School's New Center Takes Active
During its 30 years of existence, the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs has helped launch the careers of countless men and women who have gone on to assume positions of influence and leadership in government as well as the private and nonprofit sectors. And while a natural correlation may exist between leadership potential and public affairs graduates, the head of the LBJ School's new Center for Ethical Leadership prefers a more directed approach to producing leaders.
An academic with a military background, Professor Howard Prince is a strong believer that leadership can be learned, and therefore, taught. As a professor and the head of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Prince developed leadership programs and was instrumental in reshaping leader development throughout the U.S. Army. He went on to serve as the founding dean and Professor of Leadership Studies in the University of Richmond's Jepson School of Leadership Studies, where he was responsible for developing of the first undergraduate leadership degree program in the world.
According to Prince, "Leadership means service," and the LBJ School's longstanding commitment to public service and its unique approach to team learning makes it an ideal setting for the Center for Ethical Leadership. The center has won strong backing from Dean Ed Dorn. "American colleges and professional schools are very good at teaching facts and analytic skills," said Dorn. "They do much less well with the teaching of leadership." Through interdisciplinary course offerings, the center has already begun to remedy this situation. The goal is that leadership training will empower graduates to assume managerial positions earlier in their careers and make a positive impact upon their work environments.
Prince teaches a course called "Leading Change," built on the premise that change is a fundamental part of leadership and the capacity to lead change is integral to the policy process. Working in teams, students use case studies of organizations undergoing problems to illustrate how ethical leadership spurs positive change. This semester students are examining Ford Motor Company, the Army, and the City of Austin.
Enthusiastic about the class, students say that the coursework has dramatically altered their perceptions of leadership. "I was always told that leaders are special in some way that sets them apart from others," says student Emily Trevino. "Now I believe that leadership is learning traits that you admire and practicing them in daily life. It is not a phenomenon that only a few can obtain."
Leadership education may be a new field, but following trends of globalization, it is taking root around the world. This was clear at the center's International Leadership Conference last January, which drew top leadership educators and practitioners from across the globe. The conference was the center's first step toward establishing a global community of leadership developers. Participants from countries as far away as South Korea, Chile, Kuwait, and South Africa came together to share experiences and achieve a greater understanding of how to prepare and educate future leaders. "We need inspiration from those who have accepted leadership roles and responsibility," said Prince. "And we need to understand the needs of those who will demand better future leaders and the right to participate in the leadership process."
After less than a year of operation, the Center for Ethical Leadership has positioned the University at the top of the leadership education movement. The LBJ School hopes to expand that role through continued research, curriculum development, and community service. Thanks to these and other efforts, institutions of higher education will no longer have to rely on a hit-or-miss approach in producing ethical leaders.
Reprinted with permission
from The Alcalde.
Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
May 23 , 2001
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