The Role of Formal Leaders in Growing and Maintaining Social Capital
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
Gregory K. Plagens
Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration and Urban Studies, University of Akron
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of South Carolina
issues. His work has been published in journals in Public Administration,
Political Science, Public Health and Epidemiology, and Environmental Policy.