4 4. Success Begins in Childhood

Chapter 4

Is success at work based on childhood and adolescent experiences? What is the
infl uence of parents’ expectations on one’s career? The infl uence of childhood
and adolescent experiences in relation to adult work success has not been widely
studied. As such, we wanted to begin the process of drawing back the curtain on
this theme through top workers’ biographies.
We were interested in exploring those factors that Employees of the Year
recognised from their lives, especially from childhood and adolescence, as having
enhanced their success. This is important if our aim is help people with their
opportunities to fi nd a suitable occupation in which they can use their talents.
Experiences and events taking place in childhood and adolescence can be crucial
or can at least point people in the right direction.
The fi rst part of the chapter focuses on the top workers’ childhood memories
and the factors they recall as having infl uenced their careers. The second part of
the chapter then continues the analysis from the point of view of caring teacherhood.
Findings from our leadership studies are also included in this chapter to
show how caring leadership in education can be used for promoting students’
successful study paths. This contributes yet another viewpoint to factors promoting
success during children’s and adolescents’ school careers.
Success starts from childhood?
Magnusson and Mahoney ( 2006 ) have argued that positive development cannot
be defi ned with reference to an individual person and that the person’s characteristics,
resources and limits, as well as the cultural, physical and historical context
in which the person lives, also matter. As such, positive development is a holistic
process. This means that developmental processes form an entity that affects all
levels of the person-environment system. At the same time, all the elements
within developmental processes interact. An individual’s positive development
depends on how well the inner and outer functions of the organism are synchronised.
Inner processes are, for example, mental, biological and behavioural
Chapter 4
Success begins in childhood
58 Success begins in childhood
functions while outer processes cover opportunities, demands and rules provided
by one’s environment. Therefore, the developmental process also varies between
society and culture (Magnusson and Mahoney 2006 ).
Numerous studies have focused on positive development, and they have often
taken a specifi c stand or approach to the theme. There are singular studies
researching various factors and relationships; for example, studies have found a
positive relationship between adolescents’ perceived autonomy and self-esteem
together with a positive relationship with parents. Likewise, parents’ socioeconomic
status infl uences not only children’s wellbeing but also intellectual attainment,
such as education (for example, Bradley and Corwyn 2002 ). Furthermore,
socioeconomic factors are shown to be indirectly related to children’s academic
achievement through parents’ beliefs and behaviours (Davis-Kean 2005 ). Similar
fi ndings have been reported, for example, regarding parents’ role in enhancing
their children’s acquisition of positive values, attitudes and behaviours towards
sport hobbies (Côté 1999 ). However, current approaches to the theme have begun
adopting more and more holistic foci concentrating on factors that affect both
positive and problem youth development (Catalano et al. 2005 ).
Success is not just sunshine; it requires the ability to be fl exible, adjust, make
compromises and cope with failures and adversities. It is important to consider
how the home teaches and supports a child, including in circumstances in which
he or she does not achieve goals, i.e., the ways in which diffi culties are handled
and how they are understood as an inevitable part of life (Määttä and Uusiautti
2012a, 2012b, 2013), as well as how to develop a sense of oneself as an autonomous
individual (Eccles 1999 ). Therefore, the infl uence of family and upbringing
is far from simple when it comes to children’s success in later life (see, for example,
Aronson Fontes 2002 ; Elder et al . 1985 ; Rowe 1990 ). What might be the
most crucial aspect for this study is the manner in which people learn to interpret
their experiences.
Indeed, top workers do not develop independently; they are surrounded by
their families, friends and relatives. According to Berscheid ( 2006 ), human
behaviour and development should always be understood as the result of living
within the network and context of human relationships. It is crucial to explore
how these factors enhance the development of self and the use of human strengths
(Caprara and Cervone 2006 ; Magnusson and Mahoney 2006 ). Indeed, love and
attachment expressed in relationships that surround us are not simply about an
affect or a passive inner emotion but an active aspiration to help the beloved grow
and be happy (Maijala et al . 2012 ; Määttä and Uusiautti 2013 ).
Perhaps no one aims for an Employee of the Year award, but the road to
success at work, from perspectives on childhood and adolescence, is likely to be
something more indefi nable and general. Despite this, some people do achieve
success at work. Is their success traceable to their childhood, and what could be
the role of their childhood and adolescent experiences? The purpose of this chapter
is to discuss the childhood experiences of top workers awarded Employee of
the Year and to explore what they regard as especially facilitating factors or
Success begins in childhood 59
obstacles in their childhood and adolescence that could explain their favourable
growth and development toward success at work.
First, we discuss the factors that the top workers considered benefi cial to their
career development and success at work. As expected, many factors were highlighted,
which were further categorised into (1) parents’ support and upbringing,
(2) idols, relatives and friends, and (3) careers counselling at school. Following
this, we take look at the hardships and obstacles faced by the top workers in their
childhood and adolescence.
Childhood experiences as contributory factors
in occupational choices
Success at work can result from many factors. Snyder and Lopez ( 2002 ) discuss
it as a process emphasising, for example, the infl uence of family, school, childhood
development and good workplaces on the young people. The section will
begin by analysing parents’ infl uence on top workers’ career choices and their
attitude to life, successes and hardships, and many characteristics needed for
success. Likewise, the role of idols, relatives and friends as bellwethers is
discussed. Third, the signifi cance of careers’ counselling at school is studied in
the context of the top workers’ experiences.
Parental support and upbringing
Values and educational goals that form the basis of upbringing refl ect an understanding
of the meaning of life, in other words, what people want to achieve or
do in order to live a certain kind of life. Home is the most important environment
for children because every child is bound to a home and is under the infl uence of
the home environment. Attitudes to life and other people are adopted from home.
The infl uence of the home in upbringing is markedly signifi cant and, therefore,
the process of becoming a top worker can be traced to the childhood and adolescence
of top workers.
In the interviews, top workers were asked to reminisce about events and factors
that have affected their career choices in one way or another and whether their
parents had infl uenced them. The fi rst reaction was that their parents had not tried
to infl uence them. However, according to Snyder and Lopez ( 2002 ), families do
infl uence their children’s behaviour in later life by exemplifying how to explain
adversities, how to set goals for the future, and how they strengthen hope in children.
Indeed, according to the interview fi ndings, parents had infl uenced top
workers’ attitude toward work rather than than their actual career choices.
Top workers maintained that their parents emphasised the importance of
having an occupation and earning one’s keep during adulthood. Three of the
interviewees reported that their parents had some ideas about what they might
want their children to become, and two top workers stated that their parents’
occupation had infl uenced their career choices. For example, a farmer had
60 Success begins in childhood
continued the family farm. However, this career choice was not clear from the
beginning. The farmer described the situation as follows:
SU: ‘Was it always clear that you would continue with the family farm?’
