concerned with learning the skills of becoming a decent and productive citizen in a democratic society.Members of IAIE are committed to creating that kind of environment.
Why do you think that this initiative is important to Dr. Siegel?
SB: The International Alliance for Invitational Education evolved from the theory of Invitational Education, developed by Dr. Siegel and Dr. Purkey. It has been an active force for school reform and enhancement for over 25 years. Invitational Education is an important stepping stone to Invitational Leadership.
At the heart of Invitational Leadership is the notion that we are ultimately responsible for treating others with respect and concern, indeed, intentionality—the quality of paying purposeful attention to our treatment of others. It begins with what is closest at hand, developing an ethical system that will extend to our treatment of colleagues, family, and friends, and further, to the larger community. It is the movement from self-interest to selflessness and from exclusion to inclusion that marks the work of the best leaders.
Dr. Siegel believes invitational leaders find that their capacity to serve others extends far beyond ordinary definitions of work and love—that they have an astonishing capacity to be a steward of the public good. They become servant leaders, in the most ennobling sense of the word. Invitational leadership assumes that one of the leader’s most important duties is to lead by example, creating an atmosphere in which associates are summoned to realize their full potential as leaders.
Membership in the IAIE has grown to nearly 600 worldwide. Individuals from varying points along the influential chain have come together to bring to pass the mission of the alliance.
SB: We reach out to everyone concerned with the quality of education at any level…The only requirement for membership is to have a desire to improve the quality of life for others through communicating and demonstrating caring and appropriate messages intended to summon forth the realization of human potential, as well as identifying and changing those forces that inhibit potential.
Success of the IAIE will be accomplished through changing the world, one life at a time. Both the members and the beneficiaries of the alliance benefit from their associations in this monumental and inspiring initiative by being part of something larger than any one individual while remaining focused on one life at a time.
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Invitational Leadership in a Nutshell
Invitational leadership involves a generous and genuine turning toward others in empathy and respect, with the ultimate goal of collaborating with them on projects of mutual benefit.
--from Becoming an Invitational Leader: A New Approach to Professional and Personal Success by William W. Purkey and Betty L. Siegel
One of the keys to understanding Betty Siegel is to grasp invitational leadership and its cousin, servant leadership. In her book with Purkey, she challenges the traditional notion that leadership is a position earned by one person who exerts power and/or influence over others. In fact, an invitational leader turns all of our concepts of leadership on their ear. Instead of seeking to control others, an invitational leader seeks to cooperate with others. Instead of trying to emphasize the divide between leader and follower, the invitational leader sees others as his or her associates.
How do these concepts relate to Dr. Siegel’s programs?
In character education, teachers invite their students to learn, rather than forcing them to learn. In the business world, leaders invite other employees to share ideas and to contribute, rather than ordering them to complete tasks. Even more importantly, we should invite those who have “wintered into wisdom” to share their experiences; there is always something to be learned from those who went before us. Throughout every facet of Dr. Siegel’s work is the idea that every person has something to contribute and that we should all listen to each other and learn from one another.
So, what are the qualities of an invitational leader? First and foremost, an invitational leader must have respect for others. Each person has worth; each person has something to contribute. Second, an invitational leader must exhibit trust; the best way to exhibit and encourage trust is to foster a shared set of values within an organization. Next, invitational leaders must be optimistic about the abilities of others and of their organization. Finally, the invitational leader must show “intentionality.” As described in Becoming an Invitational Leader, "To act intentionally, with purpose, to act with an aim, is the very essence of Invitational Leadership. The more intentionality we have as leaders, the more accurate our judgments, the more disciplined our commitment to action, and the more decisive our behavior. The leader’s energy, vitality, and commitment are directly linked to his or her intentionality. . . Invitational leadership requires a disciplined commitment to sustained action, to march confidently towards a vision of a better world."
There is still one more step beyond that of invitational leadership: servant leadership. Just as Dr. Siegel’s initiatives progress naturally from character education to ethical leadership to wintering into wisdom, an invitational leader should evolve into a servant leader. Servant leaders understand that “random” acts of kindness foster respect and trust. These acts of kindness demonstrate intentionality and stem from the optimism of knowing that giving truly is better than receiving.
The beauty of Dr. Siegel’s nontraditional approach to leadership is that it promotes not only a better work environment but also a healthier outlook for individual leaders. To find out more about invitational leadership and how this concept can transform bother your personal and professional life, order a copy of Becoming and Invitational Leader: A New Approach to Professional and Personal Success.