Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #17
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Still Dreaming but Still Learning to Create Positive Climates for Leaders

Saturday, May 23, 2015
1:00 PM–1:50 PM
207AB (CC)
Area: OBM; Domain: Theory
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Judi Komaki, Ph.D.
Chair: Mark A. Mattaini (Jane Addams College of Social Work-University of Illinois at Chicago)
Wes Becker's graph of students Edward and Elmer changing from aimless wandering to completing assignments was Dr. Judi Komaki's introduction to applied behavior analysis. That was at Illinois in 1968. Seven years later, teaching work motivation (part time) in Georgia Tech's business school, she shifted to working adults. Without proper management support, however, Dr. Komaki learned programs would be doomed to failure. Leaders became her focus when joining the industrial/organizational psychology faculty at Purdue University and the City University of New York. After tracking leaders in darkened theaters and aboard racing boats, she formulated an operant leadership model, highlighting performance monitoring especially work sampling and positive consequences. Writing plays forced her to confront the sometimes pernicious impact of bias, which in turn propelled her to promote social and economic justice. Besides 40-plus articles and chapters, she's the proud author of a leadership book, an off-off Broadway play, and an article daring to pursue the dreams of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Komaki has served on editorial boards of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and Leadership Quarterly. Awarded contracts by the Office of Naval Research, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and the Army Research Institute, she is now an ARI Fellow striving to prevent sexual harassment and assault.

Baer, Wolf, and Risley (1968) audaciously aspired to making a difference. Modestly, however, they encouraged a "self-evaluating, discovery-oriented" process. This learning stance helps to enable the dreams of Dr. Judi Komaki. She'll talk about just two. Curious how an inner city public high school managed to maintain a graduation rate of 95%, Dr. Komaki shadowed a gifted principal for three semesters. She saw how he stealthily created a safe, supportive climate, which enticed the students to attend and their dedicated teachers to remain. Just as critical, however, she learned how the chancellor created a supportive climate, empowering and establishing full-throated organizational metrics and incentives for principals. Currently, Dr. Komaki is trying to prevent sexual assault in the United States Army. Initially stymied, she finally figured out how we as behavior analysts reduced workplace accidents by reinforcing the positive (safety). If cultures could be created in which team members ferociously protect one another, assaults would drop. Team culture clearly needs to be bolstered. But just as important, given the severe under-reporting of assault, the challenge is to help busy commanders motivate junior officers by providing timely information and feedback about whether their team is on the right track. Imagine if we could ensure that only leaders successful at building positive climates were promoted.

Target Audience:

Master's and post-masters behavior analysts and psychologists.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants should be able to: (1) describe for an interested school superintendent how a gifted high school principal was empowered and measured in his quest to maintain a graduation rate of 95% and how the principal created a safe, supportive climate which enabled two pillars of educational reform, enticing inner city minority students to come to school and their talented teachers to stay; (2) persuasively show why a behavioral approach to preventing sexual assault might be a viable approach on college campuses. Use as an example the positive approach we behavior analysts sometimes use to reduce undesired workplace accidents and disruptive classroom behavior; and (3) identify the best team you have ever been on and the leader(s) of that team. Specify in behavioral terms what you liked about the leader(s). Now assume that you are in charge of the organization and would like to foster those behaviors in other leaders. Identify what if any changes you would make to the organization's measurement of leaders.
Keyword(s): leadership, school climate, sexual assault



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