Schools of values and leadership

Jordi Lorente Servitja
Primary school teacher and pedagogue
President of CAE-Formació i Serveis Socioculturals
Professor of the Higher Vocational Training Programme in ‘Sociocultural and Tourist Animation’

“Hace falta valor, ven a la escuela de calor” (We need courage, come to the school of warmth).
Radio Futura (1984)

We won’t dwell much on opening debates about whether leaders are born or made. As of now, the decoding of the human genome has not identified the ‘leadership chromosome,’ and therefore, it must be the environment, it must be the surroundings that foster these effects. Or… can someone thinking about a certain Royal House come to a different conclusion? Either way, surely the experiences lived and the environments frequented play an important role in this role we call ‘leader.

To top it off, we will only refer to the authors of the study on “Les fonts del lideratge social” (CANTÓ, N; CASTIÑEIRA, A; FONT, A) published in 2009 under the auspices of the Bofill Foundation. In this study based on 25 interviews with individuals perceived as social leaders within the Catalan context, it is concluded that the most relevant aspect to begin developing social awareness is that of “lived values,” that is, the immersion of individuals in actions or life examples that will shape their way of positioning themselves in the world. (“Les fonts del Lideratge social”, page 121)

Before continuing to discuss where and how leadership can be promoted, let us mention that from our perspective in addressing this issue, we cannot refer to the “Leadership-values” dyad without first specifying the types of values we define. It is evident that every leadership has associated values. Consequently, we need to define a framework that helps us understand our position regarding what we value. It is a good exercise to note that the consideration of “ethical” leadership has been promoted by documents such as the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” or, to mention a more recent one, what they call “SDGs,” the Sustainable Development Goals, within the so-called “Agenda 2030” of the United Nations. With this foundation, we can now begin to discuss the places where leadership with these values, values associated with something “social and communal,” can emerge.

Well, once these two premises are established, let’s delve into the question and the main objective of this article: are there schools of “ethical” leadership and values?

Are there schools of ethical leadership and values?

Forgive us for the touch of ‘hype’ we are adding, but the answer can only be affirmative, having already highlighted the importance of values and experiences lived. Our immediate environment is filled with organizations facilitating ‘ethical leadership with social values. Both formal and non-formal institutions can serve as facilitators of this baggage. Let’s think, for example, about something fundamental within ‘Leadership,’ such as ‘learning to participate. Can we learn to participate? As the Working Group of CASC_CAT (Coordinator for Socio-Cultural Animation of Catalonia) states, ‘knowing how to participate can only be learned by participating: from the earliest educational institutions and childhood to other social circles. The experiential learning of participation is carried out most meaningfully in models of high participation, such as associationism.’ (‘Intervenció Socioeducativa en Joves,’ 2017). And here we fully enter the specificity of a framework like the Leisure Education institutions to identify them as schools of participation and ethical leadership with social values.

And not only that, but at this point, thanks to the immense effort of social researchers like Txus Morata, who with solid data allow us to assert that Leisure Education institutions transform communities and individuals by increasing levels of civic participation, promoting horizontal leadership, and building networks of social support. All of this results in a higher degree of cohesion and social commitment in the territories where these institutions are present. (“Ocio educativo, y acción sociocultural, promotores de participación y cohesión social”, Morata, T.; ALONSO,I; PALASÍ, E; BERASATEGUI, N_2023)

Social cohesion, the great forgotten

So, if we have leisure education institutions that deepen and serve such an important value as ‘Social Cohesion,’ why is it one of the great forgotten aspects when making political decisions? As pointed out by Dr. Anna Jolonch, Doctor in Education Sciences, in an interview (Diari de l’Educació, 26/05/2023), extracurricular activities are one of the main factors of inequality: ‘Not everyone can afford music, dance, cultural, or leisure activities… Many people do not have access to this education, and yet we know it is a huge success factor and an educational factor. There is a lack of more equality of access because we have improved a lot in equal access to compulsory education, but not in leisure. Moreover, leisure is a key factor in educating with values, with citizenship. Education should not only be about finding a job; it should be about educating individuals with certain values so they can work for the common good.

Education 360

We started with an obvious question, such as whether we can learn to be leaders, only to realize the lack of support that institutions with this function have: that of proposing platforms for the learning of social values.

Leisure education institutions must be supported and feel supported within the broader framework of educational policies with a social background. And, it is for this reason that we want to conclude the article by echoing the importance of programs like ‘Education 360,’ which focuses on promoting policies and actions that favour access to activities outside compulsory educational institutions. A more global sense of education and a special focus on leisure education institutions will lead us to leadership that is much more aligned with Sustainable Development Goals, and ethical leadership.

In all spheres of human activity (politics, sports, religion, family, education, etc.), conditions for ‘ethical’ leadership can arise, but we have sufficient evidence to believe that Leisure Education, due to its proximity to certain ethical values, adds an extra dimension in ensuring commitment and social cohesion.

I, now, to conclude, if you allow me the license to exchange some words from the wonderful song by ‘Radio Futura,’ perhaps we will be closer to what we wanted to argue about: warmth is needed, come to the school of values. Although it’s better not to misinterpret it, and let it not become a banner for climate change deniers.