Blog Post 7, Oct. 14th 2015

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.

Blog Post 7, Oct. 14th 2015

Blog Post 6, Oct. 10th 2015

Part 1: an example of an outstanding dyadic relationship

Dyads are the relationships formed between a leader and each of his or her individual followers. These relationships lead to the formation of two different groups – the in-group and the out-group (Babou 2008). I’m going to give examples of in-group and out-group relationships in the context of one of my favorite television shows: Parks and Recreation.

Example 1: The In-Group Dyad

Members of the in-group are generally trusted with more responsibility and are invited by the leader to assist with decision-making processes. They are given greater support, and in exchange put more time and effort into their work (Lunenburg 2010). A great example of this from Parks and Rec is the relationship between Ron Swanson and Leslie Knope.

Although Ron is in some cases a less than motivated leader with a profound distaste for the job he’s doing, his relationship with his subordinate Leslie is strong on both a personal and professional level. Despite Ron’s nontraditional approach to leadership, Leslie is easily the most dedicated person to her work I’ve ever seen, even in fiction like this show. Leslie has a lot of power in the Parks and Recreation department, and there are frequent moments in the show when she and Ron go to each other for personal and professional advice. As a result, the work Leslie does is much more involved and extends beyond the typical workday. This is a great example of the extra benefits those in the in-group get from their leader/follower relationship.


On the other hand, the out-group comes to work simply to do their job and leave; they are not members of the leader’s inner circle, and their interactions with the leader are much more formal (Gupta 2009). An example of this kind of relationship from Parks and Rec is that between Leslie and Jerry.

Jerry’s priorities are to retire right on schedule and spend as much time as possible with his family; he likes his job, but doesn’t put too much emphasis on career success in the grand scheme of things. As a result, Leslie has fewer interactions with him and puts less emphasis on his opinions than she would a member of her in-group like Ann or Ron.

Since Parks and Rec is a TV show, the characters and relationships are blown way out of proportion, and they are more like caricatures of real life as opposed to examples of how things actually work. However, if you scaled these characters and situations back to a level that coincides with reality, they illustrate very well the difference between in-group and out-group dyadic relationships.

PART 2: Results of LMX Questionnaire

As we talked about during my coaching session in class, I filled out the questionnaire from the perspective of a follower in the context of my work environment at Reporter Magazine. My relationship with my managing editor ended up scoring a 22, which is in the “moderate” range.

PART 3: LMX Questions

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

I do agree with the results, because although I work well with my leader on a day-to-day basis and we get along fairly well, I don’t agree with a lot of the decisions he makes concerning the management of the other section editors. In other words, I have mixed feelings about him, and a “moderate” score reflects that.

B. How does the knowledge of LMX affect your definition of leadership, if at all? If it does not, why not?

My definition of leadership before reading this chapter was 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.

I think the LMX theory includes an important aspect of leadership that I don’t yet have reflected in my definition, so I’m going to revise it:

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.

Although these are minor changes, they tweak the definition enough to show that leadership is not just a one-to-many interaction, but also a one-on-one interaction with each follower.

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

I don’t think it really affects how I see myself as a leader, but it does affect the way I’ll behave as a leader in the future; it has helped me understand that different people are looking to get different things out of a job, and that sometimes your energy is wasted trying to get people who aren’t as passionate about your work as you are to engage with their work on a deeper level than they are willing to.

D. What relationship skills, if any, do you need to acquire to become a better leader?

I think I need to get better a gauging how much different followers have invested on a professional and emotional level in each task and change my behaviors accordingly in order to avoid wasting extra energy on relationships that aren’t reciprocated. I also think I need to be more receptive to those followers who may be attempting to develop a more advanced relationship with me as a leader.

Blog Post 6, Oct. 10th 2015

Blog Post 5, Oct. 2nd 2015

Part One: Examples of the Four Situational Leadership Styles

1. Directing: Napoleon Bonaparte

Although I specifically chose Napoleon, directing really applies to most military leaders. Soldiers have little autonomy and are (supposed to be) entirely subject to the orders of their superiors; their commanders explicitly define their tasks and closely supervise those tasks to completion, which is essentially the definition of directive leadership (Blanchard and Hersey 1996). Napoleon is especially relevant to this leadership style, however, because he was elected first consul — dictator, essentially — of France, and was responsible for an entirely new French constitution and the Napoleonic Code (

2. Coaching: Tattoo Masters and Apprentices

Coaching leaders act like directing leaders in that they clearly define expectations and goals for followers, but differ in that they also take into account the opinions and other input of those followers (MoneyZine 2015). It’s best to use the coaching style when your follower needs significant improvement in an area and has the desire to work for it (Joseph 2015). A good example of this is a tattoo artist taking an apprentice under their wing to teach them the best techniques and methods while still allowing them to grow. The master tattooer might sit with the apprentice for their first several tattoos and give them pointers and guidance until the apprentice is good enough to do it on their own.

