Why Civic Leadership for Social Justice?
Our world spins on tensions between aspirations for the common good - justice, equality, health, environmental sustainability - and present realities that reinforce systems of injustice, blind us to the needs of others, and even trap us in self-destructive cycles of inaction. The current political and social landscape has heightened our awareness of these tensions; for example, as a society we affirm the importance of accepting difference, but struggle to realize the potential of inclusion and equity in our individual, organizational, and systemic practices. Who is responsible for creating real and lasting social change? Often we turn to towards those in power and authority - our leaders in formal positions of power - to solve our problems. However, Chrislip and O’Malley (2013) suggest that “each of us shares directly in the problems and opportunities of civic life, so we bear some responsibility for making progress” (pp. 19-20). To engage in the activity of leadership is to “accept responsibility to create the conditions that enable others to achieve shared purpose in the face of uncertainty” (Ganz, 2010, p. 527). This shared purpose is a pursuit of the common good - an expanding circle of concern moving beyond self to families, organizations, communities, and society as we recognize our role and responsibility to uphold principles of human dignity, equality, and equity (Chrislip & O’Malley, 2013; Grace, 2011). To do so requires us to develop not only knowledge and skills, but also motivation and identity as leaders, scholar-practitioners, and educators who are committed to advancing claims of justice.