Expanding the Definition of Leadership
Professor Linda Ginzel turned her in-demand classroom notes into a leadership workbook that is helping readers everywhere “develop their courage, capacity, and wisdom.”
- June 08, 2020
As part of her Executive MBA class on Leadership Capital, Linda Ginzel collected her notes and created a workbook to help propel her students’ leadership development. Every year, her students would request extra copies of the workbook—for their boss, their neighbor, their husband—and every year she would say no.
Then Ginzel got a request for copies for a student’s high school children, and she found herself saying yes. That sparked a realization that the work had value far beyond the Executive MBA classroom, and she decided to publish the workbook. The result was Choosing Leadership (Agate, 2018).
Ginzel, clinical professor of managerial psychology, recently sat down with Sheila Long, ’05, city ambassador lead and vice president of the Chicago Booth Women’s Network, to talk about Choosing Leadership.
Long: What are your goals for the workbook?
Ginzel: I hope that Choosing Leadership will be a vehicle for people everywhere to develop their courage, capacity, and wisdom. The core idea is that there’s no tried-and-true definition of leadership; there's no discipline where you learn all the facts and become an expert in leadership. With the book, I’m trying to get people to define leadership for themselves—to move past the stereotypes so that they can make the choice to lead.
“Most of the time we're managing, and once in a while we make the risky choice to lead. But it is a choice—because leadership is a behavior, not a title or a person or a role.”
Long: What role do stereotypes play?
Ginzel: If you think being a leader requires you to look a certain way or have a certain title, you're not going to enable choices that would lead to greater impact. But if you expand your definition of leadership, you can think more broadly about leadership and how it affects the choices that you make.
That’s why I try to get people to think about leading and managing as verbs. People think if they’re a manager, they can’t do the things that leaders do. But that’s not the case. Most of the time we're managing, and once in a while we make the risky choice to lead. But it is a choice—because leadership is a behavior, not a title or a person or a role.
Long: What’s a good way to get started on this book?
Ginzel: My idea was that you work on it both individually and with a group. So you do an activity on your own, then come together with other people to talk about it.
And those other people can be anyone. I know of fathers and sons doing the book together; I know of a couple who is doing Choosing Leadership as part of their premarital work with a priest. It’s inspiring to see how much we can enable people to take more responsibility and to teach, learn, and make a difference for the people around them.
Long: One of the things that I love about the book is the idea that we should do this work younger.
Ginzel: Yes. I have spent my 30-year career here at Booth teaching executives, and now I want to help people be wiser at a younger age. That’s why I wrote the book in an accessible way.
With high school students and middle school students, there's an opportunity for us to get ahead of the stereotypes—to convince students that they can lead without a title, without money, without looking a certain way. That leadership is a behavior, that leadership is a choice, that it depends on when you want to stand up and change the future.
Long: How can our alumnae use this book to help other women?
Ginzel: Start at home, with your own family. Make a difference where you are and then see if you want to move to a broader circle. At work, the book will help you have deeper conversations and build a stronger community because it makes connections to who you are and what you care about. It allows you to customize your learning. And that's how we all learn—by learning what matters to us.
Long: The book includes a variety of activities. Can you talk about those?
Ginzel: There are 20 exercises, from articulating your definition of success to writing a “This I Believe” essay—a credo that articulates and communicates something you care about. This essay is the first assignment for my Executive MBA students. They write their essays before they come to class, and then I compile them all anonymously and give them back to the students as a compendium.
It has an unbelievable impact. I have students who call me and say, “I read this on the plane and I was in tears.” We have so much humanity, but we don't often have an opportunity to express it. “This I Believe” is a powerful way of expressing it.
The mission of the Chicago Booth Women's Network is “Women Empowering Women for Professional Success.” CBWN will continue to bring women together in the best and safest manner for support, encouragement and empowerment to drive their professional success. The group currently has 31 city ambassadors in 10 countries.