Leadership Theories

In the LEAD Office, we use a variety of theories to support the work that we do.  Check out some of the leadership theories that help to guide our work.

Social Change Model of Leadership

Definitions of Social Change Model Core Values



Consciousness of Self

Awareness of beliefs, values, attitudes, and emotions that motivate one to take action.


Thinking, feeling, and behaving with consistency, genuineness, authenticity, and honesty towards others; actions are consistent with most deeply-held beliefs and convictions


The psychic energy that motivates the individual to serve and that drives the collective effort; implies passion, intensity, and duration, and is directed towards both the group activity as well as its intended outcomes.


To work with others in a common effort; constitutes the cornerstone value of the group leadership effort because it empowers self and others through trust.

Common Purpose

To work with shared aims and values; facilitates the group’s ability to engage in collective analysis of issues at hand and the task to be undertaken.

Controversy with Civility

Recognizes two fundamental realities of any creative group effort: that differences in viewpoint are inevitable and that such differences must be aired openly, but with civility. Civility implies respect for others, a willingness to hear each others’ views, and the exercise of restraint in criticizing the views and actions of others.


The process whereby an individual and the collaborative group become responsibly connected to the community and the society through the leadership development activity. To be good citizen is to work for positive change on the behalf of others and the community


The ability to adapt to environments and situations that are constantly evolving, while maintaining the core functions of the group.

Source: Higher Education Research Institute (1996). A social change model of leadership development: Guidebook version III. College Park, MD: National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs.


MasonLeads Core Leadership Values

Values are the guiding principles in our lives.  Leadership occurs within the context of core values.  Leaders guide and facilitate others to make a positive difference in their own lives and to contribute to a larger good.  Values inform the application of leadership qualities as the competencies of leadership are activated – learned, developed, and practiced – within the set of core values.  By focusing on what people believe and value, and then positively building on this understanding, we have the potential for impact far more wide reaching than if we approached leadership development as a problem-solving activity.

  • Respect as demonstrated by self respect and respecting others regardless of differences; treating others with dignity, empathy and compassion; and the ability to earn the respect of others.
  • Making a Difference as demonstrated by personal efforts that lead to making a positive impact on individuals, systems, and/or organizations or positively affecting outcomes.
  • Integrity as demonstrated by moral courage, ethical strength, and trustworthiness; keeping promises and fulfilling expectations.
  • Authenticity as demonstrated by consistency, congruency, and transparency in values, beliefs, and actions; integrating values and principles to create a purposeful life and to contribute to the growth of others.
  • Courage as demonstrated by possessing a strength of self to act with intention on behalf of the common good; taking a stand in the face of adversity; acting boldly in the service of inclusion and justice.
  • Service as demonstrated by commitment that extends beyond one’s own self interest; personal humility for the sake of a greater cause.
  • Humility as demonstrated by a sense of humbleness, dignity and an awareness of one’s own limitations; open to perspectives different from one’s own.
  • Wisdom as demonstrated by a broad understanding of human dynamics and an ability to balance the interests of multiple stakeholders when making decisions; can take a long term perspective in decision-making.


MasonLeads Core Leadership Competencies

Leadership involves setting a vision, generating the energy to grow and sustain the vision, mobilizing collective action around this vision, collaborating with others, and valuing the diverse expressions of leadership.  To effectively achieve this, there are a number of competencies that are required.  These competencies and activities must be practiced, reflected on, and refined.  Leadership requires self-awareness and self-reflection as we critically assess our capacity in the various competency areas and set goals for continuous leadership development.  Self-reflection helps us uncover the beliefs that inform our action and assess whether and how to modify our action to serve our own and others’ interests.

  • Establishing and Sustaining Relationships as demonstrated by the ability to interact with others to develop trusting relationships and sustain collaborative partnerships
  • Developing the Self as demonstrated by having a sense of self awareness; an understanding of one’s strengths and challenges; an ability to self-regulate, monitor one’s actions, and set goals for continuous learning
  • Communicating as demonstrated by the ability to create and share meaning through effective oral and written communication, engage in active and empathic listening, and understand and communicate to diverse audiences
  • Developing Others as demonstrated through mentoring and authentic communication in partnerships with others to help them identify and achieve their goals; cultivating an environment that fosters individual and team learning
  • Making Informed Decisions and Solving Problems as demonstrated by having or seeking out appropriate knowledge and expertise in order to formulate the strongest solutions to emerging problems and/or situations, acting ethically throughout the decision-making process, and having the courage to take responsibility for the outcome
  • Negotiating and Managing Conflict as demonstrated by the willingness to listen to all perspectives, mediate across difference, appropriately express concern, and identify productive solutions for moving forward
  • Acting with an Awareness of Social and Cultural Dynamics as demonstrated by embracing a value for learning about social and cultural difference; listening to the stories of others without judgment; acting with generosity while confronting misinformation; and actively creating a just community
  • Adapting to Change and Thinking Creatively as demonstrated by flexibility in thought and action; engaging in reflective practice to inform change and practice; seeking out innovative ideas and solutions; and providing stability and meaning for collaborators in the midst of change
  • Using Systems Thinking as demonstrated through a recognition that the work of one affects the work of all; developing an understanding of the interconnections within and between organizations or communities and their environments
  • Practicing Well-Being as demonstrated by the ability to develop insights and habits of regularly assessing one’s own quality of life and facilitating the well-being in others; creating and sustaining positive relationships and finding equanimity and resiliency in the face of adversity; and demonstrating pro-social behaviors and emotions (compassion, gratitude, joy, cooperation)


Moral Philosophy

Moral Philosophy is concerned with ideas about how we should live and lead, as well as ethical theory. Find out more at our Take5 website.


Ethical Leadership

For more about ethical leadership see our “Ethics and Leadership” page.