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7 Questions on Leadership with Dr. Kenneth L. Bowen

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

Name: Dr. Kenneth L. Bowen

Title: Principal

Organisation: East Columbus Jr/Sr High School

Dr. Kenneth L. Bowen is an educator, strategic consultant, and leader who uses his passions to inspire others to achieve growth.

Dr. Bowen is an international consultant who has served as a cabinet level leader in school districts and as a leader with a Fortune 500 corporation. He has a wealth of experience in education, business, law, finance, operations, and government. Dr. Bowen has held various leadership positions and in each role, he gained multiple accolades while achieving lasting success.

Dr. Bowen is a licensed superintendent, principal, administrator, curriculum specialist, and teacher. He served as a member of the SC Department of Education International Teacher Advisory Board, served as a member for the NC District 5 Safer Schools Task Force, and has served on a study group for the Public School Forum of NC. He was also appointed to serve on the 2016 US Department of Education’s Rule Negotiating Committee for the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Dr. Bowen is an honors graduate of UNC Pembroke where he earned his BA Degree in History with a concentration in Secondary Social Studies Education. He earned certification in AP US History from UNC Charlotte. He returned to UNCP and earned a Master of School Administration Degree.

In 2012, Dr. Bowen was named the Young Alumnus of the Year for UNC Pembroke. He attended East Carolina University and earned his Doctorate of Educational Leadership Degree; his dissertation focused on growth for at-risk students affiliated with street gangs. In 2016, he was named to East Carolina University’s 40 under 40. Dr. Bowen has a rare and unique skill-set, having served as a leader in both public and private sectors.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Dr. Bowen's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

As a leader, facing nepotism and politics can be most challenging for several reasons. First, nepotism, which is the practice of favoring one's family members or close friends for jobs or promotions, can lead to unfair treatment and a lack of diversity in a company or organization. Nepotism can also undermine the trust of other employees and lead to a dysfunctional workplace.

Second, politics can cause a leader to lose focus on the needs and goals of the company or organization. A leader may spend too much time dealing with internal politics or external pressures from stakeholders, which can result in a loss of productivity and innovation.

Third, nepotism and politics can prevent a leader from making objective decisions based on merit and qualifications. The presence of these factors can cause a leader to make decisions based on personal biases or relationships rather than what is best for the company or organization.

Overall, facing nepotism and politics can be most challenging as a leader because it can undermine the integrity of the company or organization, cause a loss of productivity and innovation, and prevent objective decision-making. As a leader, it is important to address and mitigate these issues to ensure the success and growth of the company or organization.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

From an early age, I knew that I wanted to make a meaningful impact and lead others towards success. My journey to becoming a leader has been characterized by a deep commitment to education, a passion for continuous learning, and a drive to create positive change in the lives of students, teachers, and communities.

My educational journey began at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in History with Social Studies Licensure. This laid the foundation for my career in education and sparked my interest in leadership and curriculum development. I then pursued a Master's degree in School Administration at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, further expanding my knowledge and skills in educational leadership.

Continuing my quest for growth and professional development, I earned a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership from East Carolina University. This advanced degree provided me with a deep understanding of leadership principles, research methodologies, and effective strategies for creating positive change in educational settings.

Throughout my career, I have sought various opportunities to enhance my leadership abilities and expand my expertise. I completed the Aspiring Superintendents Academy® offered by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, which equipped me with the necessary skills and knowledge to lead at the district level. I also obtained certifications in Mental Health in the Workplace, Online Learning, and Advanced Placement (AP) US History, further broadening my skill set and ensuring my ability to address diverse educational needs.

As an educator, I have had the privilege of serving in various leadership roles that have shaped my understanding of effective leadership practices. From my tenure as a Principal at West Columbus High School to my roles as Director of Institutional Planning and Research, National Education Consultant, and Assistant Superintendent, I have honed my skills in strategic planning, curriculum development, staff supervision, and student support.

These experiences have enabled me to create inclusive and supportive learning environments, promote academic excellence, and foster positive relationships with stakeholders.

In addition to my work in K-12 education, I have contributed to the field of education through my involvement in various organizations and initiatives. As a Senior Strategy & Planning Consultant at Bowen & Associates, I have provided leadership development, strategic planning, and curriculum support to educational institutions and businesses. I have also served as a Director of Partnerships at BetterLesson, where I facilitated collaborations with school districts to improve teaching and learning outcomes.

My dedication to education and leadership extends beyond the United States. I have had the privilege of serving as an Associate Inspector for the Knowledge & Human Development Authority in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This role allowed me to contribute to the growth and development of educational institutions in Dubai and gain insights into international education practices.

Throughout my journey, I have been recognized for my contributions and received numerous honors and awards. Notable accolades include the East Carolina University 40 Under 40 Leadership Award, appointment to the Every Student Succeeds Act Rule Negotiating Committee by the United States Department of Education, and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke Young Alumnus of the Year award. These recognitions serve as a testament to my dedication and impact in the field of education.

