Leaders in Profile: Do Good Well

3/1/2013 12:00 AM ,

Do Good Well
When we met 10 years ago as high school students at the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, we had already taken the first few steps on our leadership journey. Nina, from Vienna, West Virginia, had launched American Cancer Society Teens, a nationwide network that empowered student volunteers of the American Cancer Society to recognize their potential as leaders and work together to develop creative solutions for improving health in their communities. Jennifer, from Lincolnwood, Illinois, was recognized for her innovative work to help shelter residents on their path to secure employment and financial independence. Common interests drew us together, but we soon found we were kindred spirits with similar goals, worldviews, and aspirations for change. This new friendship galvanized us, inspiring a new commitment that would compel us to reach our ultimate goal of “enabling others to act.”

At Prudential, we were surrounded by inspiring middle and high school students from around the U.S. who had led innovative school or community clubs, nonprofits, activist campaigns, and various other efforts aimed at solving social problems and creating lasting community change. For us, these peers “modeled the way”—they established standards of excellence and served as sterling examples we hoped to emulate in our own efforts. Moreover, what we recognized at this event was the enormous potential of collaboration, of uniting as a generation of young leaders to propagate the values of community leadership, public service, and social responsibility.

But how? We brainstormed ideas to bring together these young leaders: a website to share our projects, a speaking series at schools, a campaign promoting student leadership, etc. These ideas had merit but didn’t seem quite right at the time. A few years passed and we settled into our lives as college students. It was at that time that a project was suggested to us—writing a how-to book on leadership for students. We loved it. Here was an opportunity to share the real-life experience we had collected with people who wanted to make an impact but didn’t know where to start. Convinced that a practical, fun, and honest guidebook to social change was needed for today’s generation of students and young professionals, we set out to tackle this challenge. We spent months putting our thoughts on paper and sent our book proposal to more than 100 agents and publishers.

Our hard work resulted in a drawer and inbox full of rejection letters. It wasn’t just one failure, but letter after letter trickling in over the course of months saying “no.” But the rejections—each one inducing a heart-dropping disappointment—gave us a reason to rethink our approach. We believed in our mission, but our execution needed work. To “challenge the process,” we had to learn from our mistakes. But first, we needed to identify what these mistakes were.

The project needed to “inspire a shared vision.” We realized that if we were going to promote collaboration and bringing out the best in others, then first we needed to do that ourselves. Drawing upon our original high school goal of uniting young leaders, we approached the peers we most admired (including William Hwang, whose work starting the educational social enterprise InnoWorks you read about in The Student Leadership Challenge book!), and worked together with them as a team. In our own experience, our peers have been some of our biggest role models and mentors. Joining forces to create a tool for other young leaders produced a vibrant spirit of community that we hope only gets stronger with time.

We also realized that we hadn’t presented a unifying message. We had a number of ideas, but they were disconnected. What did our readers need? Reflecting on our own community work, we recalled that we stumbled frequently and often success was only found through trial-and-error. We realized an actual framework for action was a critical missing component of the equation to “do good well.” This led us to create a simple three-step method for social innovation that is grounded in both personal experience and academic research on innovation in business, nonprofits, community action, and leadership. The Method is built on three key ideas:

  1. Do What Works
  2. Work Together
  3. Make It Last

Within each step are four strategies to employ to meet your goals of effective leadership and sustainable change. This method provides readers with an overarching philosophy and a simple take-away message that can be applied to all aspects of leading change.

We had identified and fixed our execution mistakes, but we still did not have a way to get this work into your hands. We continued to pitch and promote the idea over the course of several years as graduate students. At many points, the logical decision was to give up. In fact, even those close to us saw the stress and disappointment we were feeling, and encouraged us to move on. Then a fantastic leader gave us hope—Erin Null, editor of The Student Leadership Challenge. It was Erin who “encouraged the heart.” She saw the potential in this project and her confidence gave us a renewed energy to push forward. She was also a mentor, giving honest and valuable feedback about what we were doing well and, more importantly, not so well.

After an arduous journey, we’re excited to share with you Do Good Well: Your Guide to Leadership, Action, and Social Innovation. What we’ve learned from this process is that The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership are everywhere. And as important as it is to exhibit those qualities yourself as a leader, it is just as critical to see them in others, and to be driven and inspired by other people’s leadership. We certainly were!


Nina Vasan
has been honored as one of ‘America’s Top 10 Youth Volunteers,’ a Young Adult Winner of the National Caring Award, a Girl Scouts National Young Woman of Distinction, and one of Glamour magazine’s Top 10 College Women.





Jennifer Przybylo has dedicated her life to service and has been recognized by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, the United States Senate Youth Program, and the Toyota Community Scholars Program.

Category: Success Stories

What they are saying...

