Recently, in one of our classes, a student remarked: “I understand the good things that the Social Change Model brings, but what truly sets it apart and makes it better than the other leadership theories/strategies? Basically, why is it so involved in the RLC compared to the other models?”
The student asks a good question. Ultimately the answer is very simple, however the implications of the “simple” answer lead to complex understandings of leadership that go far beyond the limited scope of any theory.
Before I give you the simple answer, indulge me for a moment as I suggest a metaphor to better help you understand the purpose of theory…
This class is all about discovering your own understanding of leadership – which is akin to attempting to find a single needle in a single haystack in a field full of thousands of haystacks. A theory doesn’t tell you where the needle is; it just shows you the haystack in which to look.
So why privilege the Social Change Model? Because we want to!
Specifically, the values of the RLC and the “Leadership and Social Change Minor” (to which the RLC is linked) suggest to us that leadership for social change is what is most valuable to our society. Many of the other theories operate within, or can be made to coexist with elements of, social change. Within the RLC it is a programmatic assumption that leaders have a responsibility to make the world a better place and the Social Change Model readily connects to that belief. However, we also teach a number of other models to help student recognize the possibilities and limitations thereof when constructing their own philosophy of leadership.
Maybe your own personal leadership “needle” isn’t in the social change “haystack.” That’s OK, there are other leadership programs at VT that can help you develop leadership skills in other areas. You still get a pretty cool leadership experience in the RLC that engages many other thoughts on leadership so you can find your own way. Ultimately, social change is something I think that everyone can engage to some extent; thus allowing the RLC to be meaningful to a number of students from a number of different majors.
So that’s about it. We focus on the Social Change Model so heavily because we think the model embodies the values we seek to share in our community. What do you think?