As I reflect on my journey to becoming a leader, I am grateful for the opportunities, experiences, and the unwavering support of mentors, colleagues, and the communities I have had the privilege to serve. Each step has shaped me into the dedicated and visionary educational leader I am today, committed to fostering growth, academic excellence, and the success of students, teachers, and the entire school community. I am excited to continue making a positive impact and leading the way towards a brighter future in education.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

Start with prioritizing tasks: Make a list of tasks that you need to accomplish that day and prioritize them by importance and deadline. This will help you stay organized and focused on your top priorities.

Set aside time for crucial tasks: Set aside some time in your schedule specifically for crucial tasks that require your undivided attention. For example, setting aside time to review student data, curriculum review, and creating lessons progress reports.

Schedule meetings: Schedule meetings for key stakeholders such as teachers, students, and parents, and make sure that your schedule allows ample time for breaks between meetings.

Provide support: As an educational leader, you may need to provide support to students, parents, and teachers, and this may require you to set aside some time in your day for one-on-one meetings or to respond to emails.

Manage administrative duties: Manage administrative duties, such as budget planning and report writing, during the less busy parts of the day when you have some downtime.

Take care of yourself: Take care of your physical and mental health by scheduling time for exercise, meditation or mindfulness, healthy snacks, and breaks to recharge throughout the day.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

When a group of individuals come together for a common purpose they are passionate about, much can be accomplished through their teamwork and dedication.

The statement highlights the importance of a shared vision and passion in achieving success through teamwork, and it emphasizes the crucial role of leaders in fostering and directing these collective efforts. As a leadership lesson, it underscores the need for effective communication, collaboration, and creating a culture of shared commitment and motivation towards a common goal.

It also demonstrates the value of aligning individual interests and strengths with the larger goals of the team, empowering individuals, and facilitating their growth and development through shared learning experiences. Overall, the statement serves as an inspiration and a guiding principle for leaders seeking to create high-performing teams and drive positive change.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell is a comprehensive guide for anyone seeking to develop their leadership skills. The book outlines 21 laws that are crucial to effective leadership and provides practical guidance on how to implement them in any setting.

The impact of this book on leadership is profound because it provides a clear and concise framework for leadership success. It enables leaders to understand the foundational principles that govern effective leadership, and how they can apply these principles to their own style and organization.

By adopting the principles outlined in the book, leaders can improve their decision-making, build stronger relationships with their team, and achieve greater success in their endeavors.

In addition, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership emphasizes the importance of personal development and character-building as crucial components of effective leadership. Maxwell stresses that leadership is not just about positional authority, but about developing personal qualities such as integrity, humility, and a commitment to continuous learning.

By focusing on these qualities and developing them in themselves and their team, leaders can create a culture of trust, respect, and excellence.

Ultimately, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership serves as a powerful tool for any individual seeking to improve their leadership skills. The book provides a clear roadmap for leaders to follow, and the principles outlined within it have been proven time and time again to be effective in a wide range of settings.

By internalizing and applying these laws, leaders can profoundly impact their own success and the success of their teams and organizations.

However, in general, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, written by John Maxwell, is a renowned leadership book that provides insights and practical strategies on how to become an effective leader. The book focuses on fundamental principles such as influence, courage, vision, teamwork, and strategy that can help leaders to maximize their potential and lead others to success.

Leaders who apply these laws can improve their leadership skills and transform their organizations, teams, and people they lead. Therefore, it's possible that Dr. Kenneth L. Bowen, or any other leader, may have benefitted from reading The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell by applying the principles to their leadership practice, honing their skills, and experiencing positive change in their leadership style.

(Clarity note: The above link clicks through to the book on Amazon. As an Amazon affiliate we receive a small commission if you purchase through this link).

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

One general advice to a young leader would be to remain open-minded, flexible, and willing to learn from others. Effective leadership involves understanding and appreciating diverse perspectives, anticipating and adapting to change, and cultivating a continuous learning mindset. So, my advice would be to stay humble, curious, and courageous while leading others.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

This article describes the work and achievements of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) in promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and career opportunities among Indigenous peoples. It highlights the importance of Indigenous representation in STEM fields, the challenges they face, and the resources and networking opportunities provided by AISES to support their success.

As a leader, this story is meaningful in several ways. Firstly, it showcases the impact and value of diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace and beyond. By encouraging and empowering underrepresented groups to pursue their passions and potential, the broader community benefits from diverse experiences, perspectives, and innovations.

Secondly, this story highlights the importance of mentorship and community support in achieving personal and professional success. By providing resources, networking, and role models, organizations like AISES can help break down barriers and enable individuals to reach their full potential.

Lastly, this story may inspire leaders to reflect on their own role in promoting equity and inclusivity in their organizations and communities. By recognizing and addressing systemic disparities and working to create more inclusive environments, leaders can foster a more equitable and just society.

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