Employee of the Year: ‘I don’t know. It wasn’t obvious… Of course, when
relatives visited, they would always talk about the young farmer, or they
would ask something else. But it wasn’t clear to me… I think that it mattered
that I was away for about ten years. It broadened my mind and thoughts, and
everything, surprisingly lot when you look around and see what people do
elsewhere in the world. My parents never put pressure on me. Rather, they
have always asked about my situation. Certainly, these questions were asked
more often when my father’s retirement got closer.’
Another top worker was also given the opportunity to continue with his parents’
farm, but this top worker was aware from an early age that this was not a suitable
path. One of the interviewees spoke of hope quite concretely: the top worker’s father
had wanted his child to become a chemist (in Finland, chemists are entrepreneurs and
own pharmacies), but the top worker was not interested in this fi eld. The desire of
the parents was primarily driven by the security and profi tability of being a chemist.
One top worker stated that studying and having an occupation was strongly
encouraged at home. Although parents did not infl uence this top worker’s career
choice, his father’s occupation had affected childhood and adolescence hobbies
and the career choices of siblings:
‘ My father was a musician… Being an artist, he downright demanded that we
do music and almost every one of us children had to play the piano or whatever.
You have probably heard these stories about compulsory hobbies. We did it, and
some of my siblings, two sisters are cantors and my brother too is a musician.’
Other top workers did consider that their parents had much infl uence on their
careers. The most important thing was to fi nd a fi eld that was pleasing and interesting,
and parents did not try to restrict their children. Parents did not put pressure
or demands on their children but helped them to think about the future, make
their own choices in life, and perceive the possibilities, opportunities and wellbeing
that life could offer. What is relevant for success is the capability to learn how
to get excited, set new goals, and the propensity to receive positive feedback and
thus enhance one’s own learning.
Furthermore, disappointments are an important aspect of developing selfesteem
and mental health (for example, Desjardins et al . 2008 ). In the safety of
the home, children can learn about those means that help them to handle disappointments
and failures. When necessary, parents can protect their children from
feelings of anxiety and guilt. Successful rearing does not aim to rid hardships and
obstacles but to help children learn how to confront, tolerate and conquer the
inevitable diffi culties (McRee and Halpern 2010 ).
Success begins in childhood 61
Idols, relatives and friends
Only a few of the interviewees could name an idol who had infl uenced their
career choice. However, three top workers acknowledged someone or some
people who had, in one way or another, helped them with their occupational
choices. The police offi cer maintained that patriotism in the family had infl uenced
his career dreams. Patriotism was based on respect for relatives who had gone to
war and they were considered the police offi cer top worker’s idols. Although the
top worker realised that the police profession was not founded only on the basis
of this ideology, it remained partially important.
The priest described how spiritual life was rooted in the family even if the
priest’s parents had had temporal occupations and there were no actual church
employees in the family. Nevertheless, the top worker’s grandmother had run
Sunday school and the top worker had good memories of it.
These examples show that top workers’ stories do not include absolute idols
who they would have followed in their lives. Therefore, it is not about admiration
with blind worshipping but, rather, that the factors infl uencing these idols were
manifested in attitudes such as patriotism and religiousness. These kinds of positive
experiences directed their career choices later in life.
Friends can also have an infl uence on careers, and their effects are not always
foreseen. Hence, one of the top workers stated that the decision to apply to a business
school was based on a discussion with a friend. They wanted to continue
studying together. This is a good example of how powerful an infl uence adolescent
friendships can have and that, therefore, the impact of the circle of friends
should never be underestimated. In a situation in which choosing a place of study
is uncertain or diffi cult, the decision can easily be made with friends.
Careers counselling at school
The previous sections have showed that top workers’ career choices were not
directed by their families; their upbringing was directed in the sense of enhancing
their overall positive attitudes to study and work. Therefore, it was also interesting
to explore whether their schools had guided them and whether careers counselling
in school had helped them with their occupational choice.
The signifi cance of school in upbringing becomes especially emphasised if the
home and family resources are insuffi cient or if children and adolescents do not
receive suffi cient information or stimuli at home. Their development can be
supported at school, too, by employing their strengths. The purpose of student
counselling at school is to support students’ personal, social, moral and occupational
development, and therefore it is quite wide-ranging and holistic (Sundvall-
Huhtinen 2007 ) in nature. In Finnish schools, students have careers counselling,
and practical training periods in real workplaces are also important.
In the interviews, top workers were asked to describe their experiences of
careers counselling at school. Their experiences varied from one extreme to the
62 Success begins in childhood
other. Every top worker remembered their school counsellor, but perceptions of
how meaningful the counselling had been varied considerably.
Three top workers had experiences that could be regarded as positive. One
remembered that various occupations were introduced to them, although this top
worker attended school when Finnish schools did not yet have separate counsellors
or practical training periods.
‘I think careers counseling was appropriate. I cannot remember which one of
the teachers had to do it. It provided information about certain occupations
and such, so that we could ponder it a bit. So, it was benefi cial at that moment.’
This top worker did not choose his occupation on the basis of careers counselling
but did so later when performing army duties. However, the positive experience
of careers counselling was based on the information provided about different
occupations that many young people did not know beforehand.
Another top worker remembered that at school they had to familiarise themselves
with occupations in which they were the most interested. They were asked
to write about how to study for and become employed in these fi elds. This top
worker stated that he was already thinking about his current occupation at that
time. Thus, careers counselling equipped this top worker with the knowledge of
how to enter that profession.
The third positive experience differed somewhat from the previous two. This
top worker had sought professional careers counselling after graduating from
general upper secondary education. Careers counselling thus supported this top
worker’s occupational choice.
Two top workers had quite similar negative experiences of careers counselling
in school. Their counsellor had advised them about who could apply for vocational
school and who could continue to general upper secondary education and
then to higher education. While the fi rst top worker’s counsellor had not
supported the top worker’s decision to go to vocational school, the other top
worker’s counsellor remained doubtful of the top worker’s capability to continue
on to general upper secondary education. Therefore, careers counselling would
have directed them in directions other than what they had chosen and in which
they had succeeded. These two top workers were the youngest of the research
participants and they also had practical training periods at school. Usually, they
would go to familiar, neighbourhood enterprises to familiarise themselves with
real work life.
‘Yes, we had careers counseling in middle school. And I still remember what
our counselor at the time told me, that my choice was a bad one. I tried to say
that I did not agree and tried to give reasons. And the counselor strongly
encouraged me to continue with general upper secondary education. I did not.
I did not think it would be my thing. I really remember it, and we had quite a
lot of that counseling during the ninth grade.’
Success begins in childhood 63
What is most interesting in the previous example, and in the one that follows,
is that counsellors do not seem very interested in fi guring out what the youth is
interested in. At the very least, this was what the top workers remembered.
