The Relevance of Social Change


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?

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35 Responses to The Relevance of Social Change

  1. Kristen Fisher says:

    I think that the Social Change Model helps us by finding our style of leadership. It shows us how other people define leadership, which makes us see how it pertains to us. For example, when I read the 7 C’s, I thought of how some of those “values” I am good at/already do. The model also made me realize the ones I need to improve. i think that the Social Change Model isn’t what you should strictly follow through, but it can provide guidance and show an example for us. The Social Change Model can help me form my own leadership style.

  2. Jacob Melton says:

    Seeing as service and social change are components of what we do here in the RLC usage of the Social Change model makes a lot of sense. And I agree with what was said about how it may not be for everyone. I know I personally don’t find the SCM a 100% fit for how I lead and how I plan to find my leadership method. I hope in the weeks and classes to come that I discover exactly what works for me.

    • Jake Brown says:

      I agree that the SCM isn’t something I can 100% stand behind but I understand it and can see how it can be helpful. The best way of discovery is to learn about topics and then decide if they fit into your views or not. For me this is a not but maybe the next idea that I pick up on will be.

  3. Suzanne Berry says:

    I think the metaphor presented is very interesting. I’ve always heard of “trying to find a needle in the haystack”, but I’ve never thought about it in this way. I think the class is basically the part that is telling us “which haystack to look in”, but each of us individually must find our own needle, aka, our own leadership theory.

  4. Esther Jeong says:

    What I really appreciate about LDRS1015 is that the curriculum breaks apart the stereotypes about what “leaders” are. I think this gives an opportunity to those who thought couldn’t be leaders a more healthy outlook in that leadership is skill that they can develop and also realize what their strengths are. Furthermore, it gives an opportunity to those who have always been the outspoken leaders to evaluate the way they lead and improve on that. Though the SCM may not be for everyone, I believe that everyone can learn something from it and it’s more about learning from the concepts than following the model like a strict regimen.

  5. Sam Fleck says:

    I agree with Esther completely, I think that everyone can learn something from the SCM. The SCM is more about the community and focuses on all the participants and that is something that I think everyone should take away from this. Already in this class I feel as though I have learned so much about leadership already and what it is really all about. I never thought about the followers in leadership, I always just thought of the leader. I think the SCM really brings out the leadership community as a whole and I think it parallels great with the RLC and OUR community. I didn’t understand the SCM but now it really has started to make sense to me. What I really appreciate about the SCM is that there are individual aspects about it such as Consciousness of Self and Commitment, but there are also group aspects such as Common Purpose and Collaboration. I think that the SCM is something that every leader should keep in there back pocket. It is important to include all the participants and grow as a whole and I think that is what the RLC is all about. Different leaders with different styles all living together to learn and grow together.

  6. Cat Hauser says:

    I always thought leadership was one specific thing that everyone has: some may have less of an ability to lead but there is only way to lead. I like this class because it has taught me that pretty much anyone can be a leader because there are many different styles of leadership. I am narrowing my haystacks down and I hope by the end of the semester I will only be left with a few so that I can figure out my style of leadership. In our case, as college students, I think the Social Change Model is the best way to teach us.

    • Courtney H says:

      I agree with Cat because I also used to view leadership as very set in stone; there was only one way for someone to be a leader in my opinion. But through this class and the Social Change Model discussions, I have come to realize that anyone can lead. Recently we discussed citizen style leaders and service style leaders in class, and the difference between task-oriented and relationship-oriented leaders. Those discussions really opened my eyes and broadened my views on just how many different people can be called to lead in any given scenario.

  7. Sean Mowery says:

    I think the Social Change Model appeals to me in a positive way because of the way it is structured. The model looks at leadership from three different views and I think this type of structuring helps me understand how I can improve my leadership qualities, the community, and relationships with other people. I don’t believe there is one single leadership theory I am going to live by. I believe more in gathering up every single piece of philosophy, picking up the parts I like, and putting them all together, so in essence, picking up needles from different haysticks and putting them together.

  8. Will Coffey says:

    Personally I like the social change model. The seven C’s seem to fit my own perspective of leadership pretty closely. It also allows us to recognize what aspects we strive in and which parts that we may need to keep improving on. There are so many different leadership styles, and it helps us realize that anyone can be a leader, and no leader is going to be the exact same. Using the social change model as a basis for this class is great in my opinion, and I do feel that most of us will be able to locate our own “haystack” by the end of the course.

  9. Anna Lehman says:

    I enjoy studying the social change model with leadership, because I have never studied or talked about the two paired together before. I think that the social change model holds great value to leadership. The seven C’s can be adapted or used with any major, job, or situation, and when you combine them with leadership you create knowledge that can be used all throughout our lives. This is why I enjoy and want to study leadership and social change. One great part about the social change model is that you can mold it to your own leadership style. Like many of you have already said, it is kind of like a set of guidelines.

