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Theoretical Analysis of the Social Change Model of Leadership Development

Trebby Ellington

Loyola University Chicago


Leadership is defined and conceptualized in many different ways. In this analysis, an

interpretive interview approach is taken to induce elements of what the interviewee shared to

connect to leadership theory. First, a brief narrative followed by the rationale for choosing the

interviewee will be explained. Next, a synthesis of the social change model of leadership

development theory (SCM) and authentic leadership theory will be provided. Then, utilizing the

interviewees approach to leadership, a deconstruction of SCM followed by a reconstruction

utilizing components of authentic leadership theory will be offered. Lastly, through the

positionality of an external consultant, the reconstructed version of SCM will be used to offer

recommendations for the application of leadership to practice.

Identification of Interviewee and Rationale

Dr. Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson, Executive Director of Campus Inclusion and

Community (CIC), has cultivated an increasingly positive shift toward a more just campus

culture at Northwestern University (NU). Dr. Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson created CIC in

2012 as a staff of one. Over the past couple of years, she has expanded CIC to include the offices

of Multicultural Student Affairs, Social Justice Education, and Student Enrichment Services all

to accomplish the overarching goal of CIC to collaboratively work with the university

community to foster inclusive learning environments through intentional engagement with

difference (SES Compass, n.d., p.7). Part of the reason I selected Dr. Lesley-Ann Brown-

Henderson for the interview is due to the nature of her work and how it aligns with the work I am

interested in doing in the future. I wanted to gain some insight on what informs her leadership

style as a woman of color, what her philosophy is about leadership, and how she navigates the

larger institutional context with social justice work.


Additionally, I have observed Dr. Lesley-Ann Brown-Hendersons full commitment to

building relationships with students, faculty, and staff, developing the organizational structure of

CIC, and launching original programs and services to integrate CICs mission into the

framework of the campus community. Her commitment to the aforementioned, vision, and

ability to stay grounded in her beliefs in the face of adversity while creating change are

commendable. Her dedication to caring for students and staff as people first serves as a

foundation for true, effective collaboration. She explicitly shared in her interview that she enacts

her leadership in a manner that is informed by SCM, which she also addressed in her dissertation

during her doctoral studies.

Social Change Model of Leadership Development

In the context of college students wanting to create social change, Wagner (2009) stated,

Social change addresses each persons sense of responsibility to others and the realization that

making things better for one pocket of society makes things better for the society as a whole (p.

10). Social change is complex and, unlike charity, attends to the core causes of issues and

collaboration with others. Connecting this concept to leadership is socially responsible

leadership; functioning in a manner that is cognizant of how the groups choices and actions

affect others (Wagner, 2009). Influenced by research on collaborative leadership, SCM was

crafted for people who want to gather how to work successfully with others for communal good

(Cilente, 2009). Cilente (2009) stated:

The process of leadership cannot be described simply in terms of the behavior of an

individual; rather, leadership involves collaborative relationships that lead to collective

action grounded in the shared values of people who work together to effect positive

change. (p. 45)


This model encourages the formation and development of social change agents and assumes

leadership is a collaborative, values based process that is inclusive and socially responsible

utilizing community involvement as a powerful means to create change. SCMs framework is

divided into three dimensions: individual values, group values, and society/community values.

Within each dimension, SCM explains relationships between seven fundamental values, known

as the seven Cs of change, to help individuals, groups and communities learn to participate in

leadership for social change (Cilente, 2009).

The seven key values by dimension are: individual values - consciousness of self (being

aware of ones own beliefs, values, attitudes and emotions), congruence (personal beliefs and

values are consistent with behavior) and commitment (passion for and investment in action);

group values collaboration (collective contributions toward a common goal), common purpose

(trust that all members of a group have a shared responsibility toward collective goals) and

controversy with civility (openness to civil discourse); and society/community values

citizenship (community involvement for the benefit of others). Each dimension interacts with

and influences the other and each one of the seven Cs of change is interrelated with one another

in a reciprocal fashion. It is important to note that these values are not meant to be prescriptive.

There is continuous development of each key value and there are various points of entry into

SCM. Additionally, the framework of knowing-being-doing is essential to SCM, which

illuminates the significance of gaining knowledge (knowing), incorporating that knowledge into

personal beliefs and attitudes (being) and applying that knowledge and those beliefs in routine

operations (doing; Cilente, 2009).

