Blog Post 4, September 24th 2015

Part 1: Examples of the Two Primary Kinds of Leader Behaviors

Task-Oriented Leadership: TIM COOK

Tim Cook took on the enormous task of filling Steve Jobs’ shoes — and has done it with much success. He has continued to release innovative products and stay at the forefront of cutting edge technology. And while Cook has definitely taken a different approach to leadership than his predecessor Jobs, he still keeps his eyes focused on the goal: refining Apple to his own vision and keeping it at the top of its game (Lashinsky 2015). Lashinksy also mentioned that Cook doesn’t micromanage, but he still gets involved as needed to keep his teams working toward the lofty goal of remaining at the top of the tech industry. This focus on outcomes and milestones is a clear example of Cook’s task-oriented leadership style.

Relationship-ORIENTED LEADERSHIP: POPE FRANCIS

Pope Francis may be the most progressive Pope in the history of the Catholic church, and that is because he focuses on the needs and lives of the people he interacts with. People-oriented leaders are empathetic and genuinely interested in the well-being of their followers (Gill 2014). One only has to take a quick glance at the Pope’s Twitter account to see glimpses of these qualities:

Now of course social media is not a reliable representation of anyone’s actual personality, but all media reports of Pope Francis speak positively of his demeanor. As one of the most influential people in the world, Francis is also one of the best examples of relationship-oriented leadership.

PART 2: Results of Leadership Behavior Questionnaire

Task: 37

Relationship: 36

PART 3: Leadership Behavior Questionnaire Questions

A. Do you agree or disagree with the results? Why?

I almost entirely agree with this one. I think good leadership requires balancing the tasks and goals and the people involved; making sure that everyone is on the same page ultimately serves the purpose of the team. In support of this, studies have shown that “leaders who practiced elements of both theories were most effective” (Morley 2015). Each behavior is integral to the other, and not being able to exercise both would be a detriment to any leadership style. People are not cogs in a machine, but they do sometimes need to be given a schedule and to-do list to stay on track.

I believe that I’m fairly good at keeping this in mind when I’m in charge. When someone doesn’t live up to expectations, I try to take into account that there are other factors and to develop a rhetoric with them so that they don’t overly stress about not completing objectives, but I also try and make sure they know they need to be able to pull their weight on the team and get their part of the project done.

B. How does the knowledge of behaviors affect your definition of leadership, if at all?

My definition-in-progress of leadership is:

Leadership is when a person or group has the knowledge and skills to successfully take initiative, whether they choose to or have it thrust upon them, to inspire followers to work together to achieve a common goal.

I think that my definition already takes into account my thoughts on the behavioral approach to leadership, even though when I wrote it I was not explicitly aware of that approach. Task-orientation leaders are focused on methods and outcomes and relationship-oriented leaders are more concerned with the relationships between themselves and their employees and among their employees (James 2009). The last part of my definition, “inspire followers to work together to achieve a common goal,” covers both of these areas. Therefore, I don’t think my definition of leadership requires any changes this week.

C. How does the knowledge of behaviors affect how you see yourself as a leader, if at all?

Knowing that a balanced approach to task and relationship leadership styles makes for a good leader gives confidence to my view of myself as a leader. I have great planning and time management skills that are necessary for task-oriented leadership, and I understand the importance of relationship-oriented leadership techniques and do my best to apply them when necessary, even if I’m not quite as good at that part yet.

D. What behaviors, if any, do you need to practice to be a better leader?

In order to become a better leader, I need to work more on my understanding of emotional arguments. As an INTJ (sorry, I’m a little bit of a Myers-Briggs nerd) I have a tendency to undervalue emotions in favor of logic. Since that isn’t the way a lot of people think, in order to be a good leader I have to understand ways of thinking that aren’t my own and to realize that they are just as valid as hard logic.

Blog Post 4, September 24th 2015

Blog Post 3, September 17th 2015

Part 1: EXAMPLES OF THE THREE COMPONENTS OF THE SKILLS MODEL

PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS: Steve Jobs

Problem solving is defined as “a mental process that involves discovering, analyzing, and solving problems,” and involves multiple complex steps (Cherry). A key part of this definition that most people forget is the “discovering” part — sometimes organizations face problems every day that they don’t even realize because they’ve internalized them as just being a part of the every day challenge. Getting to the core of what doesn’t work and figuring out a way to fix it is a key component of problem-solving, and leads to most major innovations. A great example is Steve Jobs’ creation of the iPhone; some have even called Apple a “problem-solving company” (Lee 2011). By bringing the iPhone to market, he was solving a problem the world didn’t even know it had: the lack of a truly portable computer and cell phones that were, at best, difficult to use.

SOCIAL JUDGMENT SKILLS: albus dumbledore

Social judgment skills have four components: perspective taking, social perceptiveness, behavioral flexibility, and social performance (Clark 2014). Essentially, as a whole, social judgment skills are “the people skills that are necessary to solve unique organizational problems” (Ortiz 2011). I struggled to think of a good well-known, real-life example of someone who exhibits social judgment skills because the media has a tendency to publicize people who mess up far more frequently than people who are just doing their job. Instead, I’m going to use Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series (nerdy, I know). Dumbledore is playing a very involved strategy game and has to predict how his staff and students — particularly Harry, Ron, and Hermione — will react in different situations and keep them all working together in a particular manner. To do this, he uses perspective taking to understand how each “team member” will react to a situation, social perceptiveness to understand how best to motivate each team member, behavioral flexibility to adapt to unexpected changes, and social performance to communicate effectively everything he wants to communicate.

KNOWLEDGE: Stephen Hawking

Although it sounds simple, knowledge is actually a very complicated concept and there are many different kinds of knowledge (Blanchard 2010) and different situations may require different types of knowledge. A good example of how breadth of knowledge aids in leadership is Stephen Hawking. Although Hawking may not come to mind when we think of traditional leadership, his vast knowledge and depth of thought causes the world to pay attention whenever he does anything (McCoy 2015) and he is a trusted source of information as well as a go-to leader in his field(s).

Part 2: RESULTS OF SKILLS INVENTORY

Technical Skill: 26

Human Skill: 16

Conceptual Skill: 24

PART 3: SKILLS INVENTORY QUESTIONS

A. DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE WITH THE RESULTS? WHY?

I agree with them relative to each other — that is, that my technical skill should be the highest and my human skill should be the lowest. However, I don’t know if the numbers are perfectly reflective of me as an actual person (which makes sense, because numbers rarely are). I think I’m better with people than a 16/30, and maybe not as good technically as someone would glean from a 26/30. The problems with the human skill results may reflect the bias I have toward myself that I discussed in my last blog post, but I think the technical skill score might reflect a level of confidence that doesn’t match my actual skill level. I’ll work on that. The conceptual skill seems to be about right; I’ve always been good at seeing the big picture.

B. HOW DOES THE KNOWLEDGE OF SKILLS AFFECT YOUR DEFINITION OF LEADERSHIP, IF AT ALL?

Like last week, for consistency’s sake, I’ll start by stating my (as yet unrevised) definition of leadership:

Leadership is when a person or group of people take initiative, whether they choose to or have it thrust upon them, to inspire followers to work together to achieve a common goal.

My definition doesn’t take into account the skills of those who take the initiative, and I would like to note that the fact that one of the rationales of this approach is because it “makes leadership available to everyone” (Abalrous 2010 and just about everyone else who’s ever talked about the skills approach), in my opinion, is a weak reason to use the theory.

That being said, it’s true that people with more technical, conceptual, and human knowledge tend to rise to the top of the heap and become leaders. A quick Google search of “How to become a leader” returns article upon article of ways to become a better leader, all of which boil down to working on the three components mentioned in the model, and I know I myself have become a better leader by working it rather than being born that way. I’ll revise my definition as follows:

Leadership is when a person or group has the knowledge and skills to successfully take initiative, whether they choose to or have it thrust upon them, to inspire followers to work together to achieve a common goal.

C. HOW DOES THE KNOWLEDGE OF SKILLS AFFECT HOW YOU SEE YOURSELF AS A LEADER, IF AT ALL?

In contrast to the way I feel about the trait approach, the skill approach (even if I didn’t have a name to put to it) has always appealed to me because I see myself as a very technically capable person, and I rely on my work ethic and my skills to get me ahead in both classroom and work settings. It’s comforting to me to think that people will judge my worth based on my objective merits and what I am able to accomplish, rather than how much they like me or how dominant I am in various situations.

The results of my skills questionnaire mostly confirmed what I already knew about myself — that working with people is not necessarily my strong suit, but I know what I’m doing and am capable of doing anything I set my mind to, which to me sound like good qualities for leaders to have.

D. WHAT SKILLS, IF ANY, DO YOU NEED TO ACQUIRE TO BE A BETTER LEADER?

I’m a firm believer in continuing to better myself, never getting complacent, and always improving my skills and abilities. However, there are definitely some areas that need more work than others.

In terms of the skills model of leadership, I need to improve my human skills/social judgment skills the most. Working with people has always been a struggle for me; I tend to take on a lot of responsibility and work for myself because I don’t always trust others to perform up to my standards. I realize that this is conceited and ultimately harmful to myself, so I’m trying to stop doing that.

Also, I clearly need to get better at self-evaluation (I know that’s not technically part of the skills model of leadership, but I still think it’s important to both leadership and followership). I need to get better at delegating and working with other people in general, but that’s something I’ve been working at for a long time, and I think I’m definitely making some progress.

While I’m sure there are uncountable other skills I could and should improve, these are the ones most brought to mind while studying the skills model of leadership.

Blog Post 3, September 17th 2015

Blog Post 2

part 1: Three Leaders who Personify Different leadership traits

determination: malala yousafzai

One of the most determined people I’ve ever heard about, Malala Yousafzai has overcome uncountable obstacles and remained brave throughout massive amounts of adversity to cement her place as one of the most outspoken advocates for female education in Pakistan. At 16 years old, she has risked her life over and over to stand up for what she believes is right; even after being shot on her way home from school in 2012, she has refused to back down. She is the youngest person to have ever received a Nobel Peace Prize and has been on Time’s list of 100 Most Influential People multiple times, most recently on their 2015 list.

Malala exercises determination in combination with fortitude, intelligence, perseverance, and unbelievable boldness, and is one of the best examples of a natural leader I can come up with.

self-confidence: Laverne cox

I think Laverne Cox, an outspoken transgender individual and activist, is a great example of a leader with self-confidence, mostly because she had to work to get that confidence and continues to work to inspire it in other transgender men and women. Growing up transgender is an incredibly difficult experience — they often experience harassment, bullying, and even violent crime directed at them simply because they are transgender (Loyd 2015). Being able to overcome that and still remain confident in who you are is incredibly impressive and shows an uncommon amount of fortitude and self-confidence.

integrity: emma watson

Everyone knows the stereotype of the child star who falls out of the spotlight until they turn up ten years later and become a bane upon society. Emma Watson does more than defy that stereotype; she destroys it. Despite having been famous since she first played Hermione in the Harry Potter movies at 11 years old, Watson has never allowed herself to become complacent or lapse into scandal. After finishing one of the most famous movie franchises of all time, Watson went on to attend Brown University and started serving as the UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador. Her exemplification of integrity can be summed up in just one of her quotes:

“I don’t want other people to decide who I am. I want to decide that for myself.”

Part 2: Leadership Trait questionnaire Results

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3. Leadership trait questionnaire questions

a. Do you agree or disagree with the results? Why?

The ones I disagree with

As you can see by comparing my self-rating with the average rating of the people I surveyed, there are a few traits on which we agree very closely and a few that have larger discrepancies. Going by the .5-point difference, the traits on which we disagree the most are perceptiveness, self-confidence, friendliness, and sensitiveness.

I was going to go through and list the reasons why each individual trait was different, but I think there is one core reason all these traits are so differently rated by myself and those whom I asked to complete the survey: they are primarily to do with how my actions and words are perceived by others. I consistently rated myself lower in all of these areas, which probably means I’m not very good at judging what others think of me. My view of myself as a shy, closed person (which is probably outdated – I’ve changed a lot since coming to college) is infringing on my judgment of how I act in social situations.

The ones I agree with

There are a few traits that the five outside raters and myself were spot on in our agreement, and those were diligent and dependable (empathetic was also extremely close). I view these as a few of my primary traits, and I’m not surprised they emerged as the most prominent parts of my personality. I also think these are a few of the easiest things to outwardly exhibit; if you’re not dependable, the people around you figure that out very quickly. Being diligent is also very similar to being dependable, and it’s very easy to figure out who is diligent and who isn’t, especially when you’re around them in a school setting.

b. how does the knowledge of traits affect your definition of leadership, if at all?

My definition of leadership, as I stated in my last blog post, is “when a person or group of people take initiative, whether they choose to or have it thrust upon them, to inspire followers to work together to achieve a common goal.” This definition doesn’t really take into account the trait perspective of leadership, but as we discussed in class, traits do play a role in the formation of leaders and the way in which they lead. However, I don’t think that whether or not you have a certain trait is a be-all, end-all decisive factor in whether or not you’re capable of being a leader; a lot of leadership is situational. Sometimes people who never thought of themselves as leaders find themselves in charge — and even doing a good job. A classic example is Moses from the Bible (Brooks 2014).

