My Definition of Leadership
Each week since beginning this blog, I’ve learned another component of leadership — traits, skills, behaviors, situations, and relationships with followers — and my definition has evolved accordingly.
It started off like this:
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.
Now, it looks like this (the bolded parts are what has changed):
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 each follower to work with the group to achieve a common goal.
These changes are in part due to the research and discussion we’ve had in class so far (of course), but they are also due to experiences I’ve had since the beginning of the semester, which already feels as if it’s been going on for about a million years. I have several group projects going on, and it’s interesting to observe the differences in group dynamics from group to group. By doing so, I’ve noticed that it’s much easier to work with those who are learning about leadership than it is to work with the average group of people with varying levels of commitment.
Despite the changes I have incorporated from the different models of leadership I’m now aware of, I think the core principles behind my definition that I explained in my first blog post still hold true:
1. For leadership to happen, there needs to be two distinct parties: leaders and followers. This is still reflected, although my revised definition takes into account that each follower is her own individual player instead of grouping all of them together.
2. Leaders must be able to inspire confidence in themselves and in the goal ahead. It is important that leaders are transparent and honest, so that the followers don’t lose confidence in the leader partway toward the goal.
3. Leaders must be able to facilitate cooperation between their followers. This pillar already took into account that followers have their own thoughts and agendas; this part of my definition was strengthened when I learned of in-groups and out-groups. It is important that followers feel as if the whole group is a unit, and it is the leader’s job to oversee that any competition between followers or groups of followers does not cross the line into resentment or rivalry.
4. There must be a goal in sight. To me, this is an integral part of leadership. Where am I to lead people if there is nowhere to go? This is really a requirement for there to be leaders and followers in the first place.
It is becoming more and more clear to me that, although from a distance “leadership” sometimes looks a little like “manipulation” — and it certainly can end up that way sometimes — good leadership never resorts to such measures. As Beth Revis says in Across the Universe, “Power isn’t control at all — power is strength, and giving that strength to others. A leader isn’t someone who forces others to make him stronger; a leader is someone willing to give his strength to others that they may have the strength to stand on their own.”
how I see Myself As A Leader
A. I am a leader – 5
I’ve come to realize this more about myself recently. As I mentioned, I’m a part of several group projects this semester, and somehow I always seem to find myself leading the project. I used to think this was a byproduct of my clear desire to get work done to the best of my ability combined with my lack of ability to procrastinate, but now I think it’s because I enjoy facilitating discussion and cooperation between my team members (even if it is a bit frustrating at times).
B. I see myself as a leader – 4
I still struggle with confidence — I frequently wonder if it is really a good idea for me to take charge in social situations. Just last night, I was at trivia with a group of my close friends who disagreed with me on my answer to a question, so I wrote down what they thought the correct answer was. It turns out my answer was the right one, however, and if I had just had the confidence in my intelligence and abilities that a true leader would exhibit, we maybe would have been able to take higher than 9th place.
C. If I had to describe myself to others, I would use the word “leader” – 2
I feel as if “leader” is not really something anyone should call themselves. To me, it seems like one of those “show, don’t tell” situations. It’s like in “Game of Thrones” when Tywin Lannister berates Joffrey for going around shouting about how he’s the king: “Any man who must say ‘I am the king’ is no true king.”
D. I prefer being seen by others as a leader – 5
Maybe it’s the egomaniac in me, but I would prefer to be seen as the one leading than one of the followers. I blame the “sheep/shepherd” analogy a bit for this — who wants to be seen as a sheep? However, another important lesson I have learned from my leadership research and the discussions in class is that there is nothing wrong with being a follower, and just because you might be a follower in one situation does not mean you are incapable of being a leader. Leaders and followers need each other, and each role is fluid and subject to change.
The Skills, knowledge, and abilities I need to obtain to be a good leader
Last time, I mistakenly answered this question too generally instead of applying it to what I actually need to improve upon in real life in order to become a better leader. Here is what I’ve come up with as a leadership plan for myself after about 8 weeks of learning about leadership:
I already posses a lot of skills that (according to this article) make leaders effective, like organization, planning, strategic vision, communication, and problem solving.
There are some other skills that I could benefit from working on, though, such as decision making and motivating others. I’m very self-motivated and sometimes I forget that not everyone is the same way, so adjusting my style in order to take that into account is something I need to work on. Decision making comes naturally to me when my decisions have only minor effects on others, but when I’m in charge I tend to be a little more hesitant in forcing my opinion on what the best course of action is onto others. I need to be able to be more confident in my abilities and my authority as a leader.
A big component of the knowledge I will need to develop as a leader is how the industry in which I’m working operates (Contino 2004) and the organizational culture in the specific company with which I’m concerned. Knowledge of how to resolve conflicts and how best to manage any issue that comes up is also important, and can vary from industry to industry.
One beneficial ability that I’m lacking is the ability to make unpopular decisions confidently (Edmonson 2015). A leader has to be able to keep the big picture in mind and make decisions for the good of the group as a whole, even if it means making some of the followers unhappy.
One main ability that I don’t strongly possess is the ability to take large risks (Hayzlett 2015). To step outside of my comfort zone and make decisions that could possibly have negative effects doesn’t come naturally to me, so I need to be able to do that more often in order to be a really successful leader.