Workforce Education Leadership in the Twenty-First Century

Workforce Education Leadership in the Twenty-First Century

Patricia K. Gibson (Texas State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch050
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Workforce education leadership has new and specific challenges in the twenty-first century. Leadership is needed in the internally generated employee education event, commercially provided employee education events, by the providers of commercial employee educational event, in re-education for employment by the unemployed or the under-employed, as well as education for employment in secondary and post-secondary settings. The use of twenty-first century skills, creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration, are essential to workforce education leadership in all areas of its application due to the radical change in societies view of the relationship between leaders and followers.
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Establishing Our Terminology


To adequately address this topic, we must first decide how we will define leadership. The dictionary definition reads almost like the classic circumlocution. “the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group: an act or instance of leading; direction” (“leadership,” n, d.). Winston and Patterson provide what they call an integrative definition of leadership based on “over 90 variables that may comprise the whole of leadership” (p. 6). Their definition reads as follows:

A leader is one or more people who selects, equips, trains, and influences one or more follower(s) who have diverse gifts, abilities, and skills and focuses the follower(s) to the organization’s mission and objectives causing the follower(s) to willingly and enthusiastically expend spiritual, emotional, and physical energy in a concerted coordinated effort to achieve the organizational mission and objectives. (p. 7)

This definition covers many characteristics and skills difficult to sustain or promote in a large institutional stetting and is perhaps a bit idealistic. Others might question whether this would apply only to a small unit within a larger organization. However, Allio (2012) might agree with this definition but might add a less immediate or personal set of characteristics.

We often look to leaders to clarify purpose and values, set direction, build community and manage change. In other words, leaders must practice strategic management – develop a researched vision, a viable strategy, a focused plan and a measured implementation process and then prepare for discontinuity by continuously monitoring the environment. (Allio, 2012, p. 8).

Former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates has written extensively about leadership (2016). In his experience, leaders must provide goals and vision as mentioned by Allio (2012). Leadership as viewed by Gates sets deadlines and is willing to decentralize the organization if the leader want change, for example, educational events that move the organization forward. The leader must trust those supervisory leaders in the organization to carry out the plans and procedures the leader has set. One of the problems Gates stresses is the need for transparency as in the sharing of information among those who will be affected by change. These elements give us the practice of leadership in general.

Distilling these points of view on leadership was accomplished by business columnist Justin Bariso. Bariso arrived at the following definition in a discussion with other commentators: “Leadership is a process of social influence which works to increase the efforts of others in pursuit of a common goal.” (Bariso, 2015, para. 18). If we combine this with the somewhat tongue-in-cheek definition by efficiency expert Peter Drucker as quoted by Bariso, “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” (2015, para. 5) we can provide a working definition for our discussion. Leadership is that process by which those who have responsibility and power within a social structure are able to influence and direct the actions of others in the structure towards a common goal.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Communication: The imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs (

Leadership: The process by which those who have responsibility and power within a social structure are able to influence and direct the actions of others in the structure towards a common goal.

Creativity: The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination (

Workforce Education: A structured attempt to provide additional knowledge of working procedures so as to enhance the abilities of employees or prospective employees.

Collaboration: To work, one with another, cooperate (

Critical Thinking: Disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.

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