ERIC Identifier: ED351270
Publication Date: 1992-09-00
Author: Woyach, Robert B.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN.
Leadership in Civic Education. ERIC Digest.
In recent years, social studies educators have given serious attention to the
apparent crisis of citizenship and the improvement of civic education in the
United States. Insufficient attention, however, has been given to the place of
leadership in civic education. Yet, youth leadership development is big business
in the United States. Each year over half a million high school students, along
with a smaller but growing number of middle school students, participate in
programs intended to encourage civic leadership and to develop leadership
HOW IS LEADERSHIP RELATED TO CITIZENSHIP?
Leadership is one
of the most studied but least understood of all social phenomena (Bennis and
Nanus 1985). Yet, for most people the concept of "leader" is not complex. It
evokes images remarkably close to the Middle English origins of the term: a
figure who holds a position of authority and directs the actions of others by
force of personality, if not birthright. This image sets leaders apart. It
encourages people to think about the role of leader as something distinct from
and partially in opposition to the role of citizen.
Yet, this authority-based, charisma-driven image of the directive leader has
questionable relevance to both the theory and practice of democracy. Decades of
studies on leadership have failed to uncover any meaningful set of physical or
personality traits that make a person a leader. Indeed, in group settings the
vast majority of people aspire to a leadership role regardless of their
personality or interpersonal styles. In the United States groups usually reject
the leadership of people with highly directive (authoritarian) styles. We may
hold feudal images of "leaders," but in practice we prefer leadership that is
non-elitist, decentralized, and participatory.
Our practice of leadership has enormous implications for the relationship
between leadership and citizenship. In democracies, leadership is best
understood as a dimension of citizenship itself, distinctive only in that it
involves special competencies. In general terms, leadership involves the
structuring and initiating activities that citizens must perform if groups
(publics) are to organize themselves, establish goals and priorities, make
decisions, settle conflicts, and in general accomplish their goals.
WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF LEADERSHIP?
abound regarding the best ways to develop leadership competence. At the same
time, there exists considerable agreement regarding the essential elements of
leadership development when it is viewed as a long-term process (Christensen and
Woyach 1990). These elements include conceptual, motivational, ethical, and
skill components, and clearly cannot all be achieved in a week-long or even a
* Motivation: Awareness and Empowerment
One of the most basic goals of leadership development is to motivate young
people to take personal responsibility for exercising leadership. For many
programs this involves developing an awareness of social need on the one hand
and self-esteem on the other. Young people need opportunities to connect to
issues that concern them. They must see how individuals exercise leadership in
these areas. Finally, they must be encouraged to see themselves in these
leadership roles--to give themselves permission to lead.
* Understanding Leadership: Role and Authenticity.
One of the most persistent inhibitors of leadership may be our elitist and
directive images of leaders. Leadership development programs, therefore, must
create new images of leadership. Young people need to learn what it is that
leaders do. They need to understand what it means to structure and initiate
group activity. They need to learn how to do these things in ways that reinforce
An important issue that has received increased attention in recent years is
the ethical dimension of leadership. Many people who are attracted to positions
of leadership are attracted primarily to the personal rewards. Democratic
leaders, however, must learn to balance the interests of self, group, and other
wider communities of which the group is a part. Only if these interests are
balanced will the individual be able to exercise leadership in an effective and
* Experience with Leadership: Skills and Competencies.
Finally, leadership involves doing, not just thinking. Effective leadership
requires interpersonal skills and competencies that must be learned through
experience and practice and through the assessment of successes and failures. In
the finally analysis, young people can only learn the skills of leadership if
they are allowed to exercise leadership in meaningful ways.
WHAT ARE THE COMPETENCIES OF LEADERSHIP?
communities depend on leaders to help them establish goals and priorities, make
decisions, settle conflicts, maintain commitment, and generally to accomplish
the work of the group. A model of civic leadership developed at The Ohio State
University's Mershon Center summarizes the leadership role in terms of eight
leadership competencies (Woyach 1992).
* Shaping Visions and Goals--Envisioning
The foundation of any group or community is its sense of common purpose and
identity--its vision. Bennis and Nanus (1985) identify envisioning--the shaping
of visions and goals--as the most basic and important of the leadership
competencies. Actually envisioning is a complex task that requires the ability
to identify needs and opportunities, put a purpose or mission into words, derive
concrete goals from that vision, and engage other people in the process of
shaping these visions and goals so that they become committed to them.
* Helping Groups Make Decisions--Consensus Seeking
Like individuals, groups need to make decisions. How group decision-making is
structured affects not only the quality of the decisions but also the commitment
of members. Typically the best way for small groups to make decisions is through
consensus. Consensus decisions ensure the maximum use of the group's knowledge.
They also promote the greatest group commitment, since everyone has a stake in
the outcome. However, building consensus can be difficult, requiring real skill
on the part of leaders.
* Resolving Conflicts--Negotiation
Not all decisions can be made through consensus. Conflicts over goals and
priorities can paralyze a group, destroying group solidarity and member
commitment. Yet conflict is unavoidable. Thus all groups need skillful
negotiators. The ability to resolve conflicts so that all parties feel they have
won something can keep a group, or a community, from tearing itself apart.
* Motivating Members--Creating Rewards
No one remains committed to a group for long simply because they believe in
its goals. Member commitment needs to be rewarded to remain strong, even if that
reward is little more than a sense of satisfaction for having done some good.
