Sunday, March 26, 2023

Q&A with Jonathan R. Kroll




Jonathan R. Kroll is the author of the new book Preparing Leadership Educators: A Comprehensive Guide to Theories, Practices, and Facilitation Skills. He is an assistant teaching professor and program director of the Professional Leadership Studies program at the University of Rhode Island, and the executive director of the nonprofit group Leadership Trainer.


Q: What inspired you to write Preparing Leadership Educators?


A: Preparing Leadership Educators began as a workbook connected to my nonprofit’s flagship experience—the Leadership Trainer Certification Program. I first wrote it in advance of our inaugural program in 2017.


This took place in Nicaragua and unfortunately, many leadership books (besides the pop-culture material) are not written or translated into Spanish. I wanted our participants to have a robust resource that included the leadership material—both leadership theories and practices—as well as the facilitation material. (Friends and colleagues in Nicaragua translated it as a workbook into Spanish.)


As it grew to 330 pages, I realized I’ve got something here that should be available to a wider audience than just the program participants.


I’m delighted with what it has become—a comprehensive, accessible, and practical resource for those who facilitate the leadership training and development of others.


When writing this version, I wanted to craft a book that could transform the leadership landscape by better enabling trainers and facilitators to be more effective and impactful in their practice—all while ensuring the material could be directly and immediately applied. I believe I have made dozens and dozens of leadership theories and practices accessible to diverse readers.


More, I focus on how to effectively facilitate training experiences that leverage experiential learning and reflective dialogue—so we can move away from boring lecture-style slide deck presentations-as-trainings. Included in that is our “Training Story” methodology and best-practices for facilitation.


The best part of the book, though, is that I include explicit instructions and my go-to reflective dialogue questions for every leadership theory and practice—more than 45 of them.


So, if you someone is facilitating a training or workshop on communication or emotional intelligence or self-efficacy (as leadership practices) or adaptive leadership, servant or transformational leadership (as theories) they have the instructions for how to facilitate an experiential activity to bring that theme to life—with the reflective dialogue questions to empower your participants to internalize their learning.


Q: How would you define leadership, and what would you say are some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about leadership?


A: One of the interesting things about leadership is that there is no single, universal definition. This means that we can each define it in any way that makes sense to us. I actually prefer not to define it. And in this book, I do not offer a leadership definition. Rather, I promote that it is essential that each of us has a laser-sharp focus regarding the assumptions, core features, and parameters of what we mean by lead­ership.


These are some of my assumptions and parameters for leadership—pulled directly from Preparing Leadership Educators:


Leadership is experiential. Leadership is about what we do—rather than the role we hold. Leadership is about the pursuit of change we drive rather than the position attained within our groups, organizations, and communities’ hierar­chical structures.


Leadership is a relational, group expe­rience. Leadership is a relationship. It involves the engagement between leaders and followers. We need to move away from the notion that successes and failures are the result of a single, solitary leader.

Leaders capitalize on their strengths and authenticity. Charisma and extroversion are wonderful traits. They do not, however, determine leadership. Effective leaders are those who exploit their strengths and lead from a place of a genuine and self-authored sense of self.


Leaders are developed. Being “born to lead” is a fallacy. This suggests only a few special individuals have the capacity to lead. This is limiting. All of us have the potential to develop leadership skills and capacities.


Leadership is a lifelong developmental journey that requires intentional practice and significant emotional reserves. If we are seri­ous about developing our leadership skills and capacities, we need to dedicate pur­poseful time and energy—over the course of our lives—to become the leaders we dream of being.


Leadership is context-based and socially constructed. Leadership is context-based and determined by the leaders, followers, situation, and interaction among these three elements in the particular time and place in question. There is no universally perfect way to lead.


Leadership is value-laden. Leadership has value—it is for good. Leadership is about creating positive change. If the work is not oriented toward the virtuous, it is not lead­ership. It is certainly something. But it is cer­tainly not leadership. (Of course, this raises the important questions of what is good, who decides what positive change is, and how do diverse cultural contexts shape differing perspectives of virtuousness.)


Q: Who would you say is the audience for this book?


A: Preparing Leadership Educators is written for leadership educators—specifically, those who facilitate leadership learning and development through intentional training experiences. Because of the publisher’s focus (Stylus) I write for student affairs educators.


However, the material is applicable for anyone who facilitates training experiences—nonprofit leaders, corporate leaders, sport coaches, and individuals who are leadership coaches and consultants who facilitate training experiences as part of their developmental offerings and regimen.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: Overall, I hope readers recognize that training and development—more specifically the poor preparation of those who facilitate the training and development of others--is a serious issue. I often ask, “How can we expect the next generations of leaders to navigate the challenges we will inevitably face in the months, years, and decades ahead, if those who are responsible for their leadership training and development today are ill-prepared?” They won’t.


The global challenges we face are daunting: the climate crises, health threats, water and food shortage, housing insecurity, domestic abuse, sex trafficking, social inequality, structural racism, corruption, and more.


Current leadership development programs are proving to be inadequate to meet this moment. Although we invest billions of dollars into training and development annually, these experiences are not producing the leadership outcomes they espouse.


Research indicates that corporate trainers receive little to no training—even with basic facilitation methods. In the nonprofit and higher education sectors, where resources are limited, the data points to the same condition. Generally, those who identify as leadership trainers are ill-prepared to facilitate leadership training and development.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: My focus is on my nonprofit’s Leadership Trainer Certification Program. We utilize Preparing Leadership Educators as the program workbook. In that experience, we create a one-of-a-kind, immersive, engaging, hands-on, trainer preparation experience that is guided by four objectives:


Prepare participants to facilitate amazing and impactful trainings rooted in dynamic, culturally relevant, and learning-oriented facilitation techniques - specifically  ​experiential activities and reflective dialogue; engage participants in purposeful critical self-reflection and identity exploration; utilize leadership scholarship to advance participants’ own understanding and practice of leadership; and cultivate a community of exceptional trainers and facilitators.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: First, I am so appreciative of this opportunity to share about Preparing Leadership Educators. Thank you!


Second, if someone is interested in Preparing Leadership Educators they can get it wherever books are sold – including at


Third, I hope folks recognize the importance of trainer and facilitator development. My work is both about immediate skills development for those who facilitate the training and development of others—and it is about long-term generational change by better enabling trainers and facilitators to be more effective in designing and delivering amazing and impactful trainings.


I invite those who are inspired by this work to join the movement and connect with me at


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment