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By Anthony Middlebrooks
One way or another, we are all impacted by leaders and leadership. Individuals in leadership positions influence our life every day by the decisions they make, the behaviors they model and encourage, the way in which they influence others, the values and vision they hold, and the culture they foster. All of these leadership activities can be positive, supportive, life-affirming; negative, repressive, selfish; or anything in between. Within this incredibly complex, interconnected world, those leader behaviors directly and indirectly impact our life, our perspective, and even our aspirations. Leadership matters, and the behavior of a leader is both impactful and far-reaching.
This opening paragraph begins the new foundational textbook on leadership entitled Discovering Leadership: Designing Your Success, which was published in January 2019. Lead author Anthony Middlebrooks and co-author James Morrison, professors working in the Organizational and Community Leadership program within the Biden School, (along co-authors Scott Allen and Mindy McNutt) have created a practical, accessible text rooted in a simple, meaningful definition of leadershipthe process of influencing others toward a common vision.
Discovering Leadership is filled with unique features and cutting-edge topics designed to help prepare leaders for the unknowable future challenges they will inevitably face. "Our vision in writing this book was to create a tool that could serve as "the one thing" that a new leader would need, and later as a foundational framework that students could continuously add to as they learn and experience more."
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Discovering Leadership: Designing Your Success applies a uniquely useful design framework, and engages students in the purposeful design of their own leadership. Aligned with definition of leadership, the design perspective organizes the book into five major sections addressing a key question.
Leadership Design Challenge
(and Module title)
While the design approach offers new ways of seeing and engaging challenges, Discovering Leadership also focuses on preparing individuals for future leadership, which requires building internal resources. Just as athletes build their core to enhance their sport, leaders need to build CORE confidence, optimism, resilience, and engagement. Both current and aspiring leaders can enhance their leadership performance by further developing their CORE.
We often hear experienced leaders and experts assert various qualifiers to those aspiring to lead: You need to go through the crucible of experience! You need to study the leaders of the past. You must carefully study leadership theory. You're too young. You're not skilled enough. All of this is good advice, and certainly important to becoming an experienced and wise leader. But, individuals even you, perhaps are assuming leadership positions right now, with or without the prerequisites the experts recommend. Understanding the influence, impact, and importance of leadership, as well as a bit of how-to knowledge, is just the start any student needs. As leaders we want to be successful, to facilitate the success of others, and to make a difference. Discovering Leadership was designed to that end.
Lastly, a great thank you to the many former UD students who participated in the development of this textbook, either directly or through their participation in our classes. Drs. Morrison and I learned a great deal from you, and hope that framing some of those lessons in this textbook adequately pays it forward.
Middlebrooks, A., Allen, S., McNutt, M., Morrison, J. (2019). Discovering Leadership: Designing Your Success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.