One of the great false distinctions in likely every field of practice lies between doing and learning, resulting in a rather limited social construction of what ‘education’ entails. The reality is that we learn every day all the time, even if that learning is simply a reinforcement of what we already know. Every interaction with the external world, and subsequent internal processing of that information, strengthens our current conceptualization or builds anew. So too does the process unfold in the development of a field of study.
We begin this special issue focusing on the theoretical framework issues in leadership education. As always, Barry Posner has us thinking about the broader context of leadership education, namely what matters most in individual leadership development. In his article, “From Inside Out: Beyond Teaching About Leadership,” what matters most to Posner is that individual leaders “find their voice”, their core self. Complementing Popa’s paper explaining backward design, Posner asserts that leadership education must begin with facilitating the inner journey, motivating students to “explore their inner territory” through reflective practice. Educators should pose critical personal questions such as: “What do you stand for? What do you believe in? What are you discontentabout? What makes you jump for joy? What keeps you awake at night?” From this self-awareness, he argues, rises the capability to live life with intention, forward-moving, as if carefully and mindfully crafting a legacy.
Following on the theme of increasingly utilized technologies perceived in different ways, Saks’ article, “Education at a Distance: Best Practices and Considerations for Leadership Educators,” points out a variety of helpful considerations from multiple perspectives. Saks raises the issue of implicit influences in distance education rooted in communication differences between genders. As Saks notes, “Because of their differing communication styles and needs (Tannen, 1989, 1991), women may have a harder time being perceived as valuable members of the virtual community, and they may also find the experience less meaningful than their male counterparts (Harper, 2007).”
Perhaps the central question of leadership education is: how do individuals become leaders? This question begs the more important question from an educational perspective, namely what does a “leader” look like? As Michael Dickmann (2008) offers, what do leaders KnowDoBe (yes, all one word)? Theoretical frameworks provide a necessary and extraordinarily helpful foundation for the often unique approaches of leadership educators. As the field evolves, however, theory must be replaced by research-based models. To this end, Komives, Longerbeam, Mainella, Osteen, Owen, and Wagner take a significant step for the field in their work on further developing one picture of how a leader develops and what that end might look like. They reiterate the six-stage Leadership Identity Development (LID) model, highlighting key transition points that educators would be well-advised to note. In this highly thoughtful contribution, the LID model is examined vis-à-vis other developmental theories and in the context of common leadership education issues at multiple levels of analysis. After examining macro level issues such as assessment and program design, and micro level issues such as effective group work and promoting self-efficacy, Komives et al., offer a concise sum of ten recommendations regarding the application of the LID model within leadership education.
In his article, Goertzen challenges leadership educators to intentionally engage in assessment to ensure that participant outcomes are in fact realized. He begins with a brief history of assessment and a call for a ‘mission-driven’ approach to developing and implementing comprehensive assessment plans. He continues with a call to consider additional properties and sources of evidence of student learning and highlights a number of potential direct and indirect assessment techniques.
Moving from theoretical framework issues at the individual development level to the institutional level, Scroggs, Sattler, and McMillan describe efforts at one institution to gather their varied curricular and co-curricular leadership efforts together under one shared vision. In their article “The Undergraduate Leadership Mosaic: A Challenge of Shared Purpose,” Scroggs, et al., organize their mosaic by distinguishing between leadership training, education, and development, providing the reader with both a framework and preview of the challenges of undertaking such an endeavor. The issue of distinguishing and further defining training, education and development is later examined by Allen.
The authors, faculty in the Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership at the United States Air Force Academy, highlight their approach to assessment. The authors begin by calling attention to assessment challenges such as individual considerations and identifying items for assessment. Lindsey, Foster, Jackson, & Hassan then provide two examples of how intentional assessment strategies can be implemented to evaluate the effectiveness of leader education and development. The conclusion highlights results such as cross-sectional evidence of progression in leadership style, as commanders in their second year are rated by subordinates as significantly more transformational than first year commanders.
