as power does more than hold down or lift up. Mahmood (2005) encourages us to
“conceptualize agency not simply as a synonym for resistance to relations of domination,
but as a capacity for action that specific relations of subordination create and enable” (p.
18, author’s italics).
Agency is what we do repeatedly. Judith Butler (1999) reminds us that
performances of ourselves, whether our gender or our agency, are grounded in the idea
that normative identities are products of repeated performances. Agency is possible at
each interaction, as is the possibility of the failure to uphold that social norm. Butler
even names the repetition of social performances “a theory of agency” (1999, p. xxiv).
Agency is something we think about and, importantly, it is something we do.
Leadership is not static, but something that happens in process with others. By
expanding ideas of agency and leadership, we further see how agency and subjectivity
should be called into question in leadership. Butler (1997) believes this process to be:
“Painful, dynamic, and promising, this vacillation between the already-there and the yet-
to-come is a crossroads that rejoins every step by which it is traversed, a reiterated
ambivalence at the heart of agency” (p. 18). An understanding of the idea of agency will
have to be revisited, relearned, and reviewed as we live and grow.
Teacher and author Jyl Lynn Felman (2001) connects with her students not just
through what she teaches, but also how she teaches. She names agency as a central goal
of her teaching, saying, “Change is about agency— the ability to act and not just react”
(p. 33). She further connects her teaching to the larger world of education, pointing out
that we are not taught the goal of a “good, successful, liberal arts education is
transformation…we’re taught that the goal is to become professional” (p. 33). As she