Program Philosophy

To inspire the development, emergence, and recognition of leadership throughout the Mason community by:

  • Raising campus-wide awareness of leadership opportunities for our students, faculty, staff, and community
  • Encouraging student, faculty and staff participation in leadership development
  • Forming a cross-disciplinary community of leadership scholars at Mason
  • Focusing on the diverse talents and strengths of all involved in leadership
  • Publicizing and celebrating acts of leadership throughout the Mason community
  • Building a culture at Mason that values leadership at all levels of the institution

George Mason’s Leadership Legacy Program formulated a set of leadership assumptions, core values, and competencies for faculty, staff, students, and alumni to consider in their own exploration and practice of leadership. For example, we believe you do not need to have a formal title to engage in a leadership process or to assume leadership responsibilities. Through self-reflection and reflective practice, we are confident that members of our campus community will make a difference through their leadership. We embrace a set of core leadership values and common competencies founded on the ideas that leadership is learned and that leadership development is a lifelong journey. These leadership assumptions, core values, and competencies are designed to be considered and used as an integrated whole.

Leadership Assumptions

Leadership is contextual and is influenced by culture.

The nature of leadership depends to a great extent on the situation. Therefore, leadership can take different forms in different places and at different times.  Cultural influences on leadership range from personal experiences with family, committees, or peer groups to broader influences such as nation of origin and religion. There is variation in the concept of leadership across world cultures resulting in a wide range of beliefs about what constitutes leaders and leadership.

Leadership competencies can be learned and developed.

Although some individuals may appear to be born leaders, we each can learn and develop leadership skills.  We may express leadership differently, yet every person in the university community is capable of leadership development.

Leadership development is a lifelong process.

Continuous learning and improvement are essential to the development of leadership knowledge and skills. Leadership development is a process, not merely a focus on products, tasks, or the current desired outcomes. Through various experiences in leadership, feedback from others, and self-reflection, we continue to fine-tune our conceptual and experiential understanding of leadership throughout our lifetime. 

Leadership does not require a formal position.

Leadership is not a specific title, position, or role. Leadership can be practical and embodied in many ways within the lives of individuals and at the university.

Leadership is inclusive.

Effective leaders cultivate the participation and learning among all constituents. The aim of inclusive leadership at Mason is to encourage, expect, and expand the emergence of leadership thinking and practice across all contexts of the university.

Leadership development is grounded in the awareness of strengths.

The process of identifying and maximizing one’s strengths are essential elements of leadership development. Developing complementary partnerships and collaborations with others enhances one’s impact. Effective leaders and members cultivate and capitalize on the diverse talents of teams and group members.

Understanding the civic and global dimensions of leadership is essential.

Those involved in leadership must practice shared responsibility for a common future. Effective leadership requires an informed understanding of diverse communities and the roles and responsibilities of individuals within them, and a commitment to public problem-solving. Developing political and cultural competence and global engagement are hallmarks of leadership.

Leadership is ethical and is values-driven.

Leadership includes ethical action, both in the process and outcomes. The consistent demonstration of honest and ethical decision-making and behavior by leaders form the foundation of trust and credibility on which relationships are built and maintained.

*These leadership assumptions were adapted from Komives, S.R., Lucas, N., & McMahon, T.R. in Exploring Leadership: For College Students Who Want to Make a Difference (2007). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Core Leadership Values

Values are the guiding principles in our lives. Leadership occurs within the context of core values. Leaders guide and facilitate others to make a positive difference in their own lives and to contribute to a larger good. Values inform the application of leadership qualities as the competencies of leadership are activated – learned, developed, and practiced – within the set of core values. By focusing on what people believe and value, and then positively building on this understanding, we have the potential for impact far more wide reaching than if we approached leadership development as a problem-solving activity.


as demonstrated by self respect and respecting others regardless of differences; treating others with dignity, empathy and compassion; and the ability to earn the respect of others.

Making a Difference

as demonstrated by personal efforts that lead to making a positive impact on individuals, systems, and/or organizations or positively affecting outcomes.


as demonstrated by moral courage, ethical strength, and trustworthiness; keeping promises and fulfilling expectations.


as demonstrated by consistency, congruency, and transparency in values, beliefs, and actions; integrating values and principles to create a purposeful life and to contribute to the growth of others.


as demonstrated by possessing a strength of self to act with intention on behalf of the common good; taking a stand in the face of adversity; acting boldly in the service of inclusion and justice.


as demonstrated by commitment that extends beyond one’s own self interest; personal humility for the sake of a greater cause.


as demonstrated by a sense of humbleness, dignity and an awareness of one’s own limitations; open to perspectives different from one’s own.


as demonstrated by a broad understanding of human dynamics and an ability to balance the interests of multiple stakeholders when making decisions; can take a long term perspective in decision-making.

Leadership Competencies

Leadership involves setting a vision, generating the energy to grow and sustain the vision, mobilizing collective action around this vision, collaborating with others, and valuing the diverse expressions of leadership. To effectively achieve this, there are a number of competencies that are required. These competencies and activities must be practiced, reflected on, and refined. Leadership requires self-awareness and self-reflection as we critically assess our capacity in the various competency areas and set goals for continuous leadership development. Self-reflection helps us uncover the beliefs that inform our action and assess whether and how to modify our action to serve our own and others’ interests.

Establishing and Sustaining Relationships

as demonstrated by the ability to interact with others to develop trusting relationships and sustain collaborative partnerships;

Developing the Self

as demonstrated by having a sense of self awareness; an understanding of one’s strengths and challenges; an ability to self-regulate, monitor one’s actions, and set goals for continuous learning.


as demonstrated by the ability to create and share meaning through effective oral and written communication, engage in active and empathic listening, and understand and communicate to diverse audiences.

Developing Others

as demonstrated through mentoring and authentic communication in partnerships with others to help them identify and achieve their goals; cultivating an environment that fosters individual and team learning.

Making Informed Decisions and Solving Problems

as demonstrated by having or seeking out appropriate knowledge and expertise in order to formulate the strongest solutions to emerging problems and/or situations, acting ethically throughout the decision-making process, and having the courage to take responsibility for the outcome.

Negotiating and Managing Conflict

as demonstrated by the willingness to listen to all perspectives, mediate across difference, appropriately express concern, and identify productive solutions for moving forward.

Acting with an Awareness of Social and Cultural Dynamics

as demonstrated by embracing a value for learning about social and cultural difference; listening to the stories of others without judgment; acting with generosity while confronting misinformation; and actively creating a just community.

Adapting to Change and Thinking Creatively

as demonstrated by flexibility in thought and action; engaging in reflective practice to inform change and practice; seeking out innovative ideas and solutions; and providing stability and meaning for collaborators in the midst of change

Using Systems Thinking

as demonstrated through a recognition that the work of one affects the work of all; developing an understanding of the interconnections within and between organizations or communities and their environments.

Practicing Well-Being

as demonstrated by the ability to develop insights and habits of regularly assessing one’s own quality of life and facilitating the well-being in others; creating and sustaining positive relationships and finding equanimity and resiliency in the face of adversity; and demonstrating pro-social behaviors and emotions (compassion, gratitude, joy, cooperation)