Book Reviews

Book by Susan R. Komives, John P. Dugan, Julie E. Owen, Craig Slack, Wendy Wagner, and Assoc
Review by Michelle M. White
Director of Academic Advisement
Department of Academic & Student Development
Millersville University

For the last twenty years, campus leadership programs have multiplied across institutional types, standards of practice have been developed, and professional associations and colleges have asserted that leadership is a desirable outcome for students. Leadership educators continue to seek relevant materials to design and implement effective campus leadership programs. In 2006, the National Clearing House for Leadership Programs addressed the need for program design materials with the first edition of the Handbook. The second edition of the Handbook was developed to enhance a practical and applied approach to the development of leadership programs that are theoretically grounded and evidence based. This new edition incorporates the latest scholarship, theory and research to guide intentional practice in developing college student leadership.

The philosophy of the editors and authors of this Handbook is that leadership can and should be learned; that the learning and development of leadership capacities are inextricably intertwined; and that leadership educators can purposefully foster learning environments that help students integrate knowledge, skills, and experiences in meaningful ways. However, the text does not explore the evolution of the academic study of leadership as a discipline. Some of the notable additions of this second edition of the Handbook include the importance of coupling student engagement and leadership, blurring the distinctions among various types of leadership educators, exploring diversity to enhance leadership insight, assessing progress and outcomes in leadership learning, and seeing the power of the institutional environment as a source of learning about leadership. The contributors of the book argue for the critical importance of using theory and research to inform the design and delivery of leadership development programs. They acknowledge that the evolution of leadership theory reflects a complex movement from leader-centric, management-oriented, and individual achievement-focused approaches to those characterized by social responsibility, developmental concern, and process orientations. In addition, those effective programs rely on leadership theories to undergird design and content considerations, while findings from the growing body of leadership research offer insights into delivery.

The authors of the Handbook emphatically stress that leadership can be learned. Further, leadership education programs provide opportunities for potential leaders to gain confidence, competence, and inspiration. Details concerning making the passion for leadership education a reality include adopting a change process; taking institution type, culture, leadership practices, and demographics into consideration; and removing barriers that inhibit program advancement. The authors assert that if leadership educators wish to adopt the values of contemporary leadership theories, then educational interventions must serve the diverse populations in our campus communities in addition to representing the diverse voices and groups that may not be present. A university’s comprehensive leadership development program must address leadership for specific populations and give important consideration to issues of cultural competence, intercultural communication, and diversity awareness. It is critical that leadership programs address contemporary issues to remain relevant, educationally purposeful, and keep in touch with campus changes. Also changing student needs, new advances in leadership research, models, theories, and new opportunities on campus and in the larger community need to be addressed.

In conclusion, the collaborating editors and authors capture a vast array of information that can be read as background when designing or revising student leadership programs. They suggest to leadership educators a compelling need to model the purposefulness, authenticity, and empowerment values that undergird and characterize leadership theory in the design and delivery of programs. Additionally, this is best accomplished by attending to the literature and using it as a means to reflect on, reconsider, and evolve ongoing practice. Adopting a stance of inquiry, flexibility, creativity, and innovation not only improves programs, but also models leadership. After studying this book, individual leadership educators and campus teams can build an agenda to advance the leadership education options at their institutions, support the evolution of leadership education nationally and globally, and enrich their own capacities as leadership educators. I recommend this book to our colleagues in student affairs who will find the text useful whether they are beginning a new program, redesigning a targeted program or enhancing a program for new leadership educators as well as seasoned ones and advisers who have connections with peer mentor and orientation leader programs and campus organizations.


The Handbook for Student Leadership Development (2nd Edition). (2011). Book by Susan R. Komives, John P. Dugan, Julie E. Owen, Craig Slack, Wendy Wagner, and Assoc. Review by Michelle White. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 416 pp. $55.00, (paperback), ISBN # 978-0-470-53107-5

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