Social Justice in Leadership Education

Social Justice in Leadership Education: Editors’ Reflections on the 2019 Pause for Pedagogy Series

By Lisa Endersby and Dan Jenkins

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Dan Jenkins Photo Dan Jenkins is Chair and Associate Professor of Leadership & Organizational Studies at the University of Southern Maine. He received his doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction (Higher Education Administration) from the University of South Florida. Dan has published more than 30 articles on leadership education and assessment and is an associate editor for the Journal of Leadership Studies. Dan is also a past Chair of the ILA Leadership Education MIG, Co-Chair of the ILA Leadership Education Academy, and enjoys numerous volunteer roles with the Association of Leadership Educators. Follow Dan @Dr_Leadership.

Lisa Endersby Photo Lisa Endersby is a speaker, educator, and storyteller exploring the intersecting realms of technology, leadership, and assessment in higher education. Her current role as an Educational Developer at York University involves supporting faculty in exploring and implementing innovative best practices for teaching and learning. Her doctoral work examines the relationship between professional identity development and communities of practice. Lisa also volunteers her time as the EDC Institute Coordinator for the Educational Developers' Caucus (EDC). Lisa can be reached at

Our fascinating journey into leadership and pedagogy for the 2019 Pause for Pedagogy series came with the intriguing realization that rarely, if at all, did our authors outwardly refer to themselves as leaders. They were educators, administrators, and faculty; mothers, brothers, and friends, but they did not often self-identify as leaders. This could be attributed to a rash of modesty that was common across all of our interviews and emails, but it could also speak to how we might define what it means to be or to act as a leader across different groups, contexts, and identities. Our focus on social justice in 2019 was intimately tied to deep reflections on those notions of leaders and leadership that may narrow, rather than more fully encompass, those terms.

I (Lisa) remember being continually struck by the valuable opportunity to consider leadership outside of my own context and beyond my intersecting identities. There is both opportunity and privilege inherent in the chance to co-edit such a rich volume of stories, and I was reminded again and again that what came so easily to me was not always accessible to others. Our authors spoke of working to bring others to the table, or, when that may have failed, of building their own tables and chairs for colleagues and students to share their unique stories and engage in their own transformative skill development. Emphasizing the work and experiences of certain groups was at times a troubling celebration of the true diversity of leadership and leadership education — this recognition of diversity was essential to fulfilling the goals of a volume on social justice yet brought to light the apparent gaps in leadership education that may still see leaders as defined by a more narrow set of attributes or skills favored by historic yet homogeneous ideals. As I continue to recognize my own privilege in this arena, this lesson resonated most clearly in the recorded interviews that accompanied our written articles. Any assumptions I may have made or beliefs I held were quickly disrupted when I listened to stories of experiences that were not my own.

The Pause for Pedagogy 2019 Author Guidelines included a definition of social justice describing both a process and a goal (Adams, Bell, & Griffin, 1997), which includes a vision of society that is equitable and where all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. Our discussions at the intersections of leadership and social justice offered reflections on an equitable society, troubling the notion of the accessibility of leadership roles or opportunities, when once again these opportunities seemed to favor certain students with a particular privilege. The definitions of leadership we discussed seemed to favor a paucity of roles filled by a select, chosen few. Leaders hold the privilege to create room at the table or to build a longer table but, perhaps paradoxically, even when there are more people able to sit and act together, many defer to the one with the resources, skills, and opportunity to actually create these new spaces. We work to create space and hope these spaces will be filled, yet others seem to defer to us as leaders who may or can take up even more space as our advocacy continues. How then might we create space while taking up less space? Is this possible, necessary, or ideal?

Our series guidelines asked authors to “define and share success in social justice pedagogy and practice, while also defining practical implications for future work in the field.” To further define what this may look like, we argued that “the pedagogy of leadership and social justice involves full and equal participation of students in society as well as in a leadership program that is mutually shaped to meet their needs.” When I reflect on our series on social justice as leadership education, I (Dan) think fondly of the exchanges with our authors and getting to the heart of our vision, which ultimately featured them as experts in this emerging area of practice. In doing so, I share Lisa’s feelings about the privilege gifted to me to learn from their experiences.

Through our networks, we intentionally sought out authors with diverse perspectives in curricular and cocurricular leadership education spaces that were considerably different from our own. Moreover, our authors’ personal, uniquely individual experiences — both informing to the knowledge and expertise they shared as well as their current role in leadership education — had a profound impact on what they contributed. Across the year we learned how one faculty member (Teig) integrates identity as a critical practice with the outcome of social justice infusion in leadership education, while another faculty member (Beatty) utilizes a different strategy to facilitate dialogue on the intersections of race and gender in leadership education. The dialogue then shifted somewhat in specificity to specialized leadership courses and programs with social justice learning outcomes that focused on Black male and female leadership development (Spencer & Meriwether), Latina/o leadership development in fraternities and sororities (Guardia), and Rodriguez’s depiction of introducing socially just leadership education at a Hispanic-serving institution. And, while the culminating article in this series presented a shift in scope contextually, Andenoro and Newsome’s narrative about developing the social justice capacity of learners through Holocaust education, in coordination with exhibits at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, showcased the profound impact of this work at both a historical and global scale.

Often as we started working with an author, they would share early drafts with us that highlighted the importance of their work as well as the theoretical grounds and a review of the literature. Our responses went something like this: “We know your work is important; that’s why we solicited your expertise. But, how can you, through this important work, share what you do and how you do it so that others can learn from and emulate your practices?” For us, PAUSE for Pedagogy has always been practitioner-forward, that is, facilitating the transfer of knowledge, theory, and (mostly) practice from our authors to our readers. It is about tangible, pragmatic, pedagogical tools that we can take back to our programs and courses. Our authors offered suggestions ranging from ensuring a better and deeper understanding of our students, to seeking out or even creating models and resources to fill theoretical gaps. They shared how they created spaces not just for work to be done or opportunities to be leveraged but for any and all students to fully embrace aspects of their identities (as leaders and as themselves) both inside and outside the classroom. In this particular series, we experienced the vulnerability our authors felt as they let us into their contexts, allowing us to share in their unique lens on social justice education, often among underrepresented communities in marginalized spaces that, through their light, became brave, safe spaces for all learners. We are privileged to be able to share this important pedagogical work.

Our forthcoming 2020 series will focus on continuing to explore the many intersections and interrelationships inherent in leadership education. The theme of "Leadership and ..." is aimed at understanding leadership as a truly interdisciplinary, diverse field with stories from colleagues and new avenues and arenas for leadership development. Are you bringing leadership education into your engineering classroom? Does your leadership development curriculum include a community partner? Our PAUSE for Pedagogy readers want to hear about it! Please read the PAUSE for Pedagogy call for proposals and email Lisa or Dan at for more information or to share an idea for a future article.


Adams, M., Bell, L. A., & Griffin, P. (1997). Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook. New York, NY: Routledge.