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Photo Elicitation Project

Dana M. Gramuglia

Loyola University Chicago




Social Justice

The three terms leadership, power, and social justice represent a spider web. Each

concept represents a strand of the which becomes interwoven in the process. Throughout time it

becomes unclear where one piece ends and another starts within the web. In order to understand

how each concept functions it is important to analyze those individual strands and the bigger

picture will become more clear. When this occurs we are able to discern how to best use these

concepts to incite change within the world- the whole picture we are all aiming towards. The

process of analyzing the whole picture can be difficult as the education system has conditioned

us to accept everything at face value. This course has begun to recondition myself to dig deeper,

ask questions, formulate conclusions and lean into the discomfort of ambiguity when conclusions

are not possible. Over the past two weeks the idea of ambiguity has become more of a comfort

zone for myself; which is important in the process of learning- especially when analyzing the

three concepts of leadership, power and authority. With this idea of ambiguity my mind was able

to explore a wider horizon of possibilities and the limit I was putting on my thinking loosened as

a result. The contents of this paper and the observations aforementioned would not have been

possible without the exploration of the metacognitive process.

Throughout this whole process metacognition has been equally important in the quest to

understanding leadership, power, and social justice. In terms of why do I believe these certain

strands of information surrounding the three concepts- what led me to those beliefs. The articles

read in preparation for this course were an invaluable tool to help probe these questions and aid

in the search to find the greater meaning behind leadership, power, and social justice. The

articles referenced will be used as a tool to ground the claims made throughout the paper.

Throughout this paper the focus will be an analysis on how I hold meaning to the three concepts:

leadership, power, and social justice. Through the analysis, the evolution of my understanding

around the concept of leadership, power, and social justice will become apparent.


Leader does not equal leadership: this was the main concept shared on the first day of

this course. Holding a leadership position does give the individual a platform to easily exert

their power and authority over those within their jurisdiction. For one to be a leader the form of

a leadership position does not have to be set in place. When one does not have power to conform

change (good or bad) there can be a struggle between the formal and informal authority.

Heifetz discusses the idea in which when faced with adversity those who lack formal

power do not consider him or herself a leader and therefore do not believe they hold the power to

create change (2010, p. 22). Heifetz also goes on to explain ...People exercise plenty of

leadership every day without being considered leaders, it is only when we separate leadership

from ones personality traits this can be observed (2010, p. 22). This statement by Heifetz can

explain why one can enacting the traits of a leader without formal power and not even realize the

leadership possessed; only when this is realized can real change occur. Once the individual is

aware of the power yielded using leadership change for the greater good can occur. This can

continue through the use of power, or eventually through the formal authority of a labeled

leadership position. Without the realization of their own self worth the individual cannot act

upon the unknown of what is possessed. This concept comes alive through the photo I selected

to represent leadership.

Leadership takes many forms and inhibits within the least suspecting of people. This is a

statement I made in the original photo elicitation project in reference to Lebron James, and still

hold constant through the new photo selected. The current photo is one I took during the class

trip to Capitoline Hill. The space of Capitoline Hill created by Michelangelo and the meaning

behind each individual piece is an example of using power to push back against the formal

authority and exercise ones own leadership. Michelangelo practicing power could be argued as

carrying out the position of leader in self appointed authority to enact a different way of thinking.

Michelangelo did not allow the formal authority of the church to force a sense of complacency,

but instead took leadership for oneself and created spaces throughout Rome and by effect created

a voice for the people against the formal authority of the church (and the government).

The word power is difficult to define in a concrete way and the meaning can interchange

depending on the context. Before this course I had a very linear idea of what power meant- one

of my main ideas behind power was our ability to influence change through being informed and

living a socially just life. The main contributing article to my understanding of the types of

power and the psychology behind it was through: Power, Politics and, Influence by Robert

Vecchio. The article describes the Five Basis of Power, which explains the different layers of

power and how one uses it in each instance to achieve the desired outcome. The five basis along

with the Organizational Analysis of Power- created by Etzioni- shaped my understanding of

power in terms of Roman history and even in the present tense. The photo I used to represent

power is of the Vestal Virgins located within the Roman Forum.

This photo is taken from behind a statue depicting one of the Vestal Virgins with part of

the Roman Forum in front of the statue. The Vestal Virgins are a nesting doll of an example of

power. The Vestal Virgins themselves held a coveted position of power in the sense they were

symbolic of power, but did not hold any formal authority. The concept of Organizational

Analysis of Power by Etzioni can be utilized to explain why an individual would want to hold

this position with an illusion of power and authority. The idea of utilitarian power is one where

the employees (Vestal Virgins) follow directives under coercive power and expect to be rewarded

(Vecchio, 2007, p. 74-75). The example of the Vestal Virgins and their role in the power play of

the formal authority has deepened my understanding of power and how their can be multiple

layers of power existing in one space. I have also gained a better understanding of having the

illusion of power versus obtaining actual power and how this can help one generate authority.

Social Justice
The idea of social justice in my eyes before this course was equality for all and living

ones life in a way that would enact social change to ensure this becomes a reality. This also

involves accepting the differences in others and working with those differences to create a better

world for others. Often times it is easy to discount an individual and their experiences because it

does not align with our own and can cause discomfort within ourselves. However, by leaning

into the discomfort created by the dissonance we can gain a better perspective and overall a

better conceptual framework to help understand the world. When we understand how the world

functions the ability to create change is enhanced. Through this course I have realized social

justice and the goal of a socially just world is the bigger picture we are striving towards in

relation to utilizing power, authority and leadership. When all three work together (and good

intentions are the driving force) social justice is possible. The picture I used to illustrate this

concept is the Sphere Within a Sphere statue located at the Vatican Museum by Arnaldo

Pomodoro. This statue to me represents the idea of power, authority, and leadership working

together to create a socially just and equitable world. The statute appears to be functioning off of

the gears within the sphere. The gears in this instance are the functions of power, authority, and

leadership. When the gears work together the function-the idea of social justice- is generated.

The way in which we can ensure the gears continue to move to generate this function is working

with one another- despite our differences- to learn and grow a better understanding of the needs

of the world.

Leadership, power, and social justice are three essential concepts to have knowledge of in

the profession of student affairs and higher education. This course has heightened my sense of

self efficacy in terms of the meaning of these concepts and how I can enact them in my daily

practice as a professional and personal life. This will allow me to utilize my own leadership in

the office even when the title does not reflect the idea of formal authority. Without holding

formal authority I can give myself the informal authority to impact change within my working

environment. With this I would like to exemplify how students can utilize their own power,

authority and leadership; even when they do not believe themselves to be a leader. Students have

the ability to create change on campus and can help generate a more socially just climate (on

campus and beyond) if they are made aware of their agency to do so- this is my goal moving

forward as a professional and individual.

Works Cited

Heifetz, R. (2010). Leadership and values. In R.A. Couto (Ed.), Political and civic leadership: a
reference handbook (pp. 24-27). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Vecchio, R. P. (2007). Leadership: Understanding the dynamics of power and influence in


organizations. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.