"Why wait to learn leadership in the workplace? Students can learn how to lead by using Kouzes and Posner's five proven leadership practices. [This] is the perfect guide for...[those] seeking to develop themselves for leadership."
– Howard T. Prince II
University of Texas, Austin

What they are saying...

"I've been teaching leadership classes for twenty years, and The Five Practices are, hands down, the best tool for helping students see both their inherent strengths as leaders as well as to further develop their skills."
– Britt Andreatta
University of California, Santa Barbara

What they are saying...

"[The Student Leadership Challenge] (book) is a gift to university educators who teach leadership courses or develop trainings. workshops, and retreats."
– Laura Osteen
Florida State University

What they are saying...

Corey Hill "The greatest part about being in the virtual community was being able to hear the instructors, talk about the material we were discussing, as well as having our own discussion as a class with our other classmates over chat. You got a lot of interaction with the material, a lot of takes and nuances on what other people were taking away from the material that I don’t think you would get in a traditional classroom setting."
– Corey Hill
Oklahoma State University

What they are saying...

"The Student Leadership Practices Inventory is the best tool I have used to help students assess their leadership effectiveness because it translates the concept of leadership into actions and relationships. By defining and measuring specific leadership behaviors, the Student LPI allows students to see how they are doing as leaders and to determine how they can improve."
– Cathy Early
National Interfraternity Conference

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"The student examples inspire the reader and show us that running into bumps along the way is not only normal, but that you can approach the challenges with confidence and practical solutions."
– Amanda Crowell Itliong
Stanford University

What they are saying...

"The authors set out to teach college student leaders to understand what it takes to be an effective leader, to inspire them to find their own unique skills and abilities, and to explore and discover where their leadership will make the most difference in the lives of others and in the success of their organization.  I believe they have succeeded."
– William L. Kibler
Mississippi State University
NASPA Journal, 2009, Vol. 46, no. 4

What they are saying...

"The experience of the Certified Leadership Training left me feeling more confident and equipped to provide better leadership training to my student leaders."
– Erica Lara
Nyack College, NY

What they are saying...

"The 5 practices are a must!  Demonstrating and understanding the [concept that] 'leadership is an art' that must be taught to our students was incorporated throughout the training."
– Jerry Alva
Texas A&M International University

What they are saying...

"This is a great opportunity for any person looking to develop a program that involves The Student Leadership Challenge."
– Miguel Trevino
Texas A&M International University

What they are saying...

"I am more equipped to develop a leadership program that will have a positive impact on the students at my institution."
– Andrew Moyer
Delaware Valley College, PA

What they are saying...

"Employers are looking for students who have content knowledge and practical experience working in teams and leading others. The Student Leadership Challenge is an excellent example of the behaviors needed to accomplish extraordinary tasks that can get you noticed by a potential employer."
– Kevin Bailey, vice president for student affairs
University of West Florida

What they are saying...

"Beth and Gary are so personable that I was totally comfortable asking anything. For a program with such vigor, these two facilitators do an amazing job of creating a safe, fun, and functional learning environment."
– Certified Facilitator Training participant

What they are saying...

"The Student Leadership Challenge is a gift to university educators who teach leadership courses or develop trainings, workshops, and retreats."
– Laura Osteen
Florida State University

What they are saying...

"Developing transformative learning environments for leadership education begins when we embrace the use of emerging technologies and social media to enhance student learning."
– Todd Foley, assistant director for the Student Involvement Center
Saint Louis University

What they are saying...

"Leadership is a journey of personal and organizational discovery… understanding that the best way to learn is to teach, we decided to take on the challenge of having our students teach others.
"
– Vince Bellafiore
Marmion Academy

What they are saying...

"We know that The Student Leadership Challenge is making a difference. Through continuous coaching and intervention, with the use of the Student LPI, we are helping to keep our young people engaged in the pursuit of exemplary leadership."
– Melvin Chia
Lifeskills Enrichment, Singapore

What they are saying...

"The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership are everywhere. And as important as it is to exhibit those qualities yourself as a leader, it is just as critical to see them in others, and to be driven and inspired by other people’s leadership.
"
– Nina Vasan and Jennifer Przybylo
authors of Do Good Well

What they are saying...

"Consider the college campus as a leadership laboratory—a place where students have multiple opportunities to practice their leadership skills and explore and develop their leadership identity.
"
– Marcy Levy Shankman
Cleveland Leadership Center

What they are saying...

"I am so passionate about leadership and making a difference and I truly, honestly, wholeheartedly believe in The Student Leadership Challenge model. It is complete, yet simple enough, for all to understand. SO very excited to share this model with others, both on-campus and in the community.
"
– Suzanne Von Behren, RN, BSN, University Wellness Services
Northwest Missouri State

What they are saying...

