Leadership in Children's Literature: Qualitative Analysis from a Study Based on the Kouzes and Posner Leadership Framework

By Boulais, Nicole A. | Journal of Leadership Studies, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Leadership in Children's Literature: Qualitative Analysis from a Study Based on the Kouzes and Posner Leadership Framework


Boulais, Nicole A., Journal of Leadership Studies


Executive Summary

This article presents the qualitative results of a study based on the Kouzes and Posner Leadership Framework. Selected works were subjected to a content analysis procedure that yielded frequency data in six categories, Challenging the Process, Inspiring a Shared Vision, Enabling Others to Act, Modeling the Way, Encouraging the Heart, and None. The works most frequently selected in each category were further examined. A summary of this additional analysis is presented in this article that is based on the dissertation, "A Content Analysis of Children's Literature Using Kouzes and Posner's Leadership Themes in Caldecott Medal Winners and Selected Honor Books".

Introduction

Leadership is both an ancient and universal concept. Examples, stories, and models of leadership are found in the earliest writings of scripture as well as in Greek, Latin, and Icelandic classics (Bass, 1990). In today's changing world, understanding leadership and the role of the leader is becoming increasingly important (Conger, 1995). Bredeson (1987), addressing this need for a greater understanding of leadership concepts, suggested that metaphors could be used in leadership training, emphasizing that they can be used to teach leadership from multiple perspectives as well as through a variety of lenses. West-Burnham (1997) further suggested that in addition to current symbols and metaphors of leadership, new vocabulary, definitions and metaphors are needed to understand these concepts in the future. The language of leadership, according to West-Burnham, should be founded in conceptual ideas such as connection, artistry, creativity, vision, communication, morality, emotional intelligence and spirituality.

The idea of using literary forms such as metaphor to study leadership is not new. Throughout history, written works such as essays, parables and epics have been utilized as tools to further the understanding of effective leadership principles, according to Ayman (1993). Similarly, Gehrs (1994) suggested that some works of classic literature could also be used as a vehicle for exploring leadership, noting that the reader can identify with the characters and setting, therefore gaining a unique perspective on the paradoxes and complexities that are present in a quality work of literature. Gehrs concluded that using literature "to teach leadership can be a chance to step into a fascinating and compelling leadership context without ever having to leave the classroom" (p. 157).

Furthermore, in recent years, researchers have proposed the use of other tools as vehicles for understanding leadership. Feinberg (1996) suggested the teaching of leadership through film because of the increase in cognitive and emotional attachment of the viewer to the portrayed leadership style. Herskovitz and Klein (1999) proposed the utilization of stories of the Bible, such as the story of Moses, as another tool for teaching leadership. English (1994) stated that biographies and other life stories could also be used to teach leadership because of three essential elements. First, these works focus on context therefore helping the reader define the true meaning of leadership. Secondly, biographies draw on the realness of the characters in order to maintain the complexity and emotion involved in leadership. Thirdly, the same complexities can be utilized as a tool for the discussion and teaching of moral leadership.

Given the current emphasis on the development of leaders of all ages, Conger (1998) stressed the importance of continuously developing new methods for the effective teaching and training of leadership. One potential innovative tool for the teaching of leadership involves the telling of stories through the medium of children's literature. This medium has been successfully used to teach complex concepts such as values (Braboy, 1998), character development (Phelps, 1995), and moral reasoning (Dana & Lynch-Brown, 1991; Reicken & Miller, 1990). …

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