Exploring Leadership: For College Students Who Want to Make a Difference

Exploring Leadership: For College Students Who Want to Make a Difference

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by Susan R. Komives, Nance Lucas, Timothy R. McMahon

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Note from the publisher: Each copy of Exploring Leadership, Third Edition comes with an access code so students can take the Clifton StrengthsFinder, a 30-minute online assessment which has helped more than eight million people around the world discover their talents. After they take the self-assessment, they'll receive a customized report that


Note from the publisher: Each copy of Exploring Leadership, Third Edition comes with an access code so students can take the Clifton StrengthsFinder, a 30-minute online assessment which has helped more than eight million people around the world discover their talents. After they take the self-assessment, they'll receive a customized report that lists their top five talent themes, along with action items for development and suggestions about how they can use their talents to achieve academic, career, and personal success. In the book, the authors discuss the importance of understanding oneself, and how using the StrengthsFinder assessment will help one do so.

(E-book customers must prove they have purchased the book to obtain their StrengthsFinder access code from Wiley Customer Service. If you rent or purchase a used book, the access code may have been redeemed previously and will no longer work.)

This third edition is a thoroughly revised and updated version of the bestselling text for undergraduate leadership courses. This book is designed for college students to help them understand that they are capable of being effective leaders and guide them in developing their leadership potential. The Relational Leadership Model (RLM) continues as the major focus in this edition, and the book includes stronger connections between the RLM dimensions and related concepts, as well as visual applications of the model. The third edition includes new student vignettes that demonstrate how the major concepts and theories can be applied. It also contains new material on social justice, conflict management, positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, emotional intelligence, and new self-assessment and reflection questionnaires.

For those focused on the practice of leadership development, the third edition is part of a complete set that includes a Student Workbook, a Facilitation and Activity Guide for educators, and free downloadable instructional PowerPoint® slides. The Workbook is a student-focused companion to the book and the Facilitation and Activity Guide is designed for use by program leaders and educators.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Students have a chance to learn leadership theory in a personal, practical and interactive way as they experience this book. [Exploring Leadership] provides important background of strengths-based approaches and their application to school and work settings." —Connie Rath, vice chair and dean, The Gallup Organization

"This edition of Exploring Leadership will inspire students to engage in deeper self-exploration about why they lead and how they can make a positive difference through their leadership. The book provides a comprehensive treatment of leadership, complete with cutting-edge scholarship, applications, and reflections from students. I recommend it highly." —Carol S. Pearson, president, Pacifica Graduate Institute, and author, The Hero Within and The Transforming Leader

"There is a reason this book is in its third edition: It is a thoughtful and practical guide designed for college students who want to study leadership, perchance become leaders themselves. Most importantly, the authors offer critical advice to young, potential leaders for leading effectively in a rapidly changing world." —Jean Lipman-Blumen, Thornton F. Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and professor of organizational behavior, Graduate School of Management, Claremont Graduate University

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Exploring Leadership

For College Students Who Want to Make a Difference
By Susan R. Komives Nance Lucas Timothy R. McMahon

John Wiley & Sons

Copyright © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7879-0929-7

Chapter One

An Introduction to Leadership Purpose of the Chapter

The purpose of this chapter is to give the student an overview of emergent paradigm thinking about leaders, participants, and leadership. The chapter sets the tone for students to see the potential of their impact when leadership occurs at all levels of an organization, not just at the top through a single leader.

Class Discussion Questions

1. How would you define good leadership?

2. How do you define the concepts of leader, participant, and leadership?

3. How would you teach students about leadership?

4. Identify a time in which you experienced the feeling of being in permanent white water. Describe what that experience was like and how it felt to you. How did you deal with that experience?

5. Think of an old paradigm, and describe how it has shifted. What caused or influenced this paradigm to shift?

6. Think about your major. How can knowing more about leadership make you more successful in your future career or other endeavors?

7. When was the first time you realized that you were a leader or found yourself involved in some type of leadership activity?

8. Why is personal responsibility an important aspect of leadership? What attitudes and behaviors do effective leaders have that indicate a commitment to personal responsibility?

9. What do you think the new millennium will be like? What will it look like? Sound like? Feel like? What kind of leadership will be needed?

Class Activities

Many students bemoan group projects because they believe only a few people end up doing all the work. However, most students would acknowledge that individual action in isolation from others is not the best way to accomplish change. Organize the students in small groups (five to seven students in each) to discuss under what conditions collective action is preferable to individual action. What attitudes and behaviors from team members would positively contribute to the group project and make it a more enjoyable experience? What attitudes and behaviors of team members would hinder the group's progress? At the conclusion of the small-group discussions, ask each group to share what they discussed with the rest of the class.

In small groups, review the six foundational principles of leadership endorsed by the textbook authors in Chapter One. How would your organization, community, campus, or this classroom be different if all six of these leadership principles were acted upon?


