Book Reviews

Book by Susan R. Komives, Nance Lucas, and Timothy R. McMahon
Review by Paige K. Wilmeth
First-Year Experience Coordinator
Kapi`olani Community College
Honolulu, Hawaii

Advisors seeking a comprehensive manual on leadership would do well to add this tome to their libraries. The breadth and depth of this text are commendable. The book begins with an overview of the notion of leadership, including the challenges of defining the term in light of the social and historical associations we likely lend to that definition, and ends with a focus on the individual leader's need for personal renewal throughout the leadership process. Topics also include enhancement of self-awareness and understanding of others, creating and sustaining productive group or team dynamics, and effecting meaningful change.  Most impressive is the array of theories and models presented in the book.  Even those who specialize in leadership will benefit from this text. The authors infuse the text with quotes from student leaders, which is a refreshing break from the typical and clichéd approach of quotes from famous leaders. Reflection questions prompt application, and may be useful in aiding student understanding of leadership endeavors.

Advisors who work with student leadership groups, e.g., student government or clubs, will find sections of the book useful to guide students' mental processing of their experiences. Separated from practical experience, however, students may find the text alternately too abstract or too elementary; this is especially true when topics move from concept to application.  Frequently, examples feel divorced from the college experience and lack relevance. The book is extremely well-organized, however, so selecting specific components for use is not difficult. Additionally, the authors specify that the text is not designed to provide a simple "how-to" approach to leadership; instead they seek to prompt individual development of a leadership philosophy (p. 383).

Those seeking more information or strategies on practical application may want to try McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (McKeachie 2002) or Students Helping Students: A Guide for Peer Educators on College Campuses (Ender & Newton 2000).  Both provide straightforward, basic strategies for working with groups; these strategies maximize individual learning and teach how to use resources appropriately as well as help readers develop ethical considerations of leadership.  The accessibility of these materials may be more appealing to student readers who can identify immediate relevancy and application.

This book is a must for those working with student groups even if the book is never actually assigned to the students.  The information and insight provided serve as tools that support the positive and productive development of student leadership and group cohesion. Those interested in helping students develop their own sense of leadership (and moving away from misconceptions about leadership) may also want to add this to their reading list. Finally, the twenty-one page reference list is an excellent resource for anyone beginning their own leadership exploration.


Ender, S.C. & Newton, F.B. (2000). Students helping students: a guide for peer educators on college campuses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McKeachie, W.J. (2002). McKeachie’s teaching tips: strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Exploring leadership for college students who want to make a difference (2nd edition) (2006) Book by Susan R. Komives, Nance Lucas, and Timothy R. McMahon. Review by Paige K. Wilmeth.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 512 pp. $30.00. ISBN # 0-7879-8213-X
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