  10. Riley St. Pierre says:

    I think the social change model is unique because it is definite yet it leaves so many areas of discussion and theory. Just like the example of the needle and the haystick, the Social Change model simplifies things down just not all the way; there’s still some searching and discovering to do. I think many areas of the 7 C’s and Social Change model fit my leadership style and I think several of the C’s are very important to leadership such as Congruency, Commitment, and Controversy with Civility. Even though I connect with those, in a sense they are still quite broad and can be disected down into more interesting thoughts and ideas. I like the Social Change Model because it kind of sets a belief for the RLC and their view on leadership. A view that is strong, but still open for theory.

    • Courtney says:

      I would have to say that congruency is the most important C of the social change model to me. That is what I have previously based my philosophy and style on. I have made a great effort to live my life with congruency as well as lead. The social change model has provided me with other things to connect to this strong part of leadership in my life and is quite interesting to think of in that way!

  11. Emily Hucks says:

    I think that the social change model is a good things that is used in the RLC because it can help people discover how they want to lead and what would work best with that certain leader. It makes people think about things that they normally wouldn’t. I know for me, since the model is a value-based process, it made me think about what my values actually were. It makes people think about the three different groups of values, group values, individual values, and society/community values. For me it embodies how I actually look at a leader, it is a process not a position. It was basically my definition of leadership.

  12. James Comstock says:

    I think that the social change model is very unique, and the ways the RLC uses this model are also unique. Of course as stated in the article, there are other ways to analyze leadership, but everyone has their own way of doing so. Thus, the RLC uses this model. I believe that there could be other models that are better, but to look at the model and actually analyze what it is that you think a leader is, this model works very well. I personally can evaluate myself as an effective leader or an ineffective leader with just a little bit of effort to complete the model, and I think that this is another reason the RLC likes it so much.

  13. Dixon Holland says:

    I do believe that the social change model accurately depicts the traits that we, the members of the RLC at VT, strive to achieve. They are perfect for how we ought to live our lives as the upcoming leaders of our world. We want to live our individual lives with consciousness of self, congruence, and commitment, and trying to use these to benefit the group. Once in the group, we all use our leadership skills of collaboration, common purpose, and controversy with civility in order to help out the entire community. And once we are at the top of the social change model, we exemplify our citizenship in order to make the entire community a better one. We, as the members of the RLC, strive to live by the social change model everyday.

  14. Daniel says:

    I think that whether we realize it or not, the way we act is loosely based upon the social change model. I don’t necessarily agree with every C on the list, but I believe that everyone can fit under at least one of the Cs. We can use the social change model as a basis or diving point to jump into our leadership style. It’ll help us understand different aspects of life we previously weren’t aware of and explore those regions.

  15. Shane Tolley says:

    I think that the Social Change Model does a good job of capturing the general actions of leadership. If you were going to break it down into a small group of words, then the social change model would be it. If you want something that appeals more to the individual, then you’re just going to have to add whatever works for you to the model. Overall, I think it is effective in representing core leadership values.

  16. Thomas Nave says:

    The Social Change Model is definitely something that everyone can into account to improve their lives. I believe that all the aspects that are included incorporate a wide range of behaviors that can help us all become better leaders and more improved citizens.

  17. Courtney says:

    I really enjoy studying the Social Change Model, it has given me a chance to focus in on my personal leadership as well as my group and community which is something I’ve never really done. Although through different exercises and group experiences I had become self aware the Social Change Model has given me a new way to look at things and make connections between what I already know and new things I learn each day. I think the Social Change Model provides the students in the RLC such a broad base to discover and formulate their own thoughts about leadership like you said and that is something many of us have yet be able to encounter.

  18. Grace Ellis says:

    I am glad the RLC chooses to focus on the Social Change Model. I like to define the goal of leadership as positive change, and that idea is embodied by the SCM. You can always adjust certain aspects of the model to fit your unique talents or philosophies, but I think it is an excellent theory for anyone who wants to improve their leadership skills.

  19. To me the Social Change Model is one of many ways to approach leadership. In all honesty the RLC could have chosen any approach to leadership that their heart desired, but the SCM was the one that they chose in the end, so that is why students in the RLC learn leadership through this perspective. To me the SCM is a good tool for discovering your own personal leadership style, it lays out the content in a very digestible format and allows everyone who partakes in the program to choose for themselves how they want to approach leadership. It in now way shape or form forces ideals upon the student it just makes them aware of people, ideas, and values that some leaders endorse on a daily basis and how that particular style has helped them become more effective leaders. There is no one perfect way to become and established leader, but using a tool such as the SCM is helpful in discovering one’s likes and dislikes regarding leadership!

