5 Moves That Prove Leaders Are Made, Not Born

Caroline S. Chang is a higher education consultant at TSI – Transforming Solutions, Inc., and former associate vice president for advancement services at Santa Clara University. This year, she’s co-chair of CASE’s Summer Institute in Advancement Services.

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership recently. Truth be told, I’ve been intellectually curious about this topic for a long time. When I was getting my master’s degree in business administration, my favorite classes were about leadership, taught by Barry Posner at Santa Clara University.

Posner and his colleague Jim Kouzes developed The Leadership Challenge, based on the concept that leadership isn’t about personality or what you know but how you behave. Posner and Kouzes collected thousands of stories about when people perform at their best professionally. These stories had five core practices in common, regardless of the employee’s age, gender or culture. The five core practices are:

  • Model the way.
  • Inspire a shared vision.
  • Challenge the process.
  • Enable others to act.
  • Encourage the heart.

These five practices resonated with me way back then and they still do today.

Think about it: Here are five actions which can greatly increase one’s effectiveness as a leader. A more effective leader boosts the effectiveness, level of commitment, engagement and satisfaction of those who follow. This in turn leads to less turnover, higher job satisfaction and the ability to get extraordinary things done.

Doesn’t that resonate with us in the advancement field? Many of our organizations struggle with staff turnover (especially field staff). Part of the reason may be factors such as salary, but what about leadership? Does your vice president envision and communicate an exciting future? Can you picture yourself in that future? Does your VP seek innovative ways to grow, improve and change? Does he or she take risks and foster a culture of innovation for the sake of improvement and change? Is collaboration merely a buzzword or do your VP and senior leadership truly foster shared goals? Is your VP trusted?

I’ve been lucky to be part of organizations which have had exemplary leadership. Did the VP get it right all the time? Certainly not, but leadership is something professionals have to work on every day. Although at times I may have been frustrated about the lack of communication about shared goals, I knew that I had the complete trust of my VP to act in the best interest of the university and donors. That trust alone gave me great job satisfaction and I felt a part of a larger community.

But leadership isn’t just at the VP level. You can lead from wherever you sit in the organization. It’s about what you DO. You matter and if you remember that, you too can be an exemplary leader. Leadership isn’t innate; it isn’t in your genes. It has to be learned and mastered because it’s about supplementing behavior with a definable set of skills and abilities. If you remember that what you do has an effect on others and take the time to really get to know yourself, you’re well on your way to being a leader.


Learn more: Join us in Boston to explore the foundations of advancement and leadership at our Summer Institute in Advancement Services, July 31 to Aug. 4, 2017.

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