Students were divided into two groups; based on their grades, they would be suitable
for either general upper secondary education or vocational upper secondary
education after their compulsory education.
Employee of the Year: ‘Those careers counseling lessons! Those were about
rest and so on. I don’t know whether I was just a silly youngster that I didn’t
understand the idea of counseling or whether it was because of those counselors.
I remember that they were all already approaching their retirement age,
so they were so far away from…’
SU: ‘…yeah, the adolescents’ life.’
Employee of the Year: ‘Yes. And then he looked at my records and wondered
whether I was really seriously going to pursue general upper secondary education.’
Two top workers reported that careers counselling had not been signifi cant to
them at all. They both remembered it but had not personally benefi tted from it. In
all, it can be concluded that the top workers had not found careers counselling
very important and, therefore, it cannot be seen as one of the key factors directly
contributing to their success, although, in fact, it could and should have the opposite
Why did careers counselling not meet students’ needs? One reason is probably
that top workers who participated in this research went to school in the
1950s-1970s when careers counselling was completely differently organised than
it is today. For example, Sundvall-Huhtinen ( 2007 ) points out that it was not until
the 1970s that the school system started to become more fl exible and personal
study plans were developed. In addition to changes in the education system,
changes in society and especially work life have infl uenced on the development
of careers counselling (Numminen et al . 2002 ).
The need for counselling and guidance has increased. At the same time, attitudes
about the future and future occupations have changed considerably; in the
1960s-1980s’ Finland, the starting point of studying and work was to make a
career decision, pursue studies, fi nd a stable and secure career, and avoid making
mistakes. This was also evident in the kind of advice that the top workers received
at home from their parents. However, in the 1990s and 2000s, attitudes have
changed and emphasis is on having many options, life-long learning, enjoying
life, and learning from mistakes (Sundvall-Huhtinen 2007 ). Changes in the worldview,
living in insecure times, and the demand for constant updating and learning
at work necessitate effi cient guidance that can support occupational development.
Top workers also mentioned other factors that they thought enhanced their
careers. One talked about having a gap year between studies and after compulsory
64 Success begins in childhood
school. This top worker had no idea about a suitable occupation at the time.
During that particular year, the top worker worked in a retirement home for eight
months and became familiarised with nursing. Although this top worker did not
apply for nursing education immediately afterwards, the top worker later realised
that positive work experiences from the retirement home would pave the way.
Eventually, the top worker studied and graduated as a nurse and has worked as
one ever since.
Hardships and obstacles
Top workers were also asked to describe the kinds of hardships they faced in their
lives and whether they considered these experiences as having impacted on their
careers. Some specifi c events were mentioned. For example, the police offi cer did
not get into cadet school, which was very disappointing. However, this top
worker decided on the police profession and applied to police school, got in, and
this is how a fi ne career as a police offi cer got started. The setback turned into an
advantage, and plan B became a success story.
Various kinds of career-related hardships could be seen as mere sidetracks.
This is also because top workers were once clueless youngsters trying to fi nd their
own paths. Two top workers experienced such sidetracks; after having acquired
an education, they later realised that their pursued fi elds were misguided and
unsuitable. Stories about sidetracks teach that one does not always decide upon
the right occupation without some level of stray. As a matter of fact, wrong
choices can even be considered advantageous as they may strengthen one’s positive
feelings toward fi nding the right path; under such circumstances, one can
make solid comparisons between situations.
Every top worker had experienced turning points in which they had to decide
where to go next. For example, two top workers had the opportunity to continue
with their parents’ farm, but only one of them eventually did. Both of them
became Employees of the Year awardees. What seems most important is to listen
to oneself and choose the direction according to one’s own feelings, thoughts and
values. One of the top workers expressed this as follows:
‘I do not know about those situations when you have to choose, whether the
road will go here or there, or will I take this or that. I have been wise enough
to think of what I really want, what is worth investing in with my abilities and
talents. And even if something could be really interesting but not quite what
is most suitable. I have always discussed these profoundly with myself. When
it comes to my occupation, I have certainly been thinking about what are the
best use of my strengths. And that had led to such satisfaction and pleasure
that cannot be measured by money or respectability in relation to work.’
This type of thinking reveals a multidimensional analysis of the mission, standards
and performances expected in work (see also Gardner et al . 2001 ).
Success begins in childhood 65
Imbibing brisk attitude and optimism from parents
and educators?
According to the results, top workers could not recall specifi c factors from their
childhood that could have been crucial in fi nding the right occupation. However, one
important notion can be raised from their childhood, which is the attitude toward
education, work and life in general that was adopted from home. Although the top
workers’ parents did not make career decisions for their children, they had encouraged
them to educate themselves, work hard, and have a positive attitude about the
future. Indeed, it has been shown that childhood experiences do matter in later development
and success in later life (for example, Hawkins et al . 2005; Larson, 2000).
How then can success be supported? Twenty years ago, Arnold et al . ( 1993 )
emphasised that awareness of one’s own strengths and weaknesses, values and
points of interest, and knowledge about different occupations are of primary
importance for career enhancement. According to the results of this study, none
of the top workers had found their occupation through the careers counselling
provided at school, but some of them still appreciated the information about
occupations given at counselling.
The latest research in the fi eld of positive psychology has further advanced the
importance of recognising one’s strengths (Aspinwall and Staudinger 2006 ).
There is not simply one road to success at work, and every top worker is an individual.
What was common among them was their ability and courage to listen to
themselves and be true to themselves. According to Gilligan ( 2000 ), childhoodrelated
factors that promote self-directedness or self-effi cacy include parents’
belief in the child’s own sense of control, responsiveness, consistency, warmth
and praise, support, and encouraging the child to engage in his or her environment
and surrounding people (see also Sroufe 2005 ; Young et al . 2001 ).
Therefore, social skills learned from home can be crucial for the positive development
in this sense (see, for example, Decovic and Janssens 1992 ).
It seemed that the most important criterion for success is to fi nd a career that
is suitable and in which a person can become fulfi lled. Educators need imagination,
courage, and even the ability to take risks so that they can help growing and
maturing people test their own limits and abilities (Uusiautti 2008 ; Uusiautti and
Määttä 2013 ). Careers counselling can play an important role and should be
further researched. Students need information about various occupations and
work tasks to be able to evaluate what they fi nd interesting and what they want
or can do. Therefore, personal careers counselling also has to help a student
recognise his or her abilities and talents, but equally important is to fi nd out which
school subjects the student likes the best and what he or she likes to do. Questions
related to career choice and occupational socialisation are surprisingly closely
connected with free-time activities (Driver 1982 ; Duffy and Dik 2009 ; Maljojoki
1989 ; Middleton and Loughead 1993 ).
