Book by: Julie E. Owen (ed.)
Review by: Joshua L. Brittingham
College of Education & Human Services Advising Center
Northern Kentucky University
In New Directions for Student Leadership: Innovative Learning for Leadership Development, the assembled chapters provide a brief but thorough overview how leadership development takes place, how it can be understood, and how it can be facilitated. Owen writes that, “Leadership can and should be learned…and that leadership educators can purposefully foster learning environments that help students integrate knowledge, skills, and experiences in meaningful ways” (p. 5).
In the book’s early chapters, leadership development is examined from cognitive, social, and emotional standpoints. While the focus is specifically on leadership development, many advising practitioners will find these concepts to be analogous to the more general student development theories that may serve as the theoretical foundation for their existing advising approaches. Even for those who are well versed in theories though, these chapters are worthwhile for understanding both the similarities and differences between leadership development and overall student development.
According to Wagner and Mathison, “Leadership is not a practice that can be learned in the abstract, but through concrete experiences connected to meaning making” (p. 85). With that in mind, their chapter and others in the later portions of the book focus on providing examples of ways to connect leadership development theory to practice. Some of those examples include service-learning, creating opportunities for mentoring relationships, and promoting involvement in leadership opportunities in off-campus settings, and the authors do well to clearly explain why these practices and others mentioned are highly impactful.
One specific portion of the book that many advisors may find to be especially relevant and interesting deals with humanistic approaches to leadership development. In their chapter, Haber-Curran, Allen and Shankman say, “Relationships are central to any leadership process, and the development of intrapersonal and interpersonal competence facilitates healthy, reciprocal relationships that can ultimately lead to successful leadership” (p.59). Those same competencies—knowing one’s self and understanding others—can be just as important to advising just as they are to successful leadership. When viewed from that perspective, it seems natural for the reader to think of ways in which advising relationships can help to facilitate leadership development among students—either by serving as a model that students can emulate or by facilitating discussions that provoke students to reflect on those competencies.
For new professionals this book serves as a terrific entry point to understanding leadership development theory. For seasoned professionals it is helpful for understanding how leadership development theory is related to other theoretical foundations of advising. No matter what the experience level, this book can have an impact on advising in a variety of ways. It can serve as a platform for developing new programming that provides opportunities for students. It can serve as a guide for being more intentional and effective at developing leadership among students through existing programs. Advisors are often in a unique position when meeting with students to encourage them to pursue new opportunities or help them reflect on their experiences. This book can help advisors recognize the opportunities that arise in those discussion for facilitating leadership development among students. This book is highly recommended and would be useful addition to any advisor or administrator’s reading list or resource collection.
New directions for student leadership: Innovative learning for leadership development. (2015). Book by Julie E. Owen (ed.). Review by Joshua L. Brittingham. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 111pp., $29.00, (Paperback), ISBN 978-1-119-06729-0.