For Mike Valentine, a consultant, professor, and 2016 graduate of Antioch’s Leadership and Change PhD program, his interest in leadership began with the military. But Valentine has since learned that effective leadership is about more than the traditional model of one person taking charge. He now uses his varied background to help organizations improve their leadership models.
Valentine graduated from The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina and went on to serve four years of active duty in the Navy, where he supervised a division of enlisted men from 18-year-olds (who were away from home for the first time), to chief petty officers who had served for 20 years. He says during those early years of leadership that he “learned a lot of lessons the hard way, by making mistakes.”
“I’m naturally pretty curious and when things don’t work right I want to know why and part of my leadership journey has been about the things that didn’t work well and trying to figure out why and trying to get better at it the next time around,” said Valentine.
He transitioned from the military to the corporate world and went on to work in both operational and HR roles for 30 years, including 12 years at The New York Times, including as their head of Human Resources. His next goal was to start a consulting firm to help organizations enact effective leadership models, and while he had the experience, he knew he needed to do more research to get the theoretical background necessary to make a difference
“I didn’t have the theory around organizations and leadership. I learned what I learned from banging my head against the wall. Going to Antioch was about getting that piece that I had missed,” said Valentine.
Being part of an engaged and diverse environment was important to Valentine, and that’s partly what drew him to Antioch, when he read the profiles of current students. Although it was a big deal to take on a PhD program at age 55, Valentine said he knew it would be worth it.
“I loved my classmates. We were in dialogue groups and the friendships and relationships that I formed were everything that I had hoped would happen,” said Valentine.
Valentine is a managing partner of TruEdge Consulting, which he founded in 2012. He is also a full-time Clinical Assistant Professor at New York University where he teaches in the School of Professional Studies Human Capital. He said that through his consulting work, he aims to take the lessons that he learned during the last 30 years, as well as the theory that he gained during his time at Antioch, to help implement organizational change that makes a difference.
One of his current projects is working with a charter school in Pennsylvania and teaching its leadership team how to apply an action learning approach—which he first became fascinated with during his time at Antioch—to solving problems. It is a process that involves a small group working on issues, taking action, and learning as individuals and a team.
His first book is also in progress, about the process of action learning and inquiry as it applies to an organizational context—he said he’s excited about the possibilities to help as many people as he can.
“Who I choose to work with is driven by how I can make a difference in an organization,” said Valentine. “At this stage of my life I am perfectly positioned to do what is most important to me which is to give back and make a difference.”