- An Authentic Leader, Scholar and Teacher:The Man - Dr. Harold Isaacs
Leadership is not magnetic personality; that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not “making friends and influencing people,” that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations (LeadershipNow.com, 2015, p1)
The above quote from Peter Drucker, one of the most influential authors and thinkers on the subject of management [End Page 19] theory and practice, describes in part the attributes of Harold Isaacs as a leader. You cannot describe him as charismatic, even though he had his way of making people do what needed to be done for a just cause. He was not an orator, but still communicated effectively as evident in his over five decades’ tenure as a teacher. Harold was truly a leader with a servant’s heart, but a huge vision. When he founded the Association of Third World Studies in 1983 from a humble beginning as a monthly seminar in a classroom on the campus of Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, Georgia, he knew that he was planting the seed for something bigger and very impactful. He grew the seminar into a global organization based on the simple idea of bringing together scholars from different disciplines and regions of the world with practitioners from different walks of life to examine the multidimensional issues in developing countries. As a scholar of Latin American Studies himself, he wanted to build an association of likeminded, non-provincial scholars who would conduct rigorous and balanced research that would focus on the regions of the worlds that are not adequately researched. Additionally, he wanted to help scholars from those regions be able to write their own narratives. At a ceremony dedicating a facility to him at Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) University, he reflected on the journey to build the association and the pride he had in it. Harold stated “Without a struggle there is no progress…so we went on and built a great world-wide professional organization with a superlative peer-reviewed journal, and it all began with one seminar, which we continue today on campus…I just want you to know how much this means to me, …I’m proud of that…I love you all.” (Georgia Southwestern State University, 2014, p.3).
The above statement captured the essence of Harold [End Page 20] as a man and the impetus for the Association of Third World Studies (ATWS) that he founded. It was an association built in partnership with others to promote rigorous research, shared worldwide; but it started with the vision of one man who had so much love in his heart for other people, not just those in his own country of America but those in other countries, particularly in the regions of the Third World.
It was a combination of his passion for scholarship and love for humanity that led me to Harold, or led Harold to me. I was a neophyte professor at GWS, in the School of Education, when I heard of his seminar. Although most of the participants in the seminar were political scientists and historians as was Harold, my field was educational administration. However, as part of my doctoral dissertation, I had touched on global education and conducted research on brain drain in Nigeria as a reflection on my journey as an international scholar. Upon learning of my research agenda, Harold invited me to present at his seminar. It was my first major presentation as a faculty member, and as the moderator, Harold provided constructive feedback that strengthened my work. I hardly missed a seminar while I was at GSW, not only because of the richness of the presentations, but because Harold, accompanied by his wife, would usually take the participants to dinner at a classy restaurant. You were invited to go whether you presented or not. This was a good deal for a new faculty member–“to be fed for free, physically and intellectually.”
Harold had a servant’s heart. I personally had been...