James McGregor Burns, considered by many to be the father of modern leadership practices, once famously stated that "Leadership is the most observed, yet least understood, phenomena on earth."A generation later, we find this still rings true today. Our work at the Illinois Leadership Center is to study and teach the skills for effective leadership relevant to 21st Century professional and community realities.
At Illinois, our work is guided by a few overarching principles. We believe leaders need to ask, "Why?" just as often as they ask, "What?" and "How?". Leadership, at its essence, is about working with others to create positive change, and therefore must be based in a fundamentally service-focused and ethical foundation of values. It is about practicing global citizenship. Even before the Leadership Center was constructed, a committee of faculty, staff, students, and alumni collaborated to create our "Philosophy of Leadership" to reflect these principles.
In addition, we believe that leadership can be taught. While some may have more inherent skill at the practice of leadership than others, we believe everyone can enhance and refine their abilities to lead others. Therefore, we have created a set of "Skills and Attributes" that we believe all effective leaders should possess. All of our programs and initiatives are designed to help students learn about and develop in these areas.
Our primary teaching strategy is simple. We believe students learn best when they have the opportunity to educate themselves, apply and practice what they've learned, and reflect on their experiences to create deeper personal meaning. The curriculum of our programs are designed around this fundamental belief, and therefore include cutting-edge leadership theory combined with engaging activity and discussion, along with opportunities to reflect individually and in small groups.
We firmly believe this cascading structure, where we align our values and
priorities with the curriculum we teach, can be transformational for Illinois