1. Instruct the students to keep a journal throughout the semester. The purpose of the journal is to give students a chance to reflect and write about their observations of leadership and what they are learning about leadership. The journal can take many forms, depending on the wishes of the instructor. It can be open-ended and allow students to write on topics of their own choice as long as it relates to the concept of leadership, or can be used to respond to a specific question posed by the instructor. Students should include personal examples and examples from current events, campus, their local community, or hometown.

2. As a class assignment, ask students to research leadership in their respective academic fields of study or careers. Provide some guidelines for the assignment (length of paper, and so forth) and class time to have the students generate questions. Interview two to three people who are active in their academic fields or careers. Compare and contrast the statements that these professionals provide. (Note: This can be a threatening assignment for some students, and it can also be one of the most rewarding.)

3. This is a variation on the previous assignment. For this assignment, ask students to interview other students about what leadership means to them. Provide some guidelines for the assignment (length of paper, and so forth) and class time to have the students generate possible questions. Interview two to three other students. Compare and contrast the statements that these interviews provide.

4. Ask students to bring in examples from the newspaper or current events that exemplify socially responsible leadership. How did these individuals or groups lead with integrity, confront a social injustice, and value their relationships with others? Ask for students to volunteer to share their examples in class.

5. This is a variation of the previous assignment. Have students watch the news or news-related television shows. What examples of leadership did they observe? How did these individuals or groups lead with integrity, confront a social injustice, and value their relationships with others? (You could also make this an assignment to watch popular television shows in an effort to analyze the messages that the popular media provide about leadership.)

6. Ask students to write a personal leadership development plan that would reflect their purpose or mission in life. Their goals and action plans should enhance their learning and growth; students should show how they plan to make a difference. (Note: This can be an interesting assignment to collect and keep in sealed envelopes to be returned to the students at the end of the semester. At the end of the course, ask students to review their plan and make revisions based on what they learned and experienced through the semester.)

7. Create your own student quote(s) for the chapter. What do you have to say that could make an impact on other students?

Chapter Two

The Changing Nature of Leadership

Purpose of the Chapter

This chapter provides the reader with an overview of how leadership has been perceived over time-from the earliest great man theories to today's emerging paradigms of leadership. The final section of the chapter introduces the relationship between quantum theory and leadership. Students are likely to find this part of the chapter difficult; they should be encouraged to learn to see things differently.

Class Discussion Questions

1. What are your assumptions and beliefs about leadership, both positive and negative?

2. Do you think leaders are made or born or both? What is the reasoning behind your answer?

3. Select one of the six leadership myths. How can you dispel the myth based on your own experiences?

4. Six truths of leadership were presented in this chapter. Can you think of more to add to the list based on your own experiences or what you know about leadership?

5. Develop your own definition of leadership in fifteen words or less.

6. Look at the two lists in Exhibit 2.3. Which aspects of each perspective describe your attitudes and behaviors as a leader? Would your response be any different if you answered from the perspective of being a member?

7. What comes to mind when you hear the word chaos? Is it generally used in a positive or negative sense?

8. It is said that control is not possible in the world of chaos. How does this make you feel? What role does control play in your life?

9. Give an example of something that is best understood by studying the whole and not the various parts, and describe why this is so.

10. With whom do you have a relationship in which 1 + 1 = 10 or 50? What is special about this relationship? Try to be as specific as possible and provide examples.

Class Activities

1. The authors state that leadership is teachable. Do you agree or disagree that all leadership processes and skills are teachable? Why or why not? Review the other truths of leadership presented by the authors. Read each one of the truths, and have the students go to one side of the room if they agree and go to the other side of the room if they disagree. After all have made a choice, ask students from each side to give reasons why they chose that response.

2. Develop your own definition of leadership in fifteen words or less. Describe a context or setting in which this definition of leadership would be appropriate, and explain how this definition would be applied in the context or setting you selected. Could this definition work in any context or setting? Why or why not? Now describe a context in which the definition would not be suitable.

3. Ask each student to define leadership or create a personal, working definition of the term. Organize the students in small groups and instruct the groups to create a group definition of leadership with which everyone agrees. Give each group Tinker Toy pieces or crayons, and ask them to create a visual representation of their leadership definition. If you could see your definition of leadership, what would it look like? Allow each of the groups to share its definition and visual representation with the class.

4. In small groups, instruct the students to create an original metaphor (one not already mentioned in the textbook) to describe the group's definition or philosophy of leadership. Have the groups create a skit to demonstrate the metaphor. Allow groups to explain to the class why they chose the metaphors.

5. Using Burns's transforming leadership theory, describe how you would elevate others to higher levels of morality and motivation in a group or community setting. Did you ever experience a situation in which you were elevated to a higher level of morality or motivation? If so, describe how this happened and how it affected you.

6. Show and discuss one of Joel Barker's paradigm videos ("Discovering the Future: The Business of Paradigms," "Discovering the Future: The Power of Vision," or "Discovering the Future: Paradigm Pioneers"). Each video has an extensive discussion guide that accompanies it. You might find copies in your library media center, student activities office, or the business or management department.

7. Show a white-water rafting sequence from The River Wild or other movie. Ask students to describe how the rafting metaphor relates to them and their lives and to leadership.

8. Divide the class into two groups. Have one group describe how an organization is like a machine. Have the other group describe how an organization is like a weather system. How are the descriptions alike? How are they different? What does each description tell you about the organization and about leadership?

9. Ask students to remember the last time they tried something brand new-something they had never tried before. How did they feel during the experience? Have them represent this experience and the feelings associated with it in a drawing. Tape all of the drawings on the walls of the room, and have the students walk around the room and silently study them. Process the experience. What relationship does this have to the concept of leadership?

10. Diagram a feedback loop for a behavior you have that is reinforced by something or somebody else. Is it a positive or negative behavior? How is it reinforced? How could you strengthen the reinforcement if it is a positive behavior? How could you lessen the reinforcement if it is a negative behavior?

11. Show a clip from "The Three Stooges" (or some other show about which opinion will be sharply divided). Ask class members if they liked it or not and why. Is there a right or wrong answer? This gets at the idea of multiple perspectives and how we all view the world differently.


1. Instruct students to write an autobiographical paper describing how and from whom they learned about leadership. Include their personal philosophy and definition of leadership.

2. Walk into several stores located near where you live. What feelings do you experience when you first enter the store? What feelings do you experience after you've been in the store for a while? What causes these feelings? Relate this to the section on force fields in this chapter.

3. Take an important issue facing your organization. Brainstorm as many partial solutions as you can. Try to come up with at least twenty. Now pick five to ten that you might be able to implement. How is it different coming up with many partial solutions, as opposed to having to come up with the one answer?

4. Create your own student quote(s) for the chapter. What do you have to say that could make an impact on other students?

Chapter Three

A New Way of Understanding Leadership

Purpose of the Chapter

The purpose of this chapter is to introduce the reader to the Relational Leadership Model and provide detailed information about each one of its components.

Class Discussion Questions

1. What do the terms inclusive, empowering, purposeful, ethical, and process-oriented mean to you?

2. Have you ever been excluded from something important to you? What was the experience? How did you feel? What did you do? How can leadership help someone else feel included in a group or organization?

3. Remember a time when you felt empowered. What caused you to feel this way? How can leadership help empower someone?

4. About what in your life are you purposeful? Why are you purposeful in these particular areas? What are the benefits and drawbacks of being purposeful in these areas?

5. What are the challenges to being ethical? What are the benefits?

6. A phrase that is common in working with groups is "trust the process." What does this phrase mean to you? Are you generally willing to trust the process? Why or why not?

Class Activities

1. Deconstruct the definition of leadership provided by the authors. What do each of the following phrases mean to you: "a relational process," "of people together," "attempting to accomplish change," "or make a difference," "to benefit," "the common good." (This can be done individually or in small groups.)

2. Using words or images, create a visual representation of the definition of leadership presented in this chapter.

3. Divide the class into five groups. Assign each group a different component of the Relational Leadership Model (inclusive, empowering, purposeful, ethical, and process-oriented), and ask them to develop a skit to illustrate the component as it is described in the book. (A variation of this would be to ask all groups to come up with lists of movie or song titles depicting their particular components.)

4. Think about a group that is important to you. What vision do you have for this group? What, if changed, would make a tremendous difference to this group's purpose? Do most members share the common purposes of the group, or are there many divergent purposes? How would you describe those differences?


Excerpted from Exploring Leadership by Susan R. Komives Nance Lucas Timothy R. McMahon Copyright © 1998 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"What sets this book apart is its firm grounding in ethics and its practical application for young adults interested in making a difference. The focused questions at the And of each chapter are outstanding for thoughtful discussion and reflection." —Alice Faron, program director, LeaderShape, Inc.

"My students have be en searching for a leadership book that they don't have to translate to their experiences. At last, here is a book that integrates cutting edge ideas of leadership with examples and stories from college students." —Kathleen E. Allen, vice president for student development, College of Saint Benedict

"As a long-time teacher of leadership courses, I know that my students will resonate with Exploring Leadership. The book presents a well-developed analysis of both the 'how' and the 'why' of leadership as a relational process, and also challenges student readers to think about how they might practice leadership throughout their lives." —Sara A. Boatman, vice president of student affairs, Nebraska Wesleyan University)

"We've been waiting for Exploring Leadership for a long time. This is a book that can be used with a broad spectrum of students involved in positional as well as relational leadership. Exploring Leadership has finally filled the gap that has been evident for years-a book that stimulates students to look seriously at themselves and at the complexities and opportunities of leadership." —Dennis C. Roberts, assistant vice president for student affairs, Miami University

Meet the Author

Susan R. Komives is professor emerita and former director of the College Student Personnel Graduate Program at the University of Maryland, College Park. Nance Lucas is associate dean and associate professor at New Century College at George Mason University. Timothy R. McMahon is a faculty consultant in the Teaching

Effectiveness Program at the University of Oregon.

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