What do we teach and how do we teach it? Popa examines how we teach ethics, and provides an example that aligns what we know about developing ethical leadership with pedagogical approaches complementary to that end. Popa introduces us to the increasingly common (in the education field) curricular approach of backward design. Focused on building curriculum from the student back to the context, backward design offers the opportunity to align curriculum and pedagogy with the student’s development, as well as further the effort to balance in-class learning with experiential learning. Indeed, backward design’s individual consideration implicitly models the transformational and servantundefinedleader relationships advocated in a deeply integrated ethics leadership curriculum.
Rosch and Schwartz of the Illinois Leadership Center round out our focus on the assessment of leadership development with their article, “Potential Issues and Pitfalls in Outcomes Assessment in Leadership Education.” The authors pinpoint several common mistakes leadership educators are liable to make when assessing their programs and activities. These mistakes include: Honeymoon, Horizon, Hollywood, Halo, and Hallmark effects (a.k.a, recency, response-shift, socially desirable, and respondent biases). The authors provide a description of each and suggestions for practitioners on how to avoid them. Rosch and Schwartz conclude by suggesting that achieving assessment validity in leadership education is not only necessary but also achievable.
Albert and Vadla take us into what seemed to be a transformational learning experience for all involved. In their article, “Authentic Leadership Development in the Classroom: A Narrative Approach”, the authors examine the factors that contributed to one central question – What was it about the course that made it such a meaningful leadership experience for students? The authors begin with a description of authentic leadership and the process of constructing narratives about oneself, a group and others helps students develop an authentic leadership voice. They continue with a description of three types of leadership stories – Who I Am Stories, Who We Are Stories, and Future Stories. In addition, the authors provide student perspectives on each of the assignments. The authors conclude by sharing key ingredients for re-creating this powerful learning experience.
The challenges and issues of leadership education necessarily extend to questions of how we train and develop the next generation of leadership educators. Bringing an international perspective to the issue, Braun, Nazlic, Weisweiler, Peus, and Frey examine “Effective Leadership Development in Higher Education: Individual and Group Level Approaches.” The authors first highlight a gap in leadership development for employees in higher education and their approach to meeting this need. Next, the authors provide a detailed description of two different programs offered at a large German university; one program at the individual level (leader) and another at a departmental level (leadership). Braun, et al., conclude with recommendations for practitioners to facilitate effective leadership in higher education. Among other suggestions, the authors (like others in this special issue) highlight the need for scientifically based program evaluation.
The sole research feature of this special issue focuses on student perceptions of working as a group or team. In their article, “Case Study: Student Perceptions of Groups & Teams in Leadership Education,” Coers and Lorensen report interview data from students engaged in group activities. This contribution highlights two very salient issues. The first issue consists of the assumption that pedagogy is perceived as curriculum. In other words, if we ask students to work as a team on a project, the activity of working as a group results in learninghow to work in a group. Coers and Lorensen did indeed find this to be the case in their course. The second issue this paper illustrates is the need for much more individual, in-depth, micro-genetic research methods in the field of leadership education. If we are to advance the field, this very detailed qualititative work can provide the foundations for theories that can then be quantitatively tested and refined.
Weeks, Weeks, Barbuto, and Langone report on a grant-funded project to train faculty from a specific discipline in leadership education. In their article, “The Challenge of Developing Faculty to Teach Leadership as a Secondary Discipline,” Weeks, et al., describe the Leadership Education Institute (LEI) program that combined the talents of three land-grant institutions to serve a cohort of ten faculty, each representing a different institution. Although this one-time opportunity resulted in advances for the participants and their institutions, a continued need exists in both agriculture and other disciplines.
