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Antoaneta Topalova

Final Reflection/ Philosophy Statement

Loyola University Chicago



Prior to entering this class, my leadership philosophy was very vague. I knew the

denotation of leadership however, the concept of leadership as well as its connotative meaning

were evading me. To me leadership was exemplified by someone with authority, such as an

instructor, a supervisor, parent; someone who had a superior title. However, through class

dialogues, readings and reflecting back on personal experiences connected to leadership, my

leadership philosophy has certainly evolved into something more tangible and defined.

Although, I must admit, I sense that my leadership philosophy will continue to develop and

evolve as time goes on and as I encounter different leadership approaches, and as I implement

my own leadership approach. In my eyes leadership is a fluid concept, which can be perceived

differently and therefore implemented differently.

Northouse (2013) encompasses various characteristic components connected to

leadership development. He mentions the significance and application of the style approach,

trait approach and skills approach. “The style approach emphasizes the behavior of the leader.

This distinguishes it from the trait approach, which emphasizes the personality characteristics of

the leader, and the skills approach which emphasizes the leader’s capabilities” (p. 75). The

author’s work certainly prompted me to reflect on my current and past experiences with

leadership and see how each approach was employed differently by my former and current

superiors. The above listed approaches are interconnected and impact one another. It is difficult

to separate the trait approach from the style approach, simply because, a person’s personality

characteristics dictate their behavior to a certain extent. For an example, my hyper organized

personality leads my hyper organized work ethic, which lends its self to broaden my capabilities.

In addition to my leadership philosophy being enlightened by the various approaches, it is

also impacted by situations. Hence, the reason why Northouse’s (2013) situational approach



resonated with me. The situational approach possesses awareness and inclusive characteristics

because, of the consideration aspect regarding subordinates. “The essence of situational

leadership demands that leaders match their style to the competence and commitment of

subordinates” (p. 99). I find the ability to be accommodating to subordinates highly significant.

Whether a leader’s leadership style is centered on delegating, supporting, coaching or directing,

depends on the subordinate’s competency level. This certainly connects with servant leadership

and the notion of inclusivity and consideration.

Even though leadership comes in different forms and capacities, the most common vision

of leadership is an individual leading a group of people who are striving to attain the same goal.

For that reason, I highly value servant leadership and believe that even small nuances of it are

appropriate and pertinent for all leaders. A quality leader should empower their subordinates and

guide them in reaching their fullest potential. Out of all the styles and approaches we covered in

class, in my opinion, servant leadership conveys the most humility and care for others. This is

evidently depicted in its definition, “emphasizes that leaders be attentive to the concerns of their

followers, empathize with them and nurture them” (Northouse, 2013, p. 219). I definitely want

to internalize this leadership style and employ it whenever I am presented with the opportunity to

be a leader.

As alluded to earlier, thanks to this leadership class I was able to practice introspection

and consciously think about the leadership skills I have developed and the leadership skills I

need to continue to develop. This transitions well when answering the questions of how my

philosophy will translate into practice. I can confidently say that over time, I have developed

great management skills. There is certainly a difference between management and leadership,

however, I believe that management has a leadership undertone. This theory of mine stems from



the fact that when a person is managing a project or a group of individuals, there is a common

goal at hand. However, management does not excessively possess the humane characteristics

that leadership does. True leaders desire to help their subordinates grow and develop into leaders

themselves. True leaders care about inclusivity and are also agents of change, as well as

advocates for their subordinates. With this being said, by no means am I insinuating that I do not

have some of the leadership qualities I mentioned. It is just the opposite, and the fact that I have

not been able to practice and apply some of these leadership qualities simply because, I have not

been presented with the appropriate opportunity. For that reason, the quality at which I can

perform management skills surpasses the quality at which I can perform my leadership skills.

Hence, why I question if my philosophy will adequately translate into practice. Frankly, I

believe a lot of that has to do with the position(s) I secure in the future and whether there is the

opportunity for me to practice and enhance my leadership skills.

Leadership is also intricately connected with ethics. According to Northouse (2013), “In

regard to leadership, ethics has to do with what leaders do and who leaders are. It is concerned

with the nature of leaders’ behavior, and with their virtuousness” (p. 424). This also connects

with leadership pedagogies and how those are employed, along with how an individual initiates

ethical leadership among their community (Meixner & Rosch, 2011).

