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Leadership Philosophy

Leadership in Higher Education

Dominic L. Hoare Evans


Leadership Philosophy

Leadership is a journey, and an individual one at that. Each person will go through this

journey at their own pace, with no start or end moments but rather a continuous process that we

all go through, whether we are aware or not. Before taking this course I had a concept of what I

thought leadership meant and I also had my way of leading and living within my own life. I

previously did not align my own life values with the concept of leadership, but rather just saw it

as a way that I live, and I knew that I would be happy and it would be meaningful if I lived

within these values that I had developed. After learning about different leadership theories I now

know that by living within my own values is a form of leadership. Through the leadership

identity development model, social change model, authentic leadership, servant leadership, and

adaptive leadership, I can now see how these different theories have applied to my own

leadership journey so far.


Awareness is the first stage of the leadership identity development model. Through this

stage people start to become aware of the concept of leadership, gaining an understanding that

leadership is out there in the world. Through this stage people start to recognize figures as well

as influential people in their lives such as parents, care givers, teachers, and coaches. For

anyone’s leadership development, within the awareness stage, adult relationships play an

important role, where they are able to make you feel special, get you involved with co-curricular

activities, as well as serving as role models for involvement and leadership. As a result “even as

children, they were confident working with adults. The family, particularly parents, was

important in this awareness stage and played a critical role in teaching norms, building

confidence, and serving as a building block of support. Key experiences with adults modeled

involvement and leadership” (Komives, Owen, Longerbeam, Mainella, & Osteen, 2005, p.406).

Looking back on my own journey I am able to identify how my relationships with adults as a

child influenced my awareness of leadership and has impacted my views and values today.

One of the key life events that influenced my leadership journey was when I was

diagnosed with dyslexia. It was the second grade, my parents got called into my school where

they had a conversation with my teacher, who luckily for me had their background in special

education and was able to identify to my parents some of the signs that I was showing in class

that could result in me possibly having a learning disability. This was an important stage for my

awareness, because after that moment, by parents, my teacher, and my tutor became very

important and influential figures in my life. I was meeting my tutor twice a week after school,

which led to the development of a strong relationship with her. At first this was a hard

relationship to build because I was so embarrassed that I was spending my afternoon getting

tutored rather than riding my bike with my friends. As you can imagine, as a seven year old boy,

the last thing I wanted to do was leave school, and go do more school. All I really wanted to do

was be with my friends, but instead I was getting tutored. My tutor, my teacher, and my parents

all knew this and they knew that they had to find a way of making me feel special and see the

importance of what I was doing and to not be embarrassed by it. Thankful they were successful, I

remember not being embarrassed by the fact that I needed tutoring but instead saw how by

putting in the time and effort it was going to have a long lasting effect on me and that I would be

able to show this through my school work. I went from being one of the lower performing

students to one of the higher performing students, which resulted in a lot of self-confidence and

understanding around why I was having to be tutored. Ultimately though it was the relationships

with my tutor, teacher, and parents around my learning disability that lead me to feeling

confident and knowing that I had the support that I needed during this stage of my life.

Consciousness of Self

Consciousness of self or being self-aware is the first stage of the individual aspect within

the social change model. “Consciousness of self includes awareness of your personality traits,

values, and strengths, as well as your abilities to be a self-observer who is mindful of your

actions, feelings, and beliefs” (Komives & Wagner, 2015, p.44). This stage is connected to the

awareness stage of the leadership identity development model because when reflecting on my

own values, beliefs, and strengths, I can see the connection to those influential adult relationships

I had as a child. As mentioned a few of the most impactful adult relationships that I had were

around the support of my learning disability. Through these relationships I learned that we are all

different, but that does not mean we cannot succeed. Where I strongly value in supporting those

who need support and not seeing any sort of disability as a disadvantage but rather as something

that needs to be addressed. That by having something that needs to be addressed does not make

you any less than anyone else because we all have things, they are just different and with that

requires a different form of support.

Through this process of consciousness of self I can connect to my experiences as a

special education teacher. Where my values and beliefs align with wanting to support students

who have disabilities and be that adult relationship that can mentor these students. By doing this

I am showing them that just because they are separated from the rest of their classmates that it is

not a negative thing but rather a positive. Through this opportunity I was aware of my actions,

feeling, and beliefs and knew that they would be impactful when working with this student

population. I remember having one student who was always getting himself in trouble so that he

would not be seen as the student with a disability but rather as the cool, rebellious student. I was

eventually assigned to work with him one on one and feel that my conscious actions had a

beneficial impact of this child’s development. During one of our sessions we took some time out

to discuss our own thought on what it meant to be having to spend one of your class periods with

me, in the special education classroom, rather than being with the rest of his class. Through this

exercise we both participated in the process of consciousness of self. We were able to identify

some feeling around being a student with a disability and how that aligned with what we wanted

our day to days to be as well as future goals. For myself, this re-enforced my values of support

for others, and belief that we all have individual needs or challenges that need to be supported.

This process also showed how my actions and feeling around students with disabilities aligned

with my value of support for others. Overall this experience also connects to the awareness stage

of the leadership identity development model because I was now the adult within this meaningful

relationship for my student.