In his idea brief, Harter challenges us to examine the need for critical thinking in higher education and leadership studies, but in a considerably different manner than the lone reflective leader. The author suggests that no matter what the world might throw at them, graduates with this skill set would cope when a situation turns volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Harter also introduces the importance of collaborative critical thinking in groups. He suggests it is better to draw on the greater intellectual resources of the group, a concept Harter refers to as the “extended mind: “Leaders are also embedded in a network that would be foolish to ignore. Better to draw on the greater intellectual resources of the group and use the minds surrounding you.”
In the third invited paper of this special issue, Ritch and Mengel describe a multiyear, cross-disciplinary, broadly collaborative initiative to provide some degree of consistency in excellence to the field of leadership education. The great challenge in this effort, of course, is to provide this framework without stifling innovation in the field and the dynamic flexibility required in a situational and dynamic construct such as leadership. The present solution, reported in this paper by Ritch and Mengel, consists of a series of Guiding Questions across five sections: Conceptual Framework, Context, Content, Teaching and Learning, and Outcomes and Assessment. In addition to reporting the history, context, and field tests of these Guiding Questions, the authors solicit further input and engagement from leadership educators in all fields. The contact information is listed in their paper (full disclosure: we, the editors, have been a part of this initiative in varying capacities).
Truly drawing on the minds around us means examining perspectives most different from our own. The increasing importance of developing globally literate leaders seems to be one leadership challenge that many in the field, especially in the United States, have given only limited attention. Perhaps the problems stems from a disconnect between the time and activities of the sometimes cloistered university experience, or perhaps a specific organization is simply not yet working in international markets, or worse because the well-documented Americentric view persists. Moore, Boyd, Rosser and Elbert outline a proposed program to infuse a global perspective into an agricultural leadership curriculum in their article, “Developing an International Agricultural Leadership Program to Meet the Needs of a Global Community.” Their proposed approach to developing globally literate leaders involves a series of problem-based courses and a required international experience. The strength of their proposal, however, lies in the integration of multiple facets of leadership development. As they note, “Preparing students to solve global issues involves the application of leadership theories, critical thinking, cultural competence, and multiple agricultural disciplines.”
Just as Scroggs, Sattler, and McMillan start this issue highlighting the importance of looking at leadership education from the “forest” view, across an organization (in their case a university) as a mosaic, Fincher and Shalka imply that so too must leadership educators take the “trees” view, particularly from perspectives and disciplines different from their own. In the article, “Co-curricular Leadership Education: Considering Critical Questions,” Fincher and Shalka pose a number of critical questions from their perspective as co-curricular directors. Balancing multilevel needs, clarifying a shared definition of leadership, preparing students to succeed in other contexts, and expanding our own lens of values and beliefs about leadership represent some of the important questions they raise. What they do not ask, but perhaps should, is the extent to which co-curricular leadership programs consult with, collaborate with, and/or complement curricular, community, and field of practice leadership education efforts.
What influences our teaching and the student’s learning? Guthrie explores the use of technology in the classroom not as an instructor-led infusion but rather as a student-utilized tool. Arguing that students are immersed in technology for many other purposes already, engaging these contexts may actually serve as a form of situated learning, capitalizing on the socio-cultural context already communicated to students through their technology. Tasked with creating a video of leader interviews, students reported numerous tangential benefits beyond a factually greater understanding of the definition of leadership (the original assignment). Guthrie reports that student’s comments regarding process facets of technology use (e.g., conducting the interviews and editing the video) provided opportunities to learn leadership process, and thus offer an expanded view of what integrating technology can aim for in leadership education.
And from the perspective of the academic, Blackwell’s commentary, “Leadership Theory and Education: Building Bridges or Digging Chasms,” examines the question – “…are we, as academicians, creating meaning about leadership for society or are we creating, with our research and theories, an even greater distance and disconnect?” In a thought provoking essay that raises as many questions as it answers, Blackwell challenges academics in particular to critically examine what is happening in the larger context, and how their work integrates with organizational and community practice, the social problems we purport to address, and popular perception. As Blackwell sums, “We need the common understanding in society that leadership is a process, not just a word.”
© 2015 Association of Leadership Educators