Learning from the story of a great leader

Year: 2006

Author: Ehrich, Lisa, Cranston, Neil

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This paper reports on research findings from a larger study which seeks to understand leadership from the experiences of well-known and well-recognised Australian leaders across a spectrum of endeavours such as the arts, business, science, the law and politics. To date there appears to be limited empirical research that has investigated the insights of Australian leaders regarding their leadership experiences, beliefs and practices. In this paper, the leadership story of a well-respected medical scientist is discussed revealing the contextual factors that influenced her thinking about leadership as well as the key values she embodies as a leader. The paper commences by briefly considering some of the salient leadership literature in the field. In particular, two prominent theoretical frameworks provided by Leavy (2003) and Kouzes and Posner (2002) are explored. While Leavy’s framework construes leadership as consisting of three “C’s” – context , conviction and credibility, Kouzes and Posner (2002) refer to five practices of exemplary leadership. The paper provides a snapshot of the life forces and context that played an important role in shaping the leader’s views and practices. An analytical discussion of these practices is considered in the light of the earlier frameworks identified. Some implications of the findings from this non-education context for those in schools are briefly noted.