In addition, students have their own preconceptions of various occupations and
thus it is crucial that the expectations in various professions are clarifi ed to
66 Success begins in childhood
students. Abundant practical experiences and examples from real work life
cannot be suffi ciently emphasised. Furthermore, teachers and counsellors should
be aware of their prejudices and stereotypical conceptions of valuable and notso-
valuable occupations. Top workers who participated in this study attended
school four to six decades ago, and careers counselling was not as systematic as
it is today, since societal interest in adolescent choices emerged in the late 1960s
and early 1970s (Petersen 1988 ).
It is also worth remembering that, regardless of whether a student is a straight-
A pupil or simply barely passes, every student needs careers counselling.
Therefore, it is important to highlight the positive experiences of success and
being capable – every student has and can have them. It would be interesting to
know how the future Employees of the Year perceive the role of careers counselling
in school today.
In all, it became evident that researching the secrets of success from people’s
childhood and adolescence was not straightforward. The phenomenon of success
does not appear in the same way as failure and, therefore, it is not easy to think
about reasons for success (Isen 2001 ; Uusiautti and Määttä 2011 ). However, the
role of childhood experiences at school and at home should be interesting to
educators. For example, Mäkikangas ( 2007 ) has found that a sensitive and childcentered
upbringing was connected to optimism in later phases of life (see also
Sroufe 2005 ). Top workers also displayed optimistic attitudes, which can be
closely related to the overall satisfaction of life, including satisfaction with one’s
work and career choice.
Perceiving the phenomenon of success from this perspective is relevant to
many areas of life, but especially remarkable is that the foundation of success can
be laid from childhood. Positive psychology has been interested in exploring and
creating optimal conditions for all children and students (Carruthers and Hood
2005 ). Success is not just something that, for example, gifted people are entitled
to but the concept could be used for enhancing everyone’s success. If students’
mastery of information or skill leads to success, and if positive emotions are one
of the cornerstones of successful learning, it would be reasonable to pay attention
to this viewpoint in education (Chafouleas and Bray 2004 ). The purpose, therefore,
is to research, defi ne and specify the human strengths and capacities that
individual people, families, communities and societies should aim to utilise.
Positive human development should be encouraged (Dunn et al . 2008 ). Although
the viewpoint presented in this review is very individualistic, it is also worthy to
continue the discussion from the collective perspective and to think about
whether these concepts can also be used for enhancing collective or communal
Educators should be ready to meet the challenge of providing children and
students with such positive experiences of fi nding their own road and being able
to fulfi l themselves. Lerner et al . ( 2002 ) use the word ‘thriving’ to discuss the
positive development of youth. They emphasise ‘the fi ve Cs of positive youth
development: competence, confi dence, character, social connection, and caring
Success begins in childhood 67
(or compassion)’ (p. 23), which work toward enhancing positive youth development.
Indeed, in addition to the personal benefi ts of happiness that are achieved
through utilising one’s strengths (Seligman 2002; 2011), they are also socially
benefi cial as balanced, satisfi ed people are also better citizens (Gilpin 2008 ).
Caring teacherhood as a means to success
As the childhood memories of top workers surfaced, it became evident that the
connection between counselling at school and one’s capability of fi nding the right
occupation was not that simple. As such, we want to spend a moment to discuss
the idea of caring teacherhood as a means to discovering pupils’ strengths.
We consider teachers as caring leaders who can employ love-based methods that
enhance pupils’ ability to spot their strengths and thus improve their
Can pupils and students be led toward goodness
and happiness – and wellbeing?
Authority is often addressed from pedagogical points of view and it has been
studied a great deal (Delpit 1988 ; Deutsch and Jones 2011 ; Pace and Hemmings
2007 ). Nevertheless, it has been understood in a contradictory manner in relation
to education and teaching (Langford 2010 ; Seidl and Friend 2002 ). Obviously,
the relationship between a teacher and a student is asymmetrical because the
teacher possesses something that the pupil does not. According to Hare, the
teacher does not have to think that the student is presently his or her equal, but
does need to see the student as a potential equal (Hare 1993 ). The purpose of the
learning relationship is to make the pupil develop into an independent and
responsible autonomous individual. However, students cannot achieve this goal
independently; they need the educator’s help and guidance and, therefore, the
teacher is in a position of authority.
van Manen emphasised that an adult’s ability to affect a pupil is genuine when
the authority does not rely on power, but on love and affection (van Manen 1991 ).
Harjunen also defi nes pedagogical authority through pedagogical interaction
(Harjunen 2009 ). According to the author, pedagogical interaction consists of
such characteristics as ‘trust building’, ‘treating students as human beings’, and
the ‘ethics of care and justice’.
We have defi ned the connection between pedagogical love and authority in the
following manner:
If pedagogical love and pedagogical authority are based on expertise-based
respect, the learning atmosphere is warm and encouraging. Mutual respect
supports empathy; students respect the teacher because of his or her expertise
and regard the teacher as a sort of safe mainstay that they can rely on. The
teacher trusts and believes in the students’ abilities, respects their individuality,
68 Success begins in childhood
and helps them to enhance their balanced development and fi nd their own
(Määttä and Uusiautti 2011b )
What does this mean in the context of schooling and teaching? The existence of a
good human being can be considered problematic or even impossible because
‘good’ is usually confused with ‘perfect’. Being a good human being does not mean
that one should be totally irreproachable, moral and faultless, that is, non-human and
probably impossible to achieve anyway. We want to highlight love as the fundamental
factor in raising children to be good human beings and that this particular aim is
the ultimate purpose of all rearing. Love appears in teaching as guidance toward
disciplined work, but also as patience, trust and forgiveness. The purpose is not to
make learning fun, easy or pleasing but to create a setting for learning whereby
pupils can use and develop their own resources, eventually proceeding at the maximum
of their own abilities. A loving teacher takes care that the learner does not lose
his or her trust in his or her own learning when faced with diffi culties. Therefore,
love appears as goal-oriented action: a teacher plans and implements learning situations
that enhance learning. Furthermore, a loving teacher takes a pupil’s personal
situation into consideration (for example, Hatt 2005 ; van Manen 1991 ).
Pedagogical love is considered a working method that involves persistent interest
and perseverance in supporting pupils’ development for the sake of themselves
and the whole society. In addition, teachers should fi nd a balance between
pedagogical love and pedagogical authority and combine them both in a studentspecifi
c manner. Pedagogical tact is at its strongest in this ability. Dealing with
various students requires fl exibility and sensitivity in the teacher’s pedagogical
approach. Some students need more intimacy while some others consider expertise
especially important. Moreover, the teaching content and learning objectives
may necessitate different kinds of procedures from the teacher – in other words,
a certain kind of tact (Määttä and Uusiautti 2011b ). Taking this viewpoint further,
van Manen points out that pedagogical tact is ‘the language of surprising and
unpredicted pedagogical action’ that emerges from the genuine attachment to the
pupil (van Manen 1991 ). At the core, it is the children’s vulnerability and
defenselessness that make the educator protect them.