  20. Jasmine Porter says:

    I believe that the social change model is influential for every leader. It helps everyone to find their own particular style of leadership. The social change model and the 7’s C made me evaluate myself and my leadership skills. It has showed me my strengths and weaknesses in every situation. It has made me want to improve my weaknesses to become a more effective leader.

  21. Lindsay DeMers says:

    I think the social change model is a good idea, but I wonder how attainable it is. I wonder what the odds are that each of the seven C’s can be achieved so that change occurs, because to be well rehearsed in the seven characteristics is a large feat. Therefore, I think not only is change the ultimate goal but so is developing the seven C’s as well; however, the C’s will be acquired at different times, and this makes me wonder how the social change model will be affected. If it is out of sync, how likely is it that change will be accomplished, or will it only occur once every C has come into play?

  22. Catherine (Cate) Beach says:

    I like to look at the social change model as a template or a map for finding which area is best suited for you as a leader. It definitely focuses on key aspects that help to give us the basics of what a leader’s traits should be. The needle in a haystack metaphor is an interesting way of putting it but it makes sense. This course is giving us the tools needed to find our needle in the specific haystack that is personalized to each and everyone of us. Every individual learns in a different way, and this class gives us the opportunity to find which way works best for us in learning and enforcing leadership. Whether it be through service projects, papers, or group discussions, there is something for all of us to show our leadership skills and learn something too. The class gives us the chance to develop our skills through the different maps provided and it is our job to be curious enough to find which path we should take, and in the end, find where we are and which haystack we will find our needle.

  23. Abigail Bartolome says:

    The social change model is a great way of presenting what leadership entails. Everyone can be a leader, but everyone leads in different ways. Some leaders are very charismatic and can encourage everyone to act toward a goal, while some lead people quietly and through example. One leadership style is not better than another; in fact, both are beneficial at various times. The good thing about LDRS1015 is that we can understand where we fit in, and when and how to act on being a leader.

  24. John jones says:

    I agree with social change model in some sense, and find it very applicable throughout my leadership education. However, I think leadership is a very deep concept that roots down to genuine human nature and that the SCM cannot completely encompass this. However I believe it would be extremely difficult to ever find a model that could completely encompass it, so the SCM serves as a general guide and it is indeed useful.

  25. Kyle Rushton says:

    The Social Change Model and the 7 C’s have been vey helpful in recognizing the main components of leadership. I think it effectively shows each of the levels including individual values, group values, and community values. I agree with the overall conclusion that these values lead to change. I do, however, think that the SCM is just a basis to leadership. Though it illustrates the main components, it does not identify our personal understanding of leadership. I liked the metaphor of a needle in the haystack because it shows that we need to familiarize ourselves with several different methods and theories of leadership before we can identify with our own. I have enjoyed learning about the different theories, as well as the SCM, because it has led me to find my own definition of leadership.

  26. Maggie D says:

    I feel that the social change model can teach us a lot about our personal leadership style. It allows us to figure out and realize what our strengths are and how to effectively enforce them in our lives. I used to have a set view of what a strong leader entailed, but LDRS 1015 has opened my eyes to the multitude of different personalities/traits that make up inspiring leaders.

  27. David Bohn says:

    I feel as though the Social Change Model is a good fit for the RLC and I have agreed and found the curriculum very appropriate. Leaders need to know what they stand for and Consciousness of Self along with other C’s of social change enforce this concept, making it a relevant pillar to the leadership curriculum.

  28. Kristina Gallagher says:

    Learning about the Social Change Model at the beginning of the semester, perfectly set the tone for the LDRS 1015 class. It did this by giving students a foundation for what leadership should look like.

  29. Ryan Jenvey says:

    I think that the social change model is very unique in the ways that we in the RLC use it. It is very good for trying to define what a leader is and what a leader does. I personally can evaluate myself as an effective leader or an ineffective leader with the use of this model, and I think that is why we use it as our basis of what a leader is.

  30. Crista Watson says:

    I really like the social change model because even though there isn’t a single concrete definition of leadership it is good to at least try to attempt to put one together. The structure is a great basis for leadership noobs and a good fallback for leaders with no direction.

  31. Victoria Gray says:

    I appreciate the Social Change Model because it embodies individual, group, and community values. It focuses on the fact that leadership is not just about us, but about making a change and difference in our society. I had never heard of leadership being about societal change until coming to Virginia Tech, and I love that outlook on leadership. I also agree with the element of the Social Change Model that is each leader should become their own person and find their own “needle.”

  32. Kyla Mauro says:

    The social change model was helpful through out the semester. By learning it early and before we got to more deep concepts help because I could always look back to it and it would help me understand.

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