Groups depend on leaders to make participation a rewarding experience--that is,
to ensure that appropriate rewards go to members in appropriate ways and at
* Laying the Foundation for Outside Support--Creating an Image
To achieve their goals, most groups rely on other people and other groups to
provide things like money, meeting space, and a variety of other resources.
Attracting this support depends on having leaders who are effective at image
creation--at getting the group recognized in the larger community. Image
creation is a complex process that involves identifying images that capture the
essence of the group and its vision, creatively communicating that image through
various media, and even getting the attention of people who control access to
* Laying the Foundation for Group Power--Gaining Legitimacy
A critical part of any group's image is its credibility. Unless a group is
seen as legitimate--as being credible and having the right to work toward its
vision--the group will neither be able to influence others or attract the
resources it needs. Looking after the group's legitimacy requires leaders who
understand the different sources of legitimacy, who know what makes the group
legitimate with particular people, and who are skillful at creating and
protecting the group's legitimacy.
* Attracting Outside Support and Defending the Group--Advocacy
Once groups are known to outsiders or begin to work in the wider community,
they inevitably meet with resistance. Some people will disagree with the group's
goals, or challenge the group's right to work toward them. At that point the
group needs skilled advocates. They need leaders who can persuade the doubtful
and hold the critics at bay.
* Getting Support from Other Groups--Coalition Building
Most groups find they must work with other groups at one time or another.
Making groups of groups, or coalitions, succeed represents a major leadership
challenge. Coalitions need leaders who know how to pick the right coalition
partners, and how to nurture the intergroup relationship. Finally, they must
know how to get the most from the relationship without compromising their own
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF SCHOOLS IN LEADERSHIP
Attention to leadership in the formal curriculum of American
schools is rare. Those few courses on leadership that do exist typically serve a
narrow group of student leaders. In general, leadership development within the
United States is largely an extra-curricular or co-curricular enterprise.
Nonetheless, American schools can and do play a significant role in
leadership development. Studies of adult leaders clearly indicate that youth
leadership experiences in school-based clubs and organizations play a
significant role in encouraging and preparing youth for leadership as adults
(Cox 1988). Moreover, while curricular programs on leadership are rare, the
classroom experiences communicate a wide array of messages about leadership. How
leaders are portrayed in history courses influence students' understanding of
the leadership role. The ways in which social issues are portrayed and the
degree to which initiative is rewarded influence students' motivation to
The role that schools have in providing opportunities for leadership
development and in building students' image of leadership require schools to
seriously consider how changes in schooling affect the development of the next
generation of leaders. The decline of club programs in some schools, because of
funding and scheduling problems, should be of concern to people interested in
leadership development. On the other hand, trends toward site-based management
offer intriguing new opportunities for involving students in the governance of
the school community.
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES
The following list of
resources includes references used to prepare this Digest. The items followed by
an ED Number are in the ERIC system. They are available in microfiche and/or
paper copies from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS). For information
about prices, contact EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road, Suite 110, Springfield,
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Entries followed by an EJ number are annotated monthly in CURRENT INDEX TO
JOURNALS IN EDUCATION (CIJE), which is available in most large public or
university libraries. EJ documents are not available through EDRS. However, they
can be located in the journal section of most libraries by using the
bibliographic information provided below or ordered through Interlibrary Loan.
Bahmueller, Charles F., and Charles N. Quigley, et. al. CIVITAS: A FRAMEWORK
FOR CIVIC EDUCATION. Calabasas, CA: Center for Civic Education, 1991. ED 340
Barber, Benjamin. "Public Talk and Civic Action: Education for Participation
in a Strong Democracy." SOCIAL EDUCATION 53 (October 1989): 355-356, 370. EJ 398
Bass, Bernard M. HANDBOOK FOR LEADERSHIP: THEORY, RESEARCH, AND MANAGERIAL
APPLICATIONS. Third Edition. New York: Free Press, 1990.
Bennis, Warren, and Burt Nanus. LEADERSHIP: THE STRATEGIES FOR TAKING CHARGE.
New York: Harper and Row, 1985.
Christensen, Kathy, and Robert Woyach. "Issues in Education: Developing
Leaders for a Global Age," Muscatine, Iowa: The Stanley Foundation, 1990.
Cox, Kathryn J. SIGNIFICANT ADOLESCENT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT EXPERIENCES IDENTIFIED BY ESTABLISHED LEADERS IN THE UNITED STATES. Unpublished PhD Dissertation. Columbus: The Ohio State University, 1988.
Gardner, John W. ON LEADERSHIP. New York: The Free Press, 1990.
Kettering Foundation. PUBLIC LEADERSHIP EDUCATION: PREPARING COLLEGE STUDENTS
FOR THEIR CIVIC ROLES. Dayton, Ohio: Kettering Foundation, 1989.
Ravitch, Diane. DEMOCRACY: WHAT IT IS, HOW TO TEACH IT. Washington, DC:
Educational Excellence Network, 1990. ED 319 650.
Reische, Diana L. CITIZENSHIP: GOAL OF EDUCATION. Arlington, VA: American
Association of School Administrators, 1987. ED 292 714.
Woyach, Robert B. PREPARING FOR LEADERSHIP: A YOUNG ADULT'S GUIDE TO
LEADERSHIP SKILLS IN A GLOBAL AGE. Greenwood Press, 1992.