Tools for employing strength-based approaches in school
The way we see it, the role of a teacher is primarily focused on encouraging and
rewarding the multitude of talents and strengths a child has, by presenting opportunities
for displays of these talents and strengths each day. In practice, the means
are quite simple: linking strengths to specifi c festivals and events throughout the
school calendar and activities such as the strengths-based classroom, victory logs
and celebrations of ‘what went well’ (see Linley et al . 2009 ).
In practice, it is important that the teacher makes self-assessments. A teacher
can refl ect and observe his or her way of teaching and interacting with students
Success begins in childhood 69
and ask questions such as ‘Do I listen to students’ opinions in an open manner?’,
‘Do I encourage students to express their emotions or perceptions?’, ‘How do I
handle divergent opinions and criticism or feedback from students?’, and ‘Do I
treat students equally regardless of their background?’ Becoming aware of one’s
own style and level of tact enables one to move from one quadrant to another,
toward an ideal state. It is about the teacher’s tact and the capabilities of recognising
various learners and personalities and of having situational fl exibility (see
also Määttä and Uusiautti 2012b ).
In addition to teachers’ refl ective practice, it is crucial to include positivelyoriented
and wellbeing-promoting actions toward pupils and students. Seligman
et al . ( 2009 ) describes simple exercises that aim to help students identify their
signature strengths and increase their use of these strengths in daily life.
Moreover, this intervention was aimed at promoting resilience, positive emotions
and students’ sense of meaning or purpose. All goals were achieved, which made
Seligman’s research group conclude that wellbeing should and can be taught at
school. The positive focus seemed, according to the study by Seligman et al ., to
consist of relatively small things, such as changing speaking prompts (for example,
instead of asking students to describe negative events, teachers asked them
to give a speech about when they were of value to others; religious education
teachers asked students to explore the relationship between ethics and pleasure
and what gives life purpose and meaning; geography teachers asked students to
consider how the criteria for wellbeing might differ between various countries;
PE teachers focused on analysing the successes of past games before the next
game or lesson). The point here was that wellbeing could be taught and, with the
teacher’s lead, students would not only learn about it, but their own wellbeing
would increase as well.
It is important to discover one’s signature strengths. In Seligman et al .’s ( 2005 )
study, long-term effects of increased happiness were perceived in exercises that
aimed to employ signature strengths in a new way and in which pupils were asked
to name and explain three good things about their daily lives.
Furthermore, the idea behind Appreciative Inquiry (AI) could also be employed
in education by teachers who would like to utilise the idea of caring teacherhood.
Appreciative Inquiry utilises a cycle of four processes that focuses on ‘discover’
(the identifi cation of organisational processes that work well), ‘dream’ (the envisioning
of processes that would work well in the future), ‘design’ (planning and
prioritising processes that would work well), and ‘destiny’ (the implementation
(execution) of the proposed design) (Cooperrider et al . 2008 ). Likewise, Ryan
et al . ( 1999 ) have advanced that AI is a suitable strategy for initiating an affective
and analytical micro-level reform within a single school. The fundamental notion
is that instead of concentrating on what was done wrong, AI helps with discovering
what is done well and what more could be done.
Furthermore, providing students with daily experiences of success is important.
If the mastery of information and skills is to lead to success, and if positive
emotion is one of the keystones of learning, it would be reasonable to pay
70 Success begins in childhood
attention to this viewpoint in teaching (Chafouleas and Bray 2004 ). Fredrickson’s
( 2001 ) analysis on pride also falls into this category. By adjusting goals and
objectives and planning learning tasks in a way that each pupil can have the experience
of achieving a goal, this kind of experience of success can be promoted.
Teachers try to fi nd a balance between pupils’ skills, work-related expectations
and opportunities and challenges, which is likely to lead to better performance,
contentment, higher motivation and a sense of self-effi cacy.
The teacher as a caring leader or pedagogical authority has the capacity to help
bring about the best in pupils. The process can then move forward – not only the
process of learning and performing, but also the process of discovering and using
pupils’ signature strengths, and promoting wellbeing and happiness, not only in
the current phase of life but also in prospective phases.
According to Hare ( 1993 ), pedagogical love, caring in the classroom, humility,
commitment and hope are traits that constitute a ‘good’ teacher, although they are
not always easy to adhere to in modern schools. Therefore, pedagogical tact is the
key; this is because it, along with pedagogical goodness, illustrates the pedagogical
relationship and the fundamental idea that the adult is primarily working for the
benefi t of the child in this context (Saevi and Eilifsen 2008 ). The ability to create
happiness for life is an important skill for a good educator and teacher. Von Wright
has stated that to love the world we have to accept it and, therefore, to love students
we have to accept them and to refrain from wanting to change them and to prepare
them for changing the world in a particular and predefi ned way (von Wright 2009).
Enhancing students’ study success through
caring teacherhood
Caring teacherhood can be the way of bringing out the best in children, but
caring, strength-based leading of learning does not need to end in compulsory
education. Similar guidance is needed also in higher education levels. Also, it is
not just teachers working in the classrooms that is important but the overall study
environment that is created by the way the school or education institution is led;
whether the teachers are encouraged to focus on pupils’ and students’ strengths,
whether they are provided with suffi cient resources for teaching, and whether the
students are appreciated at school. The school functions as an entity, and the
student-centered, positively oriented approach is a pervasive element of education.
Here, we introduce our fi ndings from Finnish and American universities as
an example of how school can enhance students’ success. The perspective on
university studies is not meant to overlook other education levels. Instead, we
wanted to analyse our data and provide an example of the impact caring leadership
can make in education institutions. Thus, we argue that this viewpoint could
apply to, for example, vocational education schools and polytechnics as well as
it seemingly does to the university-level education.
Especially at a time when increasing demands on effi cient and productive
higher education, high numbers of student drop-outs (see, for example, Kuh et al .
Success begins in childhood 71
2008 ; OECD 2010) and prolonged studies (OECD 2010; San Antonio 2008 ;
Schoon et al . 2010 ) do not seem to point in the same direction, new ways of
considering education are needed. How to make students’ study paths smooth and
have them succeed in their studies?
