WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED “LEADERSHIP?”

                                          Edward DeRoche, Director

                                   Character Education Resource Center


Character is the center pole, the core of leadership effectiveness.                                                                 —–Zenger and Folkman (The Extraordinary Leader)

In May, I read an article that asked the question, “Is Your School Better Because You Lead It? (ASCD, V 74, N8 May 2017).

Good question. But what’s the answer?

The answer is captured, I believe, in these additional questions: What is leadership? One has to know what it is before deciding its value.

What is leadership in a school setting? Does the culture of an organization (business, non-profit educational) determine or influence the style or behaviors of its leaders?

Are there differences (traits/habits/behaviors/styles) between male and female leaders in and out of schools settings??

Because of space, I want to focus on what leadership is because it helps lay the groundwork for examining the other questions.

What do we mean when we talk about “leadership?” Depends on who you ask and what you read.

I have had a long-term interest in presidential leadership, so let’s start there. It is common for historians and others to rank presidents based on the effectiveness of their leadership. Rankings are based on a variety of leadership factors. Two examples.

Fred Greenstein (“The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Clinton”) offers six qualities related to the leadership styles and performances of presidents — public communication, organizational capacity, political skill, vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence.

Historian Robert Dallek (“Lessons from the Lives and Times of Presidents”) describes seven factors that distinguish effective and ineffective presidential leaders — vision, pragmatism, charisma, consensus, trust, judgment, and luck.

In 2000, I published an article in the Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education, and Development (September 2000, Vol. 39, Issue 1) titled, “Leadership for Character Education Programs.” My list for school or programs leaders suggested that school and program leaders should be visionaries, missionaries, consensus builders, knowledge sources, standard bearers, architects, role models, communicators, collaborators, resource providers, and evaluators.

The Turknett Leadership Group offers a “Leadership Character Model” stating that “Leadership is about character – who you are not what you do.” The model includes three core qualities as the keys of “leadership character:”

(1) Integrity — honesty, credibility, trustworthy. “Without integrity, no leader can be successful.”

(2) Respect — empathy, lack of blame, motivational mastery, humility. “Respect helps create a culture of partnership and teamwork.”

(3) Responsibility — self-confidence, accountability, focus on the whole, courage. “Great leaders accept full responsibility for personal success and for the success of projects, teams, and the entire organization.”

Recently, P.B Stark (https://www.pertstark.com) wrote about the “10 C’s of Great Leadership.” His ten included: character, communication, care, compassion, connectedness, commitment, conviction, competence, courage, and confidence.

Daniel Goleman, a psychologist at Rutgers University and author of Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence, adds the ability to identify and monitor emotions — “your own and others” and “to manage relationships. He writes that the qualities (competencies) associated with “emotional intelligence” distinguish the best leaders and include:

(1) Self-Awareness –Realistic self-confidence: You understand your own strengths and limitations; you operate from competence and know when to rely on someone else on the team. Emotional Insight-You understand your feelings. Being aware of what makes you angry, for instance, can help you manage that anger.

(2) Self-managementResilience: You stay calm under pressure and recover quickly from upsets. You don’t brood or panic. In a crisis, people look to the leader for reassurance; if the leader is calm, they can be, too. Emotional balance: You keep any distressful feelings in check — instead of blowing up at people, you let them know what’s wrong and what the solution is. Self-motivation: You keep moving toward distant goals despite setbacks.

(3) Empathy–Cognitive and emotional empathy: Because you understand other perspectives, you can put things in ways colleagues comprehend. And you welcome their questions, just to be sure. Cognitive empathy, along with reading another person’s feelings accurately, makes for effective communication. Good listening: You pay full attention to the other person and take time to understand what they are saying, without talking over them or hijacking the agenda.

(4) Relationship Skills–Compelling communication: You put your points in persuasive, clear ways so that people are motivated as well as clear about expectations. Team playing: People feel relaxed working with you. One sign: They laugh easily around you.

So what is leadership? James MacGregor Burns says” When you deal with human beings in leadership situations, you deal with what is essential to the study of leadership, namely, moral and ethical issues. Through the study of lives, one finds out how individuals have confronted specific actions and decisions relating to leaderships positions.

Note carefully what Burns says in his quote—leadership is about moral and ethical issues-thus about the character of the leader.