SAGE Nov 22 2019

Olenda Johnson receiving the SAGE AwardCongratulations to Olenda E. Johnson, Winner of the 2019 Best Leadership Education Paper Award

By Henry Morris

Henry Morris was a 2019 ILA Intern; He is a Political science major and theatre minor at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Download this award-winning paper here: Just click the download button on the page to be taken to the PDF.

Olenda Johnson has been named this year’s Most Publishable Leadership Education Paper Award winner for her paper, “Can Mental Agility Be Taught? Advancing Agile Thinking Capacities in U.S. Military Leaders,” which she presented at ILA’s 21st annual global conference, Leadership: Courage Required, in Ottawa last month. Sponsored by SAGE Publishing, Johnson was honored at the Ottawa, Leadership Education member community luncheon.

Johnson is a Professor of Strategic Leadership and Leader Development at the U.S. Naval War College, a graduate-level institution for highly-select military officers and civilians. Johnson serves as course designer and lead facilitator of the Navy’s 2-Star Admiral and Senior Executive Leadership Course; teaches a well-received Critical Thinking elective; and works with other military components (e.g., U.S. Army Special Forces) in their leader development efforts. Additionally, she supports senior military leadership, develops strategy, co-authors white papers, and leads team efforts on multiple fronts. Johnson holds an adjunct appointment at Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

Johnson stated that she was pleasantly surprised that she had won this award and did not expect the reception that she got from the public. She has had the privilege of getting to work with some of the nation’s most brilliant military officials and has found that anything from the ILA that she can learn and apply to make things more effective for the leaders in the military is valuable to her. Johnson said that her motivation for writing her award-winning article came from her love for teaching military officers, as well as the favorable feedback that she received. This encouraged her to write and share her work with scholars and leaders and those who are interested in teaching and education.

Introduced to the International Leadership Association approximately eight years ago, Johnson has presented at several ILA global conferences, and has enjoyed learning about different facets of leadership through the multiple perspectives represented at the conference.

Upon arrival at the annual global conferences, Johnson likes to look through a physical copy of the program and see all of the different opportunities and insights to be gained. In the past, she has attended sessions that she found to be so valuable that she invited the presenters to give a talk at the War College.

Having given a speech before on transformational leadership, Johnson said that she has come to the great realization that “there is a transformational leader in all of us when we pursue our passion.” When she pursues her passion, she is capable of transforming leadership and strengthening her military leaders, as well as her students.

Abstract of the Winning Paper:

The dynamic global security environment demands Navy leaders possess the mental agility to think critically in ambiguous situations and make decisions effectively in the absence of predictability. Current efforts to foster agile thinking rest upon well-entrenched training and instructional methodologies, with limited ability to functionally engender mental agility. The science of teaching and learning, along with research related to cognitive development, support alternative strategies for furthering advanced cognitive skills. This paper first discusses the distinction between “trainable” in the military environment and “teachable” within the learning domain to identify instructional strategies that can cultivate agile thinking in military leaders. It then describes a critical thinking course for mid- to senior-level military officers that employs certain methodologies to advance cognitive dexterity. Anecdotal evidence provides some support for utilizing this teaching approach to advance agile thinking capacities.

Download this award-winning paper here: Just click the download button on the page to be taken to the PDF.