The Role of Formal Leaders in Growing and Maintaining Social Capital

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Managing community resources, natural or otherwise, is inherently a political process, for individuals must come together to choose among competing alternatives. Many argue that an important variable in understanding a community’s ability to manage resources and solve complex social problems is social capital. International interest in social capital has scholars across the globe seeking to understand the concept and its influence. Although not conclusive, research to date shows that crime rates are lower, citizens are healthier, children do better in school, and natural resources can be managed better where higher levels of social capital are found. Decision makers accepting of these conclusions and the importance of social capital might then want to know how best to maintain or increase levels of social capital in their communities. This paper explores the relationship between formal leaders and social capital. Drawing on data from the Chicago public school system in the United States, we examine evaluations of leaders and leaders’ descriptions of what they do in an effort to identify leadership characteristics or behaviors associated with higher levels of social capital. If a pattern can be found, benefits to communities may emerge from an increased understanding of the role of formal leaders in growing and maintaining social capital.


Keywords: Social Capital, Education, Leadership, Communities
Stream: Politics, Public Policy and Law
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Role of Formal Leaders in Growing and Maintaining Social Capital, The


Gregory K. Plagens

Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration and Urban Studies, University of Akron
Akron, Ohio, USA

Professor Plagens's research interests are in public policy, education policy, public administration, social capital, human resource management, state and local government, and leadership. He is currently teaching courses in quantitative analysis, public policy, and leadership at the University of Akron, where he arrived in 2006 after completing a doctoral degree in political science at the University of South Carolina. Preceding full-time graduate studies, Professor Plagens held cabinet-level public relations and communications positions in South Carolina in three public school districts, the last of which had 4,500 employees and 26,000 students. He has an undergraduate degree from Bowling Green State University in journalism and spent 18 months as a newspaper reporter before entering public service.

Mark Tompkins

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina, USA

Professor Tompkins trained at Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota. He studies US domestic policy, emphasizing health and envrionmental
issues. His work has been published in journals in Public Administration,
Political Science, Public Health and Epidemiology, and Environmental Policy.

Ref: I08P0238