Book Review

Leadership Can Be Taught

by Sharon Daloz Parks, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Mass., 2005, 287 pp. with index, $29.95 hardcover

How do we develop future superintendents and other leaders of school systems?

In Leadership Can Be Taught, Sharon Daloz Parks, director of the Whidbey Institute's Leadership for the New Commons initiative, thoughtfully adds to the theory and practice of leadership by studying the case-in-point teaching approach of Harvard professor and author Ronald Heifetz.

Parks documents the classroom as a leadership opportunity and shares the challenges associated with being a learner in that environment. As a result, she pulls readers into the class while simultaneously challenging us to think in new ways about our own leadership and the role we each play in building future leaders.

Leadership Can Be Taught surfaces key issues for both the practitioner and the leadership educator within us. For example, each school leader will identify with the chapter on "Learning from Failure in Public." Parks acknowledges the "enormous pressures to finesse failure and rarely, if ever, to admit to making a mistake." In the context of studying the Heifetz teaching style, she uncovers how we might use an issue such as failure to change our thinking about the practice of leadership to help prepare future leaders.

Parks masterfully studies an outstanding leadership teacher, frames excellent teaching techniques and enriches the study of leadership by exploring how we can reconcile the "leader as hero" metaphor with the "leader as artist" perspective. As a result, she adds understanding and insight to our personal leadership journey.

Reviewed by Brian L. Benzel, superintendent, Spokane, Wash., Public Schools