In this section we will discuss how the goal of success could be achieved by
employing caring leadership in higher education. This section leans on the data
obtained from Finnish and American university leaders. The ultimate idea of the
study was that a particular positive and caring viewpoint could be something that
today’s higher education would need. For example, Cruce et al . ( 2006 ) suggest
that good practices in education have a unique, positive impact on student development
as they can affect, for example, student engagement, which can be seen
as one of the main pillars of successful and meaningful study paths. Kezar and
Kinzie ( 2006 ) have introduced features of a quality undergraduate education that
has been associated with student engagement; quality begins with an organisational
culture that values high expectations, shows respect for diverse learning
styles, and has emphasis on the early years of study; a quality undergraduate
curriculum requires coherence in learning, synthesising experiences, on-going
practice of learned skills, and integrating education with experience; and quality
undergraduate instruction builds in active learning, assessment and prompt feedback,
collaboration, adequate time on task, and out-of-class contact with faculty
(see also Kuh 2003 ). Likewise, Theilheimer ( 1991 ) has presented a detailed list
of fi ve factors that contribute to a positive learning environment: (1) comfort
(creating a feeling of safety, accommodating errors, giving students the freedom
of expressing themselves without constraints, creating the feeling of belonging to
peer group); (2) clarity (providing clear instructions, breaking down material to
smaller chunks to maintain the feeling of accomplishment, however small); (3)
respect (mutual respect between students and the teacher); (4) relationships
(particularly caring relationships between the teacher and individual students,
teacher attending each student individually); and (5) responsibility (giving
students a degree of control over decisions concerning their learning).
Here, our purpose was to analyse how caring leadership in higher education
can be employed to enhance students’ success and study achievements, and what
its relationship with other factors affecting students’ study success is like.
The leaders’ perspective is interesting when considering the effect of caring
that covers the institution, in this case, the university, through the select approach
of the leader. Caldwell and Dixon ( 2010 ) have defi ned love, forgiveness and trust
as organisational constructs that are freedom-producing, empowering and vital to
enhancing followers’ self-effi cacy. When leaders consistently exhibit love,
forgiveness and trust in relationships, their followers – whether they were
students or employees – respond to these behaviours with increased commitment
and loyalty. Moreover, happiness can be directly translated into engagement,
productivity and satisfaction (Prewitt 2003 ; see also Rego et al . 2011 ). It has been
argued that sensitive leaders develop a culture that demonstrates concern for
individual needs (Fairholm and Fairholm 2000 ; Popper and Amit 2009 ).
72 Success begins in childhood
Happiness not only produces a quantitative improvement by increasing effi ciency
but also a qualitative one by making a better product or outcome by virtue of
pride, belief and commitment. Emotions and emotional intelligence have even
been considered as the heart of effective leadership (Goleman 2006 ). Furthermore,
an ethic of caring establishes a moral touchstone for decision making (Hoyle
2002 ) as leaders’ elicitation of love regards other people as the cause, target or
third-party observer of these emotions (Fischer and van Kleef 2010 ).
Given this perspective on love and leadership, we were interested in researching
how university leaders talk about the connection between caring leadership
and students’ study success. This viewpoint contributes to the overall knowledge
about caring leadership practices, but specifi cally to the awareness of the multidimensional
nature of higher education organisations and factors affecting the
smoothness of university students’ study processes. Finally, the purpose is to
determine how the love-based aspect might be used in elaborating research
models for re-thinking and designing caring learning environments, students’
psychosocial wellbeing, and for developing the models of caring and love-based
leadership in education context.
As the interviewees worked in universities, their work was closely connected
to not only their followers but also to university students. Therefore, leaders
discussed their leadership in relation to the study opportunities and conditions
among students at their universities. We analysed how the university leaders actually
perceived their role in promoting university students’ study success and
fl uent study processes. All their perceptions were fi rst categorised into themes
according to the way leadership was discussed in relation to students (for example,
leadership actions for the students, providing resources and quality teaching).
Then, the perceptions were re-categorised into three main categories that best
represented the leaders’ perceptions: using caring leadership for (1) providing
resources for quality education, (2) seeing students, faculty or staff, and themselves
as equal groups, and thus promoting a sense of solidarity, and (3) treating
students as customers.
Caring leaders provide resources for quality education
The fi rst category refers to the relationship between outer factors affecting education
and the way that the education is realised in practice and provided to
students. The current educational policies regarding funding in universities were
refl ected by the university leaders. They were aware of the pressure of doing
research and having students graduate:
‘The pressure within the public university environment has really focused
more and more around money. [Universities] have to be doing more research,
they have to be taking more students, they have to be generating more
(American leader)
Success begins in childhood 73
‘At this level, in a university, those kinds of push for excellence and productivity
make it pretty diffi cult to be I think a loving leadership model.’
(American leader)
Although they realised that the demands of competition and productivity can
make it more diffi cult to employ caring leadership in universities, the university
leaders could see their position and opportunities to utilise their leadership. They
seemed to consider themselves responsible for ensuring the high quality education
and support for students.
‘I mean, your [the leader’s] job is to make life better for all the faculty and
students so they can do what they need to do: their research, their teaching,
and the students, so they learn and get their degree, go out there and make us
all proud. To do that, you got to be a leader.’
(American leader)
‘A lot of times, that requires that you’re going to make sure that the quality
of the education that the students get is going to be the highest possible.’
(American leader)
In practice, caring leadership appeared as a wish to guarantee as high a quality education
for students as possible by using the available resources in a purposeful manner,
reallocating it to activities that would benefi t students’ study processes (for example,
by decreasing teachers’ and professors’ administrative work), and enhancing the
spirit of everybody doing their share and their best for the students and the university.
‘We have to guarantee such resources that the quality of education is considerably
better than it is now, that the operation is meaningful, and that we can
take the best possible care of students. That will also benefi t work life.’
(Finnish leader)
‘I fi nd it surprising that we have so much administrative work at the university…
Teachers have to send emails to various pupils, and they do a little bit
of this and that? That’s administrative work. And if we had an employee to
do that work, it would be much more logical.’
(Finnish leader)
Caring leaders promote the sense of solidarity among
students and faculty
The second viewpoint expressed by the university leaders was related to the
atmosphere at the unit. They considered it important for the students’ study
success, commitment and overall satisfaction that the people at each unit and at
the university would share the sense of togetherness and solidarity.
74 Success begins in childhood
‘The caring that I have my organization, I got 700 employees, about 18,000
students, the caring I have is for all of them, and so, everybody gets treated
that way.’
(American leader)
‘You can have more family-orientation. We are only interested in our own
research and we hardly ever collaborate. I think that at the individual level,
you know, I think working with your own doctoral students, we can have
more personal caring relationship. The stress of competition is not good but
working with individual students and dissertations, that’s more satisfying,
working with students in the classroom.’
(American leader)
As the latter of the aforementioned data excerpts show, the sense of togetherness
was also seen as the answer to the ever-increasing pressures of productivity and
individual success. Working together could benefi t not only students and the
faculty but the whole organisation. Moreover, the university leaders named actual
measures that they themselves used in practice in order to improve the spirit of
collaboration at their units. The leaders talked about treating everyone equally
and promoting open and informal interaction among the faculty and students.