Authentic Leadership

Along with the awareness stage of the leadership identity development model, and the

consciousness of self stage within the social change model, I can also see how authentic

leadership supports my leadership philosophy. Where “authentic leaders have a genuine desire to

serve others, they know themselves, and they feel free to lead from their core values”

(Northouse, 2015, p. 197). Through the awareness stage, I was able to develop really strong adult

relationship which influenced my values and beliefs around supporting anyone and everyone,

that we are all different and in some way or another we all have something going on where we

need support. Then through the consciousness of self stage, I was able to identify these values

and beliefs and see how my actions and feeling around support for students plays out within my

self-aware values. These all connect to authentic leadership. Where I am serving others through

my core beliefs of service to others and I am leading through this belief. When I graduated from

my undergraduate institution my first thoughts were not around getting a job, making the most

amount of money, and then buying a house, but were rather around how I can best situate myself

so that I am serving others. I showed this through applying for Jesuit volunteer community and

leading through my actions of doing a year of service. During my year of service I was not

getting paid but rather given a room with the Jesuits as well as a small stipend and a lifestyle

living with the values of simple living, community, and social justice. This was a perfect

opportunity for me to live through my core values. I developed a love for not only serving others

but also for living simply within community. The actions that I did everyday towards serving

others was through working or rather volunteering full-time with the local homeless drop-in

center where I supported clients with emergency accommodation as well as alcohol and drug

treatment plans. This experienced re-enforced my belief that we all have challenges, and that

they are all individual. With that comes an individual way of supporting the challenge. Overall I

can see how those first meaningful adult relationships have impacted my leadership philosophy

today. Where they lead through the consciousness of self stage to identifying my beliefs of

service and then authentically living through these beliefs by my actions and behaviors.

Leader Differentiated

Leadership differentiated is the fourth stage of the leadership identity development

model. During this stage “participants differentiated their views of leadership and saw it as what

an individual did as a positional leader, but also saw leadership being exhibited by non-positional

group members” (Komives et al., 2005, p. 409). This is an important stage within my own

leadership development as well as my leadership philosophy because it is the beginning stage


which leads into the generativity as well as synthesis stages of the leadership identity

development model. Where during this stage students “started the recognition that one could be a

leader regardless of one’s role in the group. Leadership identity began to be internalized. They

did not have to be the leader to acknowledge that “I am a leader” as a stable characteristic of

self.” (Komives et al., 2005, p.410). I feel that this is an important stage for anyone because you

are starting to move away from the notion that a leader has to be positional and instead see how

you can show leadership through any position through your own actions and behaviors.

During my time at Seattle University I fully acknowledged my passion for social justice

as well as service for others. This was a passion that took a long time to fully accept, but through

reflection as well as mentoring, I was able to identify this passion and then make some important

steps towards pursuing this passion. The defining action that I made was switching from the

business school over to the school of social work. This transition was a defining moment and

created a purposeful direction for me. Having made this transition I then had the opportunity to

run for president of the social work club, and having previously ran for positional titles due to

my notion of wanting to be seen as the leader I had always known about this opportunity and had

previously thought about running for this position. But I chose not to, I came to a realization that

I previously wanted to run because of the positional title that it gave me and not because of the

purpose of the position. Instead I talked to the association and told them that I did not want to run

for president but instead would like to know how I could be of service to the association and help

in any way. I ended up being part of an outreach group, which would go out and talk to first and

second year students about why I chose to pursuit social work and how it could be a great

opportunity for others. Through this process I was able to lead, not from a positional title but

rather through my passion for service as well as respect for the field of social work. I noticed that

I was making a real impact on student just by being able to explain my story and the reason

behind my decision to study social work. This moment in my life shows how I was able to

continue to serve others through a non-positional title but rather could lead from any position

within the association.

Servant leadership

Through the leadership differentiated stage I was able to move away from the idea that I

needed to lead through a positional title and now saw my actions from any position as a way to

lead. I feel that I am best able to show this through the service work that I do. Where it does not

matter what position within a group I am holding, as long as I am supporting the mission of

service within the group, then I am leading in my own way. This ties into servant leadership

where this “begins with the natural feeling that one want to serve, to serve first. Then conscious

choice brings one to aspire to lead” (Northouse, 2015, p. 226). Once leading “servant leaders

place the good of followers over their own self-interests and emphasize follower’s development”

(Northouse, 2015, p. 226). Servant leadership plays an important role in my own leadership

development because service is the passion that leads me and my actions, where my first priority

is to serve others and then support the development of others.