"I feel that a program like this could really work in helping to eventually change our culture within our schools, homes, and businesses. Although I am not a supervisor, I plan to implement the model fully in our office and look forward to sharing it with coworkers. I love The Student Leadership Challenge model and am so excited!
"
– Suzanne Von Behren, RN, BSN, University Wellness Services
Northwest Missouri State

What they are saying...

"The Student Leadership Challenge is one of the most robust teaching and learning opportunities we have as educators. The Five Practices are identifiable and learnable skills allowing an individual to improve by receiving feedback and observation and by setting goals.
"
– Jason R. Pierce, director of education
Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity

What they are saying...

"And so again [leadership development] becomes foundational, it becomes a foundational understanding of living your values, of challenging the process to make things better, enabling others to act. It’s not just delegating, it’s about giving people the passion and the power to it themselves.
"
– Matt Baker, Vice President of Student Affairs
Northwest Missouri State University

What they are saying...

"Within the academy, we are constantly seeking additional tools to assist us in teaching the valuable lesson of leadership development for students. The Student Leadership Challenge is an excellent resource to assist in the important goal of helping students to become better leaders and, ultimately, stellar citizens in the communities of the world.
"
– Victor K Wilson, vice president for student affairs
The University of Geogia

What they are saying...

"Student leadership challenges are quite similar to adult challenges, and yet they differ as wel­­l– in scale and in the power of peer perspective. Kouzes and Posner have constructed a wide and sturdy bridge across these worlds. My college students will find relevant lessons and great inspiration in the diverse and compelling stories that are retold. We’d have a lot less adult leadership problems if more teachers and students used this great book.
"
– Dan Mulhern, Distinguished Practitioner of Law and Business
University of California, Berkeley, and author Everyday Leadership: Getting Results in Business, Politics and Life

What they are saying...

"Kouzes and Posner provide a comprehensive, research-based, and values-driven resource that is packed with real-life examples. This book makes leadership highly accessible to college students and is sure to empower the next generation to tap into their potential as leaders and social change agents.
"
– Jennifer R. Keup, director
National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition

What they are saying...

"The Five Practices has provided a framework for students to reflect on their leadership experience and restructure their philosophy and theories relating to leadership as they challenge themselves through these five practices.
"
– Amy Kuo, Somchanhmavong, associate director
Service-Learning, Public Service Center, Cornell University

What they are saying...

"As a Student Leadership Challenge Certified Facilitator I am excited about using these books to further aid me in developing curriculum and giving our students a tool to acknowledge and reflect on the concepts as they pertain to their own capacity to lead effectively."
– Deborah Mann, Student Leadership Challenge Certified Facilitator
BOLD Leadership Program, Cornell University

What they are saying...

"In our public service leadership programs and courses we will be able to easily use the many relevant and engaging activities and reflection exercises provided in this workbook. It will enable our students to better engage with and benefit from The Student Leadership Challenge, and will also help foster their personal leadership development journeys."
– Jon McConnell, associate director,
Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford University

What they are saying...

"Every young person dreams of doing something extraordinary. The Student Leadership Challenge provides everything this generation needs to turn a dream into reality."
– Brian C. Warren Jr., executive director
Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity

What they are saying...

"A book of genuinely effective activities for enagaging students at all levels, turning the novice facilitator into a pro. It includes easy-to-use concepts that readily apply to life as a leader, and is a real difference maker that fosters success!"
– Randy D. Grimes, human resources director
Duke University

What they are saying...

"A fantastic resource for leadership educators looking to further develop students’ understanding of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership in a tangible, hands-on way! It offers engaging activities that are sure to make an impact on your student leaders. This activity book is a great supplement to The Student Leadership Challenge, bringing the original concepts off the page and into the real world.
"
– Kimberly Piatt, coordinator of leadership development
The College at Brockport.

What they are saying...

"An excellent one-stop resource for activities to engage student of different learning styles. Students will find the experiential nature of the activities easy to comprehend and most importantly be able to see the relevance and application of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership."
– Melvin Chia, principal consultant
Lifeskills Enrichment

What they are saying...

"From what, to so what, and now what, this guide helps take educators on a journey of not only understanding The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership but also specifically on how to apply, practice, and teach the nuances of these exemplary leadership ways of being."
– Laura Osteen, professor of higher education, Florida State University
and director, Florida State’s Center for Leadership and Civic Education

What they are saying...

"The Facilitation and Activity Guide would have helped me not only to develop a better leadership program but to be a better leader myself. For those administering The Five Practices, this guide ‘Models the way’ and will be one of your best coaches."
– Sam Eriksmoen, former director, Emerging Leaders Program
University of North Dakota

What they are saying...

"Educators working at all levels will benefit from [The Facilitation and Activity Guide]. It is practical, applicable to diverse sectors, and works."
– Katie Burke, director, L.E.A.D. (Leadership Education & Development)
Florida Atlantic University