3. Supporting: Gandalf

Supporting leaders give large amounts of control to their followers on the way to achieving a specified goal, and don’t do much supervision of general tasks (Dems 2010). A great example of this from one of my favorite pieces of literature is Gandalf from “The Lord of the Rings,” especially in the first installment of the series, “Fellowship of the Ring.” Gandalf essentially shows up, tells Frodo that he needs to go on this giant adventure and the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and then doesn’t really give him specific directions; he lets Frodo and the rest of the Fellowship find their way on their own and shows back up when they really need him. He never tells them everything that’s going on and he lets them solve problems for themselves.

4. Delegating: Barack Obama

Delegating leaders have a low focus on both tasks and relationships, because the followers in question are competent and motivated enough without being overly supervised (Tindall 2013). There are pros and cons to this type of leadership, but it can lead to empowered followers with high emotional stakes in the success of the tasks they are involved in (Chris 2015). A good example of this style of leadership is President Barack Obama. Obama has so many decisions to make and is responsible for so much that he can’t afford to not trust his followers with delegated tasks. He once told the New Yorker that “If [a task] were easy, somebody else would have made the decision and somebody else would have solved it,” (Lizza 2012).

Part Two: Results of Situational Leadership Questionnaire

This wasn’t a questionnaire so much as a quiz – it was checking whether I could identify the development level of the follower, identify which response was which situational leadership style, and say which was best for the follower during that particular situation.

Situation 1

I identified the development level of the follower in situation 1 as D4: high competence and high commitment, which means the appropriate leadership style is S4, delegating.

Situation 2

The development level of follower number 2 is D1: low competence and high commitment, which should invoke the S1 style of leadership — directing.

Situation 3

The follower in situation 3 is level D2, low to moderate competence with low commitment. This means that the best leadership style to use is S2: coaching.

Situation 4

Situation 4 contains a follower with moderate to high competence with variable commitment (S3). The best leadership style to use in this situation is S3, supporting.

Part Three: Situational Leadership Questionnaire

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

According to the book, I picked all the right leadership styles for the follower development levels. If I hadn’t read the chapter and learned the appropriate behaviors for different followers, though, I would have picked S3 (supporting) for most if not all of the situations. It will take time for me to get accustomed to the idea of using different leadership styles, because supporting isn’t applicable or useful in all situations, especially when the tasks are fairly simple (Lacoma 2015).

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

My definition before this week was:

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.

Taking into account the necessary changes in behavior for different follower development levels, I’m going to change my definition to:

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 individual followers of differing skill and motivation levels to work together to achieve a common goal.

These changes allow for the special attention and adjustment of style that is sometimes necessary on the part of the leader in order to help develop their followers as fully as possible.

C. How does the knowledge of situational leadership styles affect your view of yourself as a leader, if at all?

I think it helps me understand how I might be limited in some areas of leadership — that there are absolutely some styles that I need to work on and that I need to get better at identifying the development levels of my followers. I’m glad to have identified this gap in my knowledge, because I would like to know as much as possible and better my leadership ability by any means possible.

D. What styles, if any, do you need to acquire to be a better leader?

I’m good at supporting and directing (S3 and S1, respectively). I think I need to learn to be able to coach followers with low motivation; I tend to get frustrated with those who don’t put as much effort or passion into their work as I do instead of exploring how to help them develop that motivation. I also need to get better at delegating. As I am now, it is hard for me to trust those whom I’m working with with tasks enough to give them complete control over any aspect. I need to be able to recognize when people are capable of doing something with little to no supervision and just let them do their thing.

Blog Post 5, Oct. 2nd 2015

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.


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



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).


Technical Skill: 26

Human Skill: 16

Conceptual Skill: 24



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.


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.


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.


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

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 9.33.02 AM

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.

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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.

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