On Putting Theory Into Practice

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Sage Publications


Let me begin with a “blinding flash of the obvious”: It is much easier to write (or even simply teach) about leadership than it is to be a leader. Still, from this humbling observation, after having written numerous books and teaching scores of seminars on leadership, comes another realization: There is nothing wrong with the theory, and this insight comes after another two decades of firsthand experience in higher education administration (i.e., leadership). The truth is that the theory is fine and it makes sense; it is just that the application is more challenging than we can rightfully convey and that the “noise” (or unexplained variance) in any real situation is often much greater than we can describe, sometimes even imagine (as conveyed by Bradshaw’s experience as Senate Chair). Which explains why some people say that leadership is an art and not a science (and this isn’t typically meant as a compliment) or that leadership subsequently can’t be taught or that leadership explains so very little about why things go well or poorly as to be unworthy of attention, and the like.