‘Our community; we have students who are equal members of this work unit
in their own role, and we have the personnel… This [university] is quite a
world of its own compared to the normal units.’
(Finnish leader)
‘Management by walking around; and I think it is insane that teachers for
example sit in a separate cabinet away from students or where leaders sit on
a different table than employees. I can affect those daily situations in which I
can mold in the community and stick together with them.’
(Finnish leader)
‘We’re trying to re-develop the area around the university to build more
coffee shops, restaurants, bars, music places … I think that leadership is all
about getting people to feel connected and engaged… A research university
should make a very clear connection with the practical world of the community
and the faculty and the students.’
(American leader)
According to the fi ndings, the students’ study processes could be enhanced by
increasing open interaction and collaboration in units. Caring leadership thus
could be seen to be the means of setting an example by spending time with
people, discussing problems, and initiating actual proposals for actions, be they
small-scale collaborative actions such as the faculty and students having coffee at
Success begins in childhood 75
the same table, or larger scale measures, such as improving offerings within the
overall education environment. Thus, caring university leaders pay attention to
their followers’ and students’ overall wellbeing. They realise that a wellfunctioning
unit with a good and inspiring spirit can offer the best premises for
students’ study success and, through this, the success of the whole unit and the
university as well.
Caring leaders perceive students as customers
The previous category described how the sense of solidarity could support
students’ study paths. The third category develops this thinking to the personal
level by seeing students as the customers. According to the results, the university
leaders’ way of perceiving students resembles a whole new way of defi ning
customership. It is not just demands expressed by the customers but merely
collaboration and desire to fi nd out what is the best for them through reciprocal
interaction: students as customers are simultaneously seen as partners too. From
this point of view, caring leadership was considered a means of paying attention
to students as individuals, taking care of them at the personal level, and respecting
them as the most valuable part of the university. The university leaders
expressed this idea as follows:
‘In academics, you need to be very careful that the students should come fi rst.
And I think that’s a big difference between academics, a leader in academics
and a leader in industry. I really try to do what is best for the students fi rst.
And then I try to do what is best for the faculty and the college.’
(American leader)
‘Here, where you don’t necessarily have a product, per se. You are not
making televisions, but the other thing is: What is the product of higher education?
You might think the student, I’m saying, no. You can’t claim another
human being as your product. No, the curriculum is your product. I just refuse
to think, if you use business analogy and you’re a dealer, a car dealer. It’s not
the customer that’s your product, it’s your car. So, since when, if we look at
that, why not students are our customers.’
(American leader)
The university leaders described that when students are perceived as customers
of higher education, they can feel they are being supported and heard. Caring
leadership was manifested in personal relationships with students:
‘I have a good, direct, and open relationship with students. I hope, at least,
and sense that I am easily approachable and they come to discuss their problems
and studies, and quite openly have confi ded in me.’
(Finnish leader)
76 Success begins in childhood
In addition to direct interaction with students, some university leaders
perceived their position as a possibility to support their followers, department
chairs, professors and other faculty, in creating the favourable relationship with
students and supporting them in their studies. Caring leaders thus could see their
support and guidance they provide to their followers as the way of supporting
students’ study processes.
‘[I want to] support the chairs really connecting with students.’
(American leader)
‘From time to time, I’ve sent them [the faculty] reminders about why we are
working here and how important it is to work together despite the fact that
your work loads are heavier because of the fi nancial times but remember why
you’re here: It’s the students’ smile when they leave your offi ce. You know
it’s working and reminding them of that ultimate goal.’
(American leader)
The way caring university leaders can show their support to their ultimate
customers, students, is to make sure that people working at the unit are aware of
the purpose of their work. This was also related to the question of respecting
students. One of the leaders described the situation by giving an example:
‘If you have an offi ce and you open at 8, it’s not just good at all, not good for
the students, not good for the whole college, if you’re not there at 8 o’clock.
If there is no one there, we are not respectful to them.’
(American leader)
The leader continued with the example that he considered that it is also the caring
leader’s task to make sure that not only are his or her followers aware of their
responsibility for students and have accepted them as their customers, but also
that they have to fi nd meaning in their jobs. If they still do not fi nd their work
meaningful the leader’s task, for the sake of the students and the employee
himself or herself, is to help the employee fi nd the meaning in the job or reconsider
the job description.
‘If you say I don’t like my work, I’m just shuffl ing papers, then I can explain,
OK, there’s the reason why you’re shuffl ing this paper, because the students
need this, the students. Maybe there are some forms that students need. But
sometimes people are not in the jobs. You have an opportunity to identify that
like when you really explain why some things have to be done and still that
individual does not fi nd it meaningful, then I would engage in little better
professional planning.’
(American leader)
Success begins in childhood 77
Factors behind students’ success
The results of this study complement our previous studies of factors directing
university students’ study processes (see, for example, Määttä and Uusiautti
2011a ). We have previously described the teacher/student’s study process as a
sum of factors at the student’s personal level, the unit level and the overall regulations,
values and cultural traditions that control education. Although they do not
explain a successful study process alone, their development and signifi cance
should be paid more and more attention at universities.
Figure 4.1 illustrates the interconnectedness of students’ study processes and
factors affecting it. We consider caring leadership the fundamental enabling and
empowering element infl uencing all levels of study processes.
We analysed caring leadership in relation to students’ study success. At the
personal level, students’ study processes vary greatly depending on their backgrounds,
starting points, study skills and the experiences they get during their
education. Students have certain abilities and habits related to their learning
history and experiences and that can strengthen their knowledge and self-effi cacy.
This conception is either strengthened or dashed at the university (Biggs 1987 ;
Cassidy and Eachus 2000 ; Gettinger and Seibert 2002 ; Lindblom-Ylänne and
Leadership as
the Empowering
– Teaching and mentoring
– Scientific and pedagogical
– Engagement in teaching
– Studying atmosphere
– Student culture
– Outward circumstances
– University administration
– The basic task and
profession of the
– Skills and knowledge that
have to be learned
– Goals for learning
– Evaluation of
– Abilities, habits
– Studying skills
– Motivation
– Relevant foreknowledge
– Learning goals
– Inner criteria for learning
– Studying – other areas
of life
Figure 4.1 Core factors affecting students’ success (adapted from Määttä and Uusiautti,
2011: 52).
78 Success begins in childhood
Pihlajamäki 2003 ). On the other hand, we want to emphasise students’ motivation,
which refl ects in their way of seizing studies and persistence (Allen 1999 ; Mäkinen
2000 ). Certainly, outer rewards matter too. Receiving positive and encouraging
feedback about one’s own progress is important as it improves one’s receptiveness
to new learning experiences and tolerance of failures, whereas a perceived feeling
of insuffi ciency and a poor performance level, as well as teachers’ inadequate
guidance and disinterest, decrease motivation (Pajares 2001 ).
