What is leadership? Many people believe that leadership is simply being able to get individuals to work towards a common goal but leadership is more complex than that. Leadership can be defined in many ways. One definition of leadership is that it is how an individual utilizes influence over other people by inspiring, motivating and directing their activities to help contribute towards the effectiveness and success of the organization. Additionally, a leader is interpreted as someone who sets the direction to influence people to follow that direction and may possess certain characteristics and traits. There are also numerous theories about leadership or about carrying out the role of a leader. After taking this course and reading numerous articles on leadership I have formed a much clearer understanding of what leadership entails and how to become an effective leader in any organization.
It is only fitting that my first assignment while starting my road into leadership is one in which I am required to reflect on myself, my strengths, weaknesses and what that means for me as a leader. At the beginning of this course, I was instructed to use the CliftonStrengths assessment to obtain my top five themes or Strengths and I was quite surprised by how accurate the assessment was with identifying what I feel are my strengths. I have taken different personality quizzes and surveys before but this is the closest description of me so far. This encouraged me to look into the history of this survey and in doing so I learned that the Cliftonstrengths assessment was created by psychologist Donald Clifton to focus on areas where you have the greatest potential for building strengths. This positive approach to personal development is one of the reasons that many people go on to become great leaders. Through this assessment, I learned that my themes are Responsibility, Harmony, Analytical, Arranger and Input therefore to evaluate my leadership I must first reflect on what these themes and what they say about me.
Responsibility means being held accountable for what we think and do. It begins from the inside and moves outward. Only when we take responsibility for our thoughts, choices, and reactions, we can create circumstances within our world. Responsibility is understanding the impact you have on the lives of others. When I think about responsibility I think about committing to whatever it takes to complete a project, keeping the promises you make and being honest. When it comes to my leadership I feel as though this indicates that I have an intense dislike for unfinished work and feel the need to make it right whatever it takes until my commitment is met. I like to work with individuals who share my same determination to get things done and who deliver on their commitments. I think that experiencing the challenges of ownership helps contribute to your growth and development. Additionally, responsibility creates harmony in the workplace.
Harmonious alignment within an organization helps promote goals, vision, values, and purpose to ensure everyone working on the team is pulling in the same direction. Harmony helps makes positive changes, maximize potential and transform relationships. Responsibility and Harmony go hand and hand in an organization. When individuals don't take responsibility it causes discord and the inability for them to get along with each other. It is important to minimize conflict by not taking sides and making them aware of how things are. Emphasize what they have in common. When I think about Harmony I think about seeking peace, common ground and cooperation. When it comes to my leadership I feel as though this indicates that I seek to build a network of people with different perspectives and opinions. I like to resolve conflict without confrontation and to make everyone feel comfortable. I take an open door policy very seriously. I think that leaders must align people for all departments and all work positions for the best effect. It is important for leaders to create a space where people feel like their opinion are truly heard but this cannot be done unless there is harmony between the leaders and their workers.
Of the five themes resulting from my participation in this assessment, I would say Analytical is the most accurate theme for me. When I think of someone who is analytical I think deep and thoughtful. Assessing all of the elements before making a move. Someone who relies on reason to make a decision. Having all the facts is very important. They can think about all of the factors that might affect a situation. I know how to break problems into parts to see relationships or interdependencies. When it comes to my leadership I think that this indicates I am self-disciplined and have high standards of performance personally and professionally. I can systematically accomplish my plans and logically produce predictable results. I can be the voice of logic, reason and provide stability. I can take advantage of the resources that I have at my disposal. I like investigating what started a chain of events, pinpointing key problems. Along with being Analytical, this next theme Arranger plays off of it.
Arranger is a new term for me but when I first heard it I thought of someone who arranges and rearranges bits of information until the picture becomes clear. Arranger possesses the ability to map out a success plan accommodating all possible scenarios. This is very handy in a leader because you can determine how the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity. When I think about arranging I think arranging items, facts, information, and people to come together for a successful event or activity. When it comes to my leadership I think that this indicates I like complex dynamics and problems. Flexible in the way I organize events, priorities, and people. Figure out how to improve workflow by rearranging spaces and/or procedures to maximize efficiency and to free up time. This would create room for my employees and me to take on new projects and work more diligently.
Lastly, I feel as though the theme Input goes hand and hand with the last two themes: Analytical and Arranger. Input is collecting and storing new information. You are always on the lookout for new and interesting information. One's ability to not just collect information but to store it and then retrieve it when needed makes a person's valuable in a leadership role. When armed with the right piece of information, data point or anecdote someone can become a key component. When I think about Input I think about mental stimulation and the uncovering of new ideas, concepts, and technologies. Broadening your knowledge base and exchange new theories, ideas or concepts with other people. When it comes to my leadership Input shows that I am willing and eager to learn new ideas and share them. I am open minded and absorbent. I like to discover new approaches and innovations. I like looking to find ways to improve.
After reflecting on myself and these five themes I think my leadership trait falls more in line with Transformational Leadership. Transformational Leadership is a leadership style in which leaders encourage, inspire and motivate employees to innovate and create change that will help grow and shape the future success of the company. It is considered that the transformational leaders 'engage in interactions with followers based on common values, beliefs and goals' (Khan & Nawaz, 2016). Transformational leadership is linked to positive outcomes on individuals as well as organizations. Transformational leadership very similