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.

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Blog Post 3, September 17th 2015

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