That being said, there are a few things that many studies consistently find in people that occupy leadership positions: dependability, intelligence, self-confidence, adaptability, and ability to communicate, among others (Bader, Kemp, and Zacarro, 2003). With such a large body of research behind it, it’s hard to argue that the trait approach is entirely nonsensical.I do believe that people sometimes do not exhibit these traits until they find themselves in a situation, either that they were forced into or that they chose to participate in, that requires them to step up and become a leader. I think that this idea is already evident in my current definition of leadership, and so am not inclined to make any changes.

c. HOW DOES THE KNOWLEDGE OF TRAITS AFFECT how you see yourself as a leader, IF AT ALL?

Part of the reason I’m less inclined to put faith in the trait approach to leadership is because I often feel as if I don’t fit the traditional idea of what traits a leader should have. I’m often quiet and reserved, and I don’t always have the confidence in myself to take charge and impose my will on others. I prefer a more democratic approach to leadership; I like to listen to everyone’s opinions and then approach them as a group from a logical perspective to see whose ideas are the most feasible in any given situation.

Despite the fact that I’m weak in a few traits that are often considered integral to effective leadership, I still think that I am capable of being an effective leader, especially in situations in which I have confidence in my abilities (this happens much more often in academic situations than it does in social ones). I think my determination and conscientiousness allow me to overcome my shortcomings in self-confidence when I see that it is necessary to do so in order to get the job done.

D. what traits, if any, do you need to acquire to be a better leader?

I think the traits I most need to develop in order to become a better leader are empathy and self-confidence.

Even before I took the leadership trait questionnaire I knew that I needed to work on my empathy in professional situations. I work incredibly hard on everything I put my mind to, and I frequently become frustrated if I feel that others don’t put in the same amount of effort, especially in the context of a group project. I need to keep in mind that everyone is balancing classes, work, social lives, family, and who knows what else, and that getting frustrated is not helpful in any situation. Showing empathy toward people rather than getting frustrated will improve not only others’ perception of me and the group’s performance as a whole, but it will also improve my perception of myself.

Self-confidence is something I have been working on since a very young age. It’s not that I lack confidence entirely; however, I have a tendency to second-guess and doubt myself. This is more of an issue in social situations than in professional ones, but it affects the way others perceive me and makes them less likely to see me as a leader, so it is something I need to continue working on.

Blog Post 2

Blog Post 1

Part 1: What is my definition of leadership?

Leadership can take many forms and manifest itself in several different ways, but there are a few core concepts that it boils down to:

Leadership is when a person or group of people take initiative, whether they choose to or have it thrust upon them, to inspire followers to work together to achieve a common goal. A great quote that I think effectively illustrates the concept of leadership is:

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

The description of leadership as an art, to me, is very apt, because there is not any one scientifically proven RIGHT way to lead. It requires foresight, flexibility, understanding, observation skills, empathy, charisma, and a whole host of other qualities to be a good leader.

I think it’s important to note the difference between a good leader and a good person. It is all too possible to have great leadership skills and use them to guide followers in the wrong direction. Hitler is kind of the quintessential example of someone who used his great leadership skills to lead an entire nation full of people in the wrong direction, but listening to him speak is riveting even if you don’t speak the language, even if what he’s saying is abhorrent:

There are a couple of key points in my personal definition that I want to explain in greater detail:

1. For leadership to happen, there needs to be two distinct parties: leaders and followers.

Neither is inherently better than the other, but for leadership to occur, there needs to be a clear party that is taking the initiative to push the rest of the group in a certain direction. If everyone were working together harmoniously there would be no leaders or followers, but neither would leadership be occurring; it would simply be cooperation. The leader is often looked at as being more important than her followers, but as Don Grayson and Ryan Speckhart say in their essay “The Leader-Follower Relationship: Practitioner Observations,”  “it is the follower who often contributes directly to organizational success.” If there were no one to follow a leader’s initiative, the very ability for the leader to lead is immaterial.

2. Leaders must be able to inspire confidence in themselves and in the goal ahead. If the followers decide the leader is untrustworthy, they will quickly lose interest and even turn on the leader. An extreme example of this is the stabbing of Julius Caesar by his Senate on the Ides of March in 44 B.C. The Senate was unhappy with Caesar’s leadership, and so went to extreme measures to bring about change; this happens at a less violent scale when, for example, presidents are impeached or CEOs are fired. If the leader is unable to inspire confidence and convince her followers that she is a worthy leader, her leadership will quickly be revoked. As John C. Maxwell states, “People follow because they want to,” (2013). Even though this is only the second level on his hierarchy of why followers put their faith in a leader, it must be satisfied before the leader/follower relationship can be established on any deeper levels. Maxwell goes into depth on all levels of leadership in his talk, which I was unable to embed at the request of the owners of the content.

3. Leaders must be able to facilitate cooperation between their followers. If the team is not unified, it will be much more difficult for them to accomplish goals. The leader provides the common point to give guidance, delegate properly, and bring out the best in everyone she works with, and that includes helping them work with each other. Good followers are team players and communicate effectively (University of Missouri), but no team is entirely comprised of good followers — and even if it were, people make mistakes and there is bound to be conflict and miscommunication. It is a leader’s responsibility to keep such issues to a minimum and to work to rectify them when they do arise.

4. Last but not least: there must be a goal in sight. Whether it is tangible, like a new office space or house, or intangible, like an increase in efficiency, leaders must be able to keep the goal in sight and to keep their followers focused. It’s all too easy to get distracted by the day-to-day tasks that every job involves; it’s the leaders job to remind everyone of the big picture and to make sure every task and employee is being used to further the progress toward the goal. Every leader is motivated by the goal and needs to impart that motivation to her followers, whether it is for world domination or a 25% increase in profits in the third quarter. Without a clear purpose, any team will fall apart quickly, but it’s the leader’s job to ensure that doesn’t happen.

So, as you can see, my definition of leadership has four different but equally important parts to it: leaders and followers, confidence in the leader’s ability to lead, the leader’s ability to keep her followers focused and unified, and a goal for them all to work toward.

Part 2: My leadership, quantified

a. I am a leader

4, agree – I frequently find myself taking the lead on team projects and at work; I tend to take the initiative and make decisions, in both professional and social environments.

b. I see myself as a leader

4, agree – I have enough confidence in my own abilities to take responsibility, but if I see that someone I’m working with is more capable than I am who is willing to take the lead, I would defer to them.

c. If I had to describe myself to others, I would use the word “leader”

2, disagree – I feel like describing yourself as a leader comes off as pretentious and condescending; appointing yourself a “leader” kind of defeats the real meaning of the word. I feel like being a leader is something people decide about you rather than something you decide yourself.

d. I prefer being seen by others as a leader.

5, strongly agree – Maybe it’s part of the cultural stigma against followers and the fact that every college and employer looks for people who have exhibited “leadership skills,” but I would rather people saw me as someone capable and confident enough to take the lead and do a good job with it.

Part 3: What skills, knowledge, and/or abilities do you need to obtain to be a good leader?

Well, the first thing is that this question assumes that good leaders are made, not born, so that’s the assumption I’m going to be running with as I attempt to answer this question.

There are so many people and major news organizations that have written about this very subject (Forbes, Inc, and Harvard Business Review among them) I can narrow it down to the five traits that I think are most important to leaders:

1. Communication

Above all else, leaders must be able to communicate. Communication means “the process of understanding and sharing meaning” (McLean, 2015).

Good communication starts at the top, and the more everyone stays on the same page, the more smoothly everything will go. It keeps frustration to a minimum and maximizes efficiency, and is exponentially important as the group gets larger.

2. Critical Thinking

Whether you think of it as problem solving or critical thinking (the phrase itself is somewhat hard to define), finding solutions to major issues that come up in an efficient manner is an important skill in a leader. They should be able to think on their feet, remain open to all sources of information, and be able to connect relevant information and piece it together into a cohesive solution to any problem.

3. Confidence

Since part of being a leader is inspiring others to follow you, it is important for leaders to not only have confidence in themselves, but be able to show it in a way that others understand. Technical competence can be undermined by a lack of confidence, which makes leading others difficult (Stark 2014). Good leaders can also impart confidence onto other people and make their followers feel confident both in their leader and in themselves. Confidence can be a double-edged sword, however; it is easy to go overboard with self-confidence, which can lead to trouble.

4. Decision-making

This skill stems from confidence and critical thinking. A leader needs to be able to find the solution to a problem and cannot be indecisive about it, because that could come off to the followers as insecurity and might cause them to lose faith in the leader.

Everyone has a different decision-making process, but leaders should know their own and be able to implement it in any situation.

5. Emotional Intelligence

“Great leaders understand how to balance emotion with reason,” (Kase 2010). If a leader doesn’t understand her followers, she won’t be able to effectively motivate them to contribute toward the goal or manage any conflicts that arise.

Blog Post 1