Northouse (2013) talks about the principles of ethical leadership which are building

community, respecting others, serving others, showing justice, and manifestation of honesty. All

principles resonate with me and I believe each one has an equal weight of significance. If a

leader lacks ethical guidance, then in my eyes, their ascribed title is questionable.

Echoing what I have mentioned earlier, I believe ethical values and morals ought to



have grown fond of the utilitarian approach which is under the teleological ethical theories.

Utilitarianism “states that we should behave so as to create the greatest good for the greatest

number” (Northouse, 2013, p. 425). This approach depicts care for others and inclusivity, which

are some of the guiding principles of ethical leadership. Fried (2010) emphasized the integral

part that inclusivity and cultural awareness play into the application of ethics.

Individuals must reflect on their own personal ethics and the ways they adapt to both the

ethical codes of their professions and the ethical expectations of the institution where

they work…Each of us must identify the stakeholders in these dilemmas and decide how

to construct solutions to our problems that all can live with (p. 126).

This is the primary reason why I choose to employ a utilitarian ethical approach to my leadership

style and truly take everyone’s experiences and backgrounds into account.

Pondering on the topics of social justice and leadership, I believe that often times the two

terms ought to be used interchangeably. A quality leader cares about social justice and advocates

for social justice. On the other hand, in order for social justice to be carried out and kept alive,

our society needs socially responsible leaders. We need leaders who are compassionate, who at

their core have strong ethical principles, and leaders who care about humanity.

Considering the turbulent times our nation is experiencing, I found the work of Preskill

and Brookfield (2009) to be quite revitalizing. It is my belief that leaders must be able to sustain

hope in the face of struggle. “Critical hope …comprehends at a profound level how complex

and multifaceted is the fight for social justice” (171). The ability to foster and then cultivate

critical hope among a community ought to be a requirement for leaders. It is during times such

as these where authentic leaders can rise to the challenge and instill hope into our hearts. It is



during such chaotic times where a regular patron, who does not have an assigned leadership title,

can rise to the occasion and enact change.

“The development of social perspective takingis critical to leadership in a complex,

changing world” (Ostick & Wall, 2011, p. 339). I intend to have social perspective taking as the

leading principle when employing social justice and engaging with diverse constituencies. I live

in an ever-changing society comprised of various ethnic and social identities. As a leader, if I

am not cognizant of this reality, and if I do not consciously employ principles and initiatives who

complement this reality, then I am not a true socio-conscious and responsible leader. I would

have to argue that the same notion applies to all leaders, whether they are self-proclaimed or


I identify as a person with an ethnic background, and therefore, diversity,

multiculturalism and social justice significantly influence my understanding of leadership. For

me, it is impossible and meaningless to detach those three concepts from the overarching idea of

leadership. My ethnic identity, along with my gender identity, have also predisposed me to feel

more connected to people from diverse backgrounds. As mentioned earlier, social perspectives

taking is an imperative leadership characteristic, which needs to be practiced more often.

Having spectacular leadership skills can be considered as a hot commodity, especially in

today’s world. I am looking forward to developing my leadership skills and employing them

some time in the near future. I fully understand that in order for me to successfully acquire

leadership skills, I need to have a leadership mentor who is stimulating, motivating and ethical.

In order for our society to produce strong and capable leaders, we must all come together and

instill and practice the integral leadership qualities we desire for our leaders to embody.




Fried, J. (2010). Ethical standards and principles. In J. H. Schuh, S. R. Jones, & S. R. Harper

(Eds.), Student services: A handbook for the profession (5th ed., pp. 107-127). San

Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Meixner, C., & Rosch, D. (2011). Powerful Pedagogies. In S. R. Komives, J. P. Dugan, J. E.

Owen, C. Slack, & W. Wagner (Authors), The handbook for student leadership

development ( 2 nd ed., pp. 307-338). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Northouse, P. G. (2012). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ostick, D. L., & Wall, V. A. (2011). Considerations for Culture and Social Identity Dimensions.

In S. R. Komives, J. P. Dugan, J. E. Owen, C. Slack, & W. Wagner (Authors), The

handbook for student leadership development ( 2 nd ed., pp. 339-364). San Francisco, CA:


Preskill, S., & Brookfield, S. D. (2009). Learning as a way of leading: Lessons from the struggle

for social justice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.