An Exploration of Counselors' Professional Leadership Development

Article excerpt

Advocacy and leadership within professional counseling are often cited as critical to the survival and continued success of the profession and, in turn, to the quality of services provided to the public counselors serve (Chang, Barrio Minton, Dixon, Myers, & Sweeney, 2012; Cox, 2003; Gibson, Dollarhide, & McCallum, 2010; House & Sears, 2002; Myers, Sweeney, & White, 2002; Paradise, Ceballos, & Hall, 2010; West, Bubenzer, Osborn, Paez, & Desmond, 2006). The most recent standards of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP, 2009) include expanded attention to the development of leadership knowledge, skills, and practices of master's-level school counselors; doctoral program standards identify preparation of leaders as one of just four primary obligations of counselor education programs. The development of emerging leaders and leadership fellows programs by leading professional associations such as the American Counseling Association (ACA), Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) and its regions, and Chi Sigma Iota (CSI) International serve as evidence that leaders in the counseling profession see the need to promote leadership development in students and new professionals.

Scholars have engaged in dialogue and research to better understand the range of characteristics, skills, and practices that are essential for effective leadership. CSI Academy of Leaders (1999) published a consensus document regarding 10 leadership qualities and practices that are reflective of leadership excellence. Luke and Goodrich (2010) investigated the impact of student involvement in CSI on future leadership contributions. They found that practical and authentic experiences, internal (thoughts and feelings) and external (behaviors) personal resources, and CSI involvement at the chapter and international levels contributed to future leadership endeavors. Bridging gaps that may be within the individual, department, or chapter, or within the larger counseling community (e.g., ACA) was also found to be a motivator for future leadership participation (Luke & Goodrich, 2010). In a phenomenological study of 10 female leaders in the counseling profession, Black and Magnuson (2005) identified personal (e.g., authenticity, passion), interpersonal (e.g., compassion, empowerment), and professional (e.g., visionary, intentional) domains as characteristic of successful leaders. Other researchers found that respected counseling leaders used their essential counseling skills, professional identity, confidence, and stamina to successfully manage leadership positions (Black & Magnuson, 2005; Cox, 2003; Magnuson, Wilcoxon, & Norem, 2003; Paradise et al., 2010).

Experts described successful leadership as the ability to create communal environments, have a clear vision or goal, build consensus among diverse group members, advocate, take risks, and seek and use information (Cox, 2003; House & Sears, 2002; West et al., 2006). Niles, Akos, and Cutler (2001) facilitated structured interviews with counselor educators and reported that maintaining nurturing relationships, mentors, and service on committees were essential components for success as counselor educators. Indeed, Dollarhide, Gibson, and Saginak (2008) conducted a yearlong qualitative study of new school counselors' leadership efforts and noted that successful leaders had a clear sense of responsibility, set clear and focused goals, and worked to self-define positions even in the face of resistance and uncertainty. Although these qualities are associated with effective leadership, relatively few published articles and texts are available regarding how these leaders developed or how one best fosters these characteristics among new professional counselors.

Recognizing the lack of formal leadership training in counselor preparation programs, Paradise et al. (2010) suggested integrating attention to leadership within core courses, workshops, in-service trainings, and organizational and professional association meetings. …