A Philosophy of Leadership

The Densford Center Executive Committee defined the brand of leadership that would apply to the School of Nursing, which it termed "generative leadership." It serves as a statement of the philosophy of the Center and the School.

A Philosophy of Generative Leadership

The University of Minnesota School of Nursing (U of M SoN) is a community that generates and translates new knowledge and ways of thinking by creatively examining issues, challenging the status quo, capitalizing on opportunities, embracing a spirit of abundance, and collectively leveraging the strengths of its members and partners. Generativity is the ability to produce or originate. A shared commitment exists throughout the UMSoN to promote generative thinking and leadership - and to evoke new ways of approaching issues by answering questions such as “what if…?”; “how could we…?”; “why not?”; and “imagine that…”

Generative leaders are different:

  • They move beyond perceived limitations of time, space, traditional thought and one’s own view of the world
  • They are curious and never satisfied with the status quo
  • They recognize that there are multiple ways of knowing
  • They demonstrate resiliency and mental agility
  • They anticipate and shape change, not merely react to it
  • They engage in critical thinking, and seek out other thought leaders
  • They embrace a global perspective
  • They are committed to life-long learning
  • They engage with others to explore and excel. 

A philosophy of generative thinking guides the research/scholarship, education and practice/service missions of the School of Nursing. At the heart of academic pursuits is a commitment to developing the disciplinary and professional knowledge that reflects the unique perspective of nursing. Through empirical and historical research, methodological studies, theory development, and philosophical inquiry, faculty and students study promotion and restoration of health, rehabilitation of autonomous function, and caring and comfort of the afflicted (AACN, 1999*). Students generate their own contributions to science by drawing from their professors’ knowledge in their courses and by working with them on their forms of scholarship; by conducting their own investigations; and by participating as active members of interprofessional teams.

Graduates of the U of M School of Nursing are distinctive in how they think and relate to others and, consequently, in the impact that they make. They are equipped to be generative leaders as a result of their emotional intelligence; communication skills; critical thinking abilities; reliance on evidence as a basis for practice; an ability to pursue a vision and translate it into reality; knowledge of the health care industry; sophistication concerning informatics and other contemporary technologies; imagination to see possibilities when they are not apparent or when gridlock has been the norm; and passion for nursing.

The curriculum and educational initiatives incorporate content from diverse perspectives and bodies of knowledge; utilize innovative pedagogies; offer choices for learning from and with all types of health care providers and in all health care settings; are structured to enable students to become competent in the relevant knowledge, skills and abilities for contemporary leadership practice; and engage faculty who model generative thinking.

A philosophy of generative thinking permeates the entire school and is reflected in: (1) an explicit mission and vision statement that values generative thinking for all members of the community (faculty, staff and students); (2) an organizational structure that enhances scholarship and participation by all members of the community; (3) a dynamic strategic plan that provides a blueprint for prioritizing the work: (4) the criteria and processes for recruiting, developing and retaining faculty and staff; (5) the research agenda of the School; (6) recognition and promotion criteria and mechanisms; (7) promotional materials; and (8) strategic partnerships that can further the school’s mission and prominence.

*American Association of Colleges of Nursing (1999). Position Statement on Defining Scholarship for the Discipline of Nursing. Washington, DC: AACN.