Authentic Leadership Theory


Authentic leadership theory, while still new, emphasizes leadership as genuine. The

different lenses through which one can view this theory are: intrapersonal (meaningful life

experiences as critical to leadership development), interpersonal (genuineness transpires from

interactions), and developmental (process where different types of behavior are learned over

time). Furthermore, a practical approach stresses the necessity of developing the following

qualities to be authentic: knowledge of purpose, strong values that inform what is right, form

relationships based on trust, exhibit self-control, and has a passion for personal mission. A

theoretical approach focuses on leadership as a process where the following behaviors are

developed: self-awareness (deeper level reflection on values, identity, and motives), internalized

moral perspective (self-regulate how values guide behavior without conforming to societal

pressures), balanced processing (self-regulate how others opinions influence decisions), and

relational transparency (self-regulate transparency with others). Additionally, confidence, hope,

optimism and resilience are psychological capacities that influence authenticity (Northouse,


Deconstruction of SCM

Deconstruction is acknowledging and interrupting false oppositions in a way that

highlights how one margin of the dichotomy is socially viewed as normal. Derrida used

deconstruction as a tool to counter these dichotomies that represent false norms (as cited in

Dugan, 2017, p. 9) by incorporating the themes of stocks of knowledge (something normative for

individuals and groups), ideology/hegemony (a vehicle for social control), and social location

(knowledge, power, and identity) to utilize a critical lens that challenges the nature of societal

norms (Dugan, 2017). The tools of deconstruction used here are ideological/hegemonic critique

(challenge underlying core assumptions that impact what is seen as normative) and

commodification (question how theory perpetuates dehumanization and alienation; Dugan, 2017)

to connect elements of what Dr. Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson shared to SCM to provide a

deconstruction of the theory; however, this does not serve as a full deconstruction of the theory.

Ideological/Hegemonic Critique

Dr. Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson identified consciousness of self and congruence as the

specific core values of the model that she has an affinity for the most (personal communication,

October 10, 2016). While there is significance of introspection, continued reflection, and

consistency in the foundation of the leadership process, these same values do not play out for the

benefit of everyone. These values continue to perpetuate hegemony and internalized oppression

with traditionally marginalized groups as they embrace inequitable norms that serve those of the

powerful. For example, when Dr. Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson shared that she identifies as a

first-generation, immigrant woman of color and that she has to be mindful of how she shows up

and why that matters (personal communication, October 10, 2016), I thought consciousness of

self does not address what that introspection experience is like for marginalized populations. Dr.

Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson shared she has to be overly aware of her social identities - how

what she wears, says and she speaks can negatively influence how she is perceived. Similarly,

when she is in majority white spaces, she has to be careful how she navigates those spaces, how

she has to overly anticipate what may come up so that she is prepared prior to entering a space,

the level of certainty with which she has to speak, and how she often finds herself slipping in her

credentials in conversations so that her competence and ability are not called into question (L.

Brown-Henderson, personal communication, October 10, 2016). Delivering messages in a way

that is receptive is important; however, at what point does that become assimilation and people

with targeted identities continuing to internalize the dominant narrative as the norm (i.e.

language, professional dress)? Consciousness of self for marginalized peoples leadership does

not seem to unfold inherently as democratic and free from reprisal.

Likewise, the core value of congruence can perpetuate hegemony and can enable

internalized oppression with marginalized populations due to the competing messages received

from dominant groups. Dr. Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson shared she has strong beliefs and tries

to be intentional with aligning her values with her behavior, but is not always able to be

consistent because the larger system pushes back (personal communication, October 10, 2016).

When the system pushes back on marginalized peoples behaviors and delivers messages about

what behaviors are accepted and praised, it further distances personal values and behavior from

one another. This makes me think of internalized oppression because after so long of seeing

certain types of behaviors as acceptable and reward worthy, then marginalized groups work to fit

that narrative because the stakes are high if they do not, assimilating to what is presumed as

normal. Furthermore, the more frequently marginalized people change their behaviors to fit this

narrative, it can consciously and unconsciously begin to alter what a persons true beliefs and

values are, reinforcing hegemonic norms. For a leadership model that is designed to create social

change, the previous deconstructions demonstrate how the inverse can happen depending on the

social location of those trying to enact this type of leadership.


When Dr. Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson shared that she struggles with the inherent

pressures that come with being a competent and capable person of color (personal

communication, October 10, 2016), I interpreted that as skills and knowledge being idolized and

capitalized on, yet dehumanizing the person in the process. She mentioned if you are capable,

competent and particularly a person of color, people have huge expectations for you to reach an

ultimate goal with what you should do with your life and career. These pressures come from all

over: students, colleagues, and even mentors who want her to have influence and power in

spaces where they feel she can make change (L. Brown-Henderson, personal communication,

2016). This illuminates the concepts of commodification of knowledge and people.

With people of color, the diverse perspectives they offer is adored differently than the

majority of others and done so on a greater scale when those persons of color are educated.

Additionally, I would also argue this is relevant for other marginalized groups such as first-

generation. I do believe there is merit in acknowledging the richness of knowledge and

perspectives of marginalized groups; however, there comes a point where the motives behind this

idolization become questionable. Are people genuinely interested in and supportive of the person

and their full partnership or are they serving as the token so the larger, dominant group can

capitalize on their knowledge, perspectives and presence for diversity numbers? There is tension

here because on one hand, there is strength behind marginalized groups making positional

progression to make social change from hierarchical positions of power. On the other hand, there

is dismissal of care for the whole person in the process of commodifying people. For example,

Dr. Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson shared that her immigrant identity has taught her that it is

necessary for her to work harder and longer than most to prove that she belongs (personal

communication, October 10, 2016). With all of the pressures to reach an ultimate goal, at what

point do we remember that we are dealing with people instead of being solely focused on the

work they can do? In SCM, commodification highlights the dehumanization of those with

marginalized social locations in a way that calls into question whether these persons are

considered fully agentic, vested partners in the process of production (social change) or simply

tools to augment it, which negatively influences the enactment of leadership.