This can be shown through my decision to work at a residential facility for foster children

who were going through abuse and neglect treatment plans. This was one of the hardest and most

draining jobs I have ever had in my life and I cannot think of any other job that would

emotionally impact me as much as this experience did. Even though this was an extremely

difficult environment to work in, I loved it, and I cannot emphasis it enough. I spent a total of

three years working within this association and felt a genuine connection to my clients as well as

the service that I was providing. This experience connects to servant leadership because my first

priority was to serve my clients every single day. I think that if I did not have this passion for

service and desire to serve first then I would not have survived this environment. The children

literally lived at the agency and we would not only be working on their treatment plan but also

caring for these children with everyday needs that one has. No matter how small or how big the

need was it was always a need that our clients had and one that needed to be supported. I

experienced great joy from supporting our clients with these everyday needs from getting them

ready for school in the morning to more treatment focused groups I would run. This job really

showed me how I was able to lead through serving first and how much I enjoyed it because I was

serving every day, all day. This experience also connects to leadership differentiated because I

was not the manager, therapist, or supervisor, but rather I was able to lead our team through a

staff position by being fully committed every day to serving our clients not matter what need was

needing to be supported.

Adaptive leadership

Along with servant leadership, adaptive leadership also plays a role within my leadership

philosophy and is also connected to leadership differentiated. Adaptive leadership “is about how

leaders encourage people to adapt – to face and deal with problems, challenges, and challenge.

Adaptive leadership focuses on the adaption required of people in response to changing

environments. Simply stated, adaptive leaders prepare and encourage people to deal with

change” (Northouse, 2015, p. 257). Through the leadership differentiated stage I developed the

understanding of being able to lead from any position, and that it did not have to be positional.

This is connected to adaptive leadership because I have been able to use adaptive leadership

within a group to support the groups change in environment and encouraged people to adapt to a

new situation even though I was not leading from a positional title.

Adaptive leadership plays an important role in my journey because I have had to adapt

too many different environments throughout my life. I have lived in three different countries,

been to ten different schools and in general moved my life many times. Due to this constant

transition in my life, my family and I have learned how to adapt too many different

environments. Within the context of my family, my father is definitely the positional leader, the

reason for us moving so many times has always been around his job and moving to where the

work is. Along with this though, I personally have the travel bug, where I have decided on my

own to also travel as much as possible and move myself so that I can experience new

environments. One of the biggest transitions that we made as a family was when we moved to

the United States. This was a massive transition because we were moving to a new country, with

a new culture as well as new societal norms. As a result we had to adapt as a family to our new

environment. I was able to show my adaptive leadership through a non-positional title within my

family by supporting my family to adapt to the new norms that went along with a transition to

high school within the United States. None of us had any idea what we were about to experience,

we had never seen a high school which included a football field with stands, yellow school

buses, multiple co-curricular activities, and what seemed most important at the time, it was a

school with no school uniform. We had transitioned too many different school, but never had to

worry about what we were wearing with regards to making first impressions and fitting in with

the environment, but now it was something we had to think about and was a daunting thought. I

showed my adaptive leadership within this situation by supporting my siblings to figure out what

we were going to wear to school so that we were able to make a smooth transition to this new

environment. I view this situation through an adaptive lens because we all had to adapt as a

family to our new context and I saw my leadership through supporting my siblings my making

sure that they had appropriate clothing for school. By supporting my siblings I am also acting

through my philosophy of serving other, within this situation I was supporting my family

through helping them adapt to this new situation. Overall even though my father was making a

lot of the big picture decisions and was supporting us with our transition as best as he could, I

was able to situate myself through an adaptive lens to support my families transition as well as I

could through my desire to serve my family and put them first.


Through the leadership identity model, social change model, authentic leadership, servant

leadership and adaptive leadership I have been able to show how each of these theories have a

connection to my own leadership journey. With the support of my adult relationships as a child

to learning to lead through my passions, I have developed a leadership philosophy around my

core value of service. Along with this though is my belief that we all go on this journey at our

own pace and dependent on the person we will all develop our own leadership philosophy

through many different avenues. The life examples that I gave were only a few of the many life

experiences that I have had that have led to my own leadership philosophy.

I am continuing to develop as a leader and plan on leadership being a lifelong process.

Where I plan on continuing to keep up with the literature around leadership theories as well as

practice. I am currently part of a leadership development course which happens every month

over the year. This has been a great experience for me because I am able to continue having

conversations around leadership and dive deeper into my own philosophy as well as learn about

how others perceive leadership as well as lead throughout their day to day. Along with

continuing my education around leadership I am also continuing to lead through my day to day.

One of the responsibilities that I took on was to coordinate student support services for student

employees. Through this opportunity I have been able to live through my passion for service by

serving and supporting Northwestern University’s student employees. I have been able to put

events together from small scale projects such as moments for reflection over coffee, to larger

scale events such as participation within the gay pride parade. Either way, no matter what the

opportunity is, I have been able to lead through my passion for service and social justice and

support student employees through other avenues than trainings or evaluations. But rather giving

them opportunities to build relationships with one another, individually develop, and maybe also

find a passion for social justice.



Komives, S., Owen, J., Longerbeam, S., Mainella, F., Osteen, L. (2005). Developing a leadership

identity model: Applications from a Grounded theory. Journal of College Student

Development, 47 (4), 401-418 doi: /10.1353/csd.2006.0048

Komives, S., Wagner, W. (2016). Leadership for a better world, 2nd Edition. San Francisco, CA:


Northouse, P. (2015). Leadership: Theory and practice, 7th edition. CA: Sage.