The viewpoint presented here also included an interesting notion; namely,
university leaders talked about considering students as customers. From the
students’ perspective, this means that they are valued and noticed at the university.
They received support and guidance when needed and felt respected as an
important part of the university. In addition to suffi cient support and guidance,
there are other means to enhance students’ wellbeing too. Studies should also be
in balance with other areas of life; interesting hobbies, good human relationships
and family life, versatile and relaxing leisure time act as a good counterbalance
to studying (see, for example, Lowe and Gayle 2007 ). Some university leaders
talked about mutual free-time activities that could be provided at or nearby the
campus. Participating in these kinds of activities would also increase student
engagement. For example, Kuh’s ( 2003 ) framework for student engagement is
based on fi ve benchmarks: level of academic challenge, enriching educational
experiences, supportive campus environment, student-faculty interaction and
active and collaborative learning. Therefore, it seems that engagement is one
basic concept when considering successful studying.
Naturally, everyone also perceives success in studies subjectively and evaluates
personal achievements in different ways (Maddux 2002 ). Expectations for the
future affect greatly how people react on changes and challenges (Carver and
Scheier 2002 ) and there are various strategies that lie behind the one that leads to
active and meaningful studying. From the perspective of university students’
success, it seems that caring leadership can function as a means to support students
at their personal level and enable them to fi nd and employ their personal characteristics,
talents and strengths in the best possible manner during their studies.
The leaders in this research talked about the sense of solidarity and communality
among the faculty and the students. At the unit level, the educators’ pedagogical
and scientifi c professionalism, curricula, and the atmosphere and
conditions of the unit (see Määttä and Uusiautti 2011a ; Uusiautti and Määttä
2013 ) can be named as the core factors. Consequently, if the students were
regarded as customers, the curriculum was named the product. It should fulfi ll the
promises of education and thus be cutting-edge. Basically, the curriculum
provides both teachers and students with a clear goal. It answers the questions of
what kind of expertise students will have after graduating from the training
program and what kinds of courses are included in their studies.
Five stages can be distinguished in curriculum work (see Alaoutinen et al .
2009 ): (1) to defi ne the basic task and profession of the education/discipline/art,
to evaluate the need for education; (2) to defi ne required competencies and
Success begins in childhood 79
general goals of teaching; (3) to defi ne the model of curriculum; (4) to defi ne the
goals, contents, workload and methods for study entities and units; (5) to
determine the communication in the curriculum; and (6) to evaluate the curriculum
and the profi ciency produced by it and its constant development. Learning
goals in the curriculum tell what students are expected to know after taking a
certain study unit and they also direct working and the way learning, teaching and
studying are being evaluated.
When pursuing the valued outcomes, students need special support and guidance.
What became highlighted here was the importance of equal and open interaction
between the faculty and students. This is how the idea of perceiving
students as customers was manifested in leaders’ thinking; their customership
implication appeared as a reciprocal relationship with students. Likewise, a positive
atmosphere was emphasised as a crucial element.
More detailed lists of the nature of support and guidance have also been
compiled (for example, Haapaniemi et al . 2001 ). Määttä ( 2012 ) has divided the
resources of a good supervisor into four dimensions that constitute the four
fundamental features of supervision: (A) Will: a supervisor’s commitment to
supervision; (B) Knowledge: substance knowledge and/or the mastery and ability
to comprehend the overall structure; (C) Actions: ensuring that the contents meet
the scientifi c quality requirements; and (D) Profi ciency: positive and supportive
supervision methods and personality. The emphasis that each element is given
varies according to a supervision situation. Nor does the emphasis always remain
the same. A supervisor can emphasise different features depending on his or her
own style and on a student’s work habits and needs. Supervision is not likely to
succeed if one of the aforementioned resources is completely missing.
Many characteristics of a university community either enhance or hinder
students’ smooth processes. A study atmosphere can vary from open and vivid
dealings between students and teachers and other personnel to distant, minimal
and formal relationships between the above-mentioned groups. Indeed, the meaning
of informal student-faculty contacts and learning outcomes has been noted
already three decades ago (see Pascarella 1980 ). Finding studying meaningful is
shown to have a positive relationship with students’ perceptions of academic
atmosphere at the unit (see, for example, Kezar and Kinzie 2006 ; Mayya and Roff
2004 ; Pimparyon et al. 2000 ).
Ultimately, the completion of an academic degree is a student’s responsibility
because even the most skillful teacher cannot learn on a student’s behalf. Yet, teaching
skills and teachers’ abilities to be in an appreciating interaction with students
and to guide students make a salient impetus in university education. This was also
noted by the university leaders. Today’s good university teachers bear the responsibility
both for their disciplines and are concerned for their students’ success.
An ideal education institution naturally covers the outward conditions as well,
including studying facilities and their location, the number of teachers in proportion
to the number of students, social, economic and health services, library
services (the availability of books, opening times, etc.), ICT facilities and their
80 Success begins in childhood
suffi ciency, the length of studying days, the accumulation of lectures versus even
division by weekdays and time. It is a known fact (see, for example, Greenwald
et al . 1996 ) that a broad range of resources are positively related to student
outcome (see also Atjonen 2007 ). Indeed, this resembles the third perspective
brought out by university leaders in this study. As the funding of universities
strongly depends on the number of graduates, research programs and publications,
in other words measurable outcomes, the pressures of productivity is high.
The university leaders in this study considered these outer factors hindering the
realisation of caring leadership but considered it as the basic principle for making
decisions that would benefi t the students the most and allocating money for
purposes that would ensure them with as high-quality education as possible.
Toward the adulthood success
In the modern world student groups are more heterogeneous than ever (see, for
example, San Antonio 2008 ; Zhao et al . 2008) and thus their study processes
should be paid attention to more than ever. Consequently, university educators’
work is demanding and important, and requires resources, time and concentration.
Caring leadership in higher education can enhance the students’ study
processes by highlighting some fundamental principles of higher education.
Daniel Goleman ( 2006 : 81) has wisely said: ‘Leading a school to create a
warmer and more connected school culture need not mean sacrifi cing academic
rigor. Instead, socially intelligent leaders help schools better fulfi ll their main
mission: teaching’. This concerns every level of education. Also, based on the
results of our studies, we would like to continue Goleman’s thought by adding that
by using the leadership position for fulfi lling the teaching mission, caring leaders
also boost students’ success. It can have a far-reaching infl uence on their consequent
success as workers, too, when entering adulthood and work life. Indeed now
it is time to turn eyes on the exogenous factors of success in adulthood.
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