Reconstruction of SCM

Operating in a similar fashion to deconstruction, reconstruction incorporates themes of

stocks of knowledge, ideology/hegemony and social location to adjust theory in a manner that

contributes to a more socially just practice. The tool of reconstruction that is used is disrupting

normativity (redresses hegemonic norms; Dugan, 2017). I will use this tool to reconstruct the

deconstructed elements of SCM using components of authentic leadership theory; however, it is

important to note that this does not serve as a full reconstruction of SCM.

Disrupting Normativity

When Dr. Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson identified that authenticity comes into question

when contemplating how she shows up in spaces (personal communication, October 10, 2016), I

interpreted that concept as a missed consideration within SCM theory. In particular, the four

components that make up authentic leadership theory can help redress hegemonic norms that are

perpetuated in the key values of consciousness of self and congruence as illustrated in the

deconstruction. The intent is to not alter SCM completely, but to adapt the components of self-

awareness, internalized moral perspective, balanced processing and relational transparency

through the lens within which they are presented in authentic leadership theory to the seven Cs

of change in SCM.

To redress hegemonic norms in consciousness of self in SCM, self-awareness through

authentic leadership theory addresses reflection of identity and motive in addition to personal

beliefs, values and emotions. While not a catch-all, self-awareness through this lens encourages

leadership to understand themselves at a deeper level and gives one permission to trust their own

feelings when making decisions, which may alleviate some of the pressures felt by marginalized

groups to internalize messages and beliefs from the dominant narrative about their identities.

This component can also relieve some of the conscious and unconscious actions of assimilation

because it allows space for people to value their full, authentic selves when the inclusion of

identity is part of the framework of theory and practice. Though not all people feel they may be

allowed to be their authentic selves depending on their social location, authentic leadership

theory argues that authentic values and behaviors can be developed in leaders over time

(Northouse, 2016). Integrating internalized moral perspective and balanced processing into

SCMs congruence value, some of the control that societal pressure has on peoples ability to

enact behaviors consistent with their values can be released. SCMs congruence value does not

address environmental influences whereas internalized moral perspective and balanced

processing gives some of that autonomy and control back to leadership for marginalized groups

especially. With that permission and autonomy given back to leadership to explore others

opinions objectively and self-regulate whether that influences their values and/or behaviors, there

may be a decrease in the frequency with which behaviors are being assimilated, thus decreasing

the internalization of values that may not be true to a persons core, but to the benefit of the

powerful. This can help increase self-efficacy in one being able to present their authentic self

despite social location.

Moreover, authentic leadership theorys relational transparency component can help to

interrupt the normativity of the commodification of people and knowledge and focus on genuine

relationships with others. Integrating this concept into the group and society/community value

dimensions of SCM would encourage the enactment of leadership to be mindful of care for the

whole person when interacting with others, instead of consciously and unconsciously reinforcing

the idea that people are only as useful as the work they can do, the knowledge they have, and the

diverse perspectives they bring. Relational transparency would allow SCM to promote sharing

core feelings and motives with others in an effective manner that requires the humanization and

inclusion of those involved.

Recommendations for Application to Practice

As an external consultant, the reconstructed version of SCM theory would allow me to

suggest a few applications for practicing leadership. First, this new version of SCM cultivates

agency in using a more conscious, critical perspective taking lens to understand ones own and

others positionality (influence and perception) in complex social issues, which would enhance

interdependence and group relationships. Next, this permits the development of shared group

values to take a more conscientious approach in welcoming everyones voice into the space and

giving people permission to share their authentic feelings, values and opinions. This open

dialogue utilizes critical self-awareness and acknowledgement of how personal beliefs influences

the larger group which warrants the creation of shared values for the communal good. Then, to

enact leadership in a way that considers others as full partners, there needs to be continuous

dialogue and accountability around collaboration internally. Often, collaboration externally is the

focus; however, creating consistent spaces for critical reflection around how to foster full,

agentic partnership in the process of working towards the common good provides opportunities

to be more intentional and strategic about what inherent collaboration is and different approaches

to gaining buy-in (i.e. purpose driven). Lastly, this version of SCM will not only enact social

change, but help sustain change as well. The previous applications suggested encourage a deeper

level of responsibility in holding ones self and others as a collective accountable. This deeper

focus on personal and group accountability will help ensure the sustainability of change moving



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Dugan, J.P. (in press). Leadership theory: Cultivating critical perspectives. San Francisco, CA:

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Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Northwestern University. SES Compass Program: CURRICULUM. n.d.

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