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USD professor examines leadership in new book Putting Your Values to Work Becoming the Leader Others

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Following an effective leader isn’t as easy as A, B or C. It’s more like following the “four Vs: values, vision, vector and voice,” according to Matthew Fairholm, Ph.D., associate professor of political science at the University of South Dakota. Fairholm authored “Putting Your Values to Work: Becoming the Leader Others Want to Follow” to point out traits that people need to be a leader and having the qualities and behaviors that impact a followers decision to follow.

The book was an idea that he developed from studying leadership formally as well as training mid- and senior-level managers in government and nonprofit organizations. Rather than just honing in and writing about why people in high places should be followed, Fairholm turned much of his attention to the public who follow effective leaders and summarizes the key elements of leadership and what it takes to get people to follow.

“The most important concept, I think, is that leadership is more about figuring out why people should follow you rather than someone else,” said Fairholm, who has been a member of the USD faculty since 2003. “It is not about your position or rank in a formal or informal organization, it is about tapping into certain elements of the decision-making process of a potential follower to get that person to choose to follow you rather than someone else.”

An effective leader, he explained, is someone people want to follow. Most people associate leadership with rank and position, Fairholm explained. But if people see leadership as a freewill choice and accept a potential leader’s values, vision, direction and purpose, then people will see leadership happening all over the place.

“Leadership is independent of position and culture,” noted Fairholm, who shares a joint appointment at USD with the Department of Political Science and the W.O. Farber Center for Civic Leadership. “Many more people can qualify as leaders in this definition. One researcher said that leadership ‘is the most pervasive yet least understood social phenomenon.’ I think it is very pervasive and I hope the book helps make it a bit more understood.”

The timing of Fairholm’s book is also appropriate as its release this fall comes on the heels of the government shutdown and the American public’s “questionable view” of effective leadership at the executive and legislative levels of government.

“Some people are skeptical of leadership in general and that skepticism may be increasing with cultural shifts,” he added.

“Putting Your Values to Work: Becoming the Leader Others Want to Follow” contains real-world stories from international, public, military academic and nonprofit organizations to underscore leadership and management ideas. It also addresses about key leadership qualities and links the four Vs (values, vision, vector and voice) to tried and true concepts regarding leadership theories.

Fairholm, who earned a Ph.D. in public administration from The George Washington University and a B.A. and M.A. in public policy from Brigham Young University, said that the formal writing of the book took less than a year but worked on the research and experiences for the book for more than a decade. A photo of Fairholm is available for download at

To order “Putting Your Values to Work: Becoming the Leader Others Want to Follow,” please go to


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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Hanna DeLange
USD News