Professional and Alumni

Leadership Academy

Leadership: 104
Making a Leadership Community*

By Dorothy I. Mitstifer - © 2000 by Kappa Omicron Nu. All rights reserved. Permission granted to KON chapters and members to use with appropriate credit.


Required Materials:

A Reflective Human Action Leadership Development Workshop for Multiple Organizations

Get Acquainted Activity - Gripe and Glee Activity

 Form small groups of 2-3 persons.

  • Person One is to gripe about a leader.
  • Person Two is to relate gleefully a wonderful leadership experience.
  • Together the group members are to develop a guideline or two for leadership.

Before we move on to the structure of this workshop, I would like to have you discuss, in dyads, the values displayed in this activity. What does the choice of this activity say to you? Said another way: What was important about this activity?

Sharing of Guidelines


In order to create the context in which the guidelines you developed have meaning, I want to remind you of the objectives of this workshop:

  1. Explore the principles of Reflective Human Action.
  2. Apply the Reflective Human Action Theory to critical issues facing campus organizations.
  3. Explore personal leadership issues and challenges.
  4. Develop an organizational action plan for applying Reflective Human Action.

I will review the rationale for leadership development to your futures, give a brief overview of Reflective Human Action, and apply these ideas to your organizations.

Now for the rationale-I suspect that you are here for a variety of reasons, but they probably all relate somehow to your desire to be effective as a leader and to increase the effectiveness of your organizations. The value of leadership education in undergraduate education is not well understood. A recent publication by the Kellogg Foundation entitled "Leadership Reconsidered" answers the question of why leadership education is important in higher education. The Kellogg Foundation has invested in development of people because of its belief that the capacity to lead is rooted in virtually any individual and in every community-whether it is a classroom, organization, neighborhood, family, or work site.

A review of "fast companies" paints a very different picture of the work environment of the future. The language of new jobs includes:

  • Webs of inclusion
  • Options not plans
  • Possible rather than perfect
  • Involvement rather than obedience
  • Circles rather than pyramid charts
  • Knowledge management

Organizations and worksites will function as communities rather than collections of human resources, and power will be redefined as relational power-the ability to foster relationships. The task will be to forget about jobs and move toward work that needs doing.

The leading businesses today have already begun implementing nonpositional leadership and principle-centered leadership. Business is concerned with the environment outside the workplace. The business leaders in the new millennium will build a healthy community as energetically as they build the business enterprise. A high-performance organization cannot exist if it fails its people in an ailing community.

Fundamentals of Leadership

Now to a discussion about the fundamentals of leadership.

The purposes of leadership are threefold:

  1. To create a supportive environment where people can grow, thrive, and live in peace with one another.

  2. To promote harmony with nature and thereby provide sustainability for future generations.

  3. To create communities of reciprocal care and shared responsibility where every person matters and each person's welfare and dignity is respected and supported.

Group Qualities

  1. Collaboration - the 'command and control' model is less effective than working together to capitalize on the diverse talents of the group ("power with" and "power over" ).

  2. Shared Purpose - Although it is a difficult challenge to pursue, a group's purpose that reflects the shared aims of all group members is the basis for successful outcomes for a group.

  3. Disagreement with respect - An atmosphere of mutual respect and trust is basic to good group process.

  4. Division of labor - A group in which each participant makes a significant contribution manifests good will.

  5. A learning environment - A group is the place to acquire leadership skills for personal development and for effective group functioning.

Reflective Human Action

Reflective - the ability to think abut what you are dong while you are doing it. This reflection-in-action implies competence and artistry as well as commitment to learning through reflection on practice.

Human action - leadership is just that: human action. Leadership is the action itself, the total engagement offered for the well-being of people. Thus leadership is a shared process of meaning-making and action in any group in which you find yourself. Meaning-making refers to the dialogue within a group that develops shared meaning and consensus for direction of action.


  • Accept chaos - Despite new and chaotic information, there is an unerring ability to find order, to retain an essential identity.

  • Share information - Information is the creative energy of the universe-the substance, the invisible workings, of creation.

  • Develop relationships - Nothing is known except in relation to persons, ideas, and events. We literally grow, or construct ourselves, through our relationships.

  • Embrace vision - Clarity about purpose and direction is derived from values and vision.

You will note that many of guidelines you developed in the beginning are represented in this overview of the fundamentals of Leadership.

Application of Leadership Theory

Critical issues facing campus organizations  

We are going to use a modified "open space" process to explore critical issues.

The invitation: Anyone who has a critical issue is invited to convene a group for discussion. Write your topic on one of the large sheets on the table. Announce your topic and post it on the wall.

Sign-up and Go to Work: Now everyone can choose and sign up for a topic. As soon as you have signed up, join the convener and begin to explore the topic to clarify it and to write a rationale and an objective with a strong verb to convey the outcome. Use the Goal-Setting and Action Planning Worksheet. Write your objective on a large sheet of paper and post it. Be prepared to report and give your rationale.

Reporting: Critical Issues Facing Campus Organizations

Share work of the group

Prioritize issues to identify the top issue that all groups represented here today could collaboratively accomplish.  

Appoint Steering Committee for Collaborative Planning and Implementation.

Goal-Setting and Action Planning: Organizations

  1. Form organizational groups.

  2. Work as a group to apply what you have learned today.

  3. Conduct a needs assessment (you may want to use one of the campus issues identified earlier.

  4. Write objective - use a strong verb to convey the outcome.

  5. Write an action plan to accomplish objective

  6. Appoint steering committee

Goal-Setting and Action Planning: Personal Leadership Development (Issues and Challenges)

  1. Apply what you have learned today to you personally.

  2. Conduct a needs assessment.

  3. Write objective - use a strong verb to convey the outcome.

  4. Write an action plan to accomplish objective.


". . . [S]tudents of today are the leaders of tomorrow. . . .This means [you] need to develop the requisite knowledge, skills, tools, and attitudes to become good citizens, good parents and spouses, good neighbors, and good employees. Focusing on traditional degree-specific requirements as a major part of higher education's education mission makes a lot of sense, but it is not enough. Our rapidly changing society desperately needs skilled leaders who are able to address complex issues, build bridges, and heal divisions" (Astin & Astin, p. 31). Regardless of your particular career interest or the positions you may eventually hold, you also need to learn general life skills. Leadership is one of the most essential of those skills.


As a final activity, I would like you to think about what we did here today that informs your practice as a leader. What activities can you use? And why would you use them? What were the values they reflected?


Thank you for your participation.  


Astin, A. W., & Astin, H. C. (2000). Leadership reconsidered: Engaging higher education in social change. Battle Creek, MI: W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

* Workshop facilitated first for Kappa Alpha Tau Chapter at Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois, on November 4, 2000.

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