From Command to Community: a New Approach to Leadership Education in Colleges and Universities, edited by Nicholas V. Longo and Cynthia M. Gibson. Medford, Mass.: Tufts University Press, 2011. 277 pages. Accessible to SHU students, staff and faculty through ebrary as an e-book.
This book emerged from papers and conversations from a national symposium on redefining leadership education in higher education, held in 2008 and sponsored by Tufts University, Miami University of Ohio, and Public Allies, a non-profit in Milwaukee, WI that seeks to advance new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits, and civic participation. As a set of essays, the book explores the change that is happening now, as notions of leadership move from ideas derived from the "great man" principle (a compelling leader who commands his followers --the choice of masculine pronoun is intentional!) to community-oriented views of adaptive leadership, citizen-centered, engaged in civic processes, and change-oriented.
The first of three broad sections attempts to "define" (more accurately, describe) "the new leadership and what it looks like in the context of higher education." (p. 14) The second section of the book puts such leadership and civic engagement in higher education into historical and contemporary contexts. Case-studies and examples of new leadership education models comprises the third section. A final section grapples with the question, "What does this all mean, especially for the future?" (p. 19)
The academic prose is usually graceful, but in the end the (usually) vivid descriptions of particular programs, events, encounters, and examples remain more memorable than the necessarily more diffuse secondary description and analysis. The book attempts to narrate and analyze a kind of change in leadership climate which is both welcome and confusing; a common note among the students is their realization of the overwhelming complexity and ambiguity of the world.
In particular the closing essay by Stephen Smith ("a former student leader who helped to mobilize Harvard's well-publicized living wage campaign") is a vivid challenge to educators. Organizing 101: Lessons I Wish I'd Learned On Campus tells about his frustration with Ivan Illich's famous 1969 speech "To Hell With Good Intentions" that (brutally) chided college students about to embark on a service trip to Mexico. When Smith experienced an alternative --living for twenty-one days in the (Harvard) University President's office protesting below-poverty wages. (Note to SHU students: the University President respectfully requests that you do not do this at home.) Responding to the protest, Harvard agreed to pay a "living wage" of $11.35 plus benefits. Smith found a way forward towards genuine participation in social change. He found his way to Saul Alinsky's Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) and found the right questions, the right answers, the right relationships. This IAF model has helped to train César Chávez and Barack Obama, amongst others, "by each of us telling our stories and inviting others to tell theirs too." (p. 236)
The first essay of the book ends with a student's last Letter Home ("Letters Home" is a format to try to make sense of the experience of engaged leadership) that begins:
I'm not quite sure what to make of the past ten months as a close off this chapter of my life. I'm a little more conflicted than I had expected. I thought that those internal battles I was having with myself would end after a while, as the bigger obstacles of life revealed themselves to me, but I am finding more and more than the battles that happen inside are 99 percent of what happens outside. All those ideas about courage, strength, bravery, virtue, principle, and any other adjective meant to describe a great human being are all descriptions of things that happen inside a person. Everything else is just epilogue.
A part of me has been lost, just as another part of me has grown. I can't pinpoint what it is, but something about the world is decidedly less romantic, while the ability to be astounded by the complexity and immensity of the world has increased …
Take and read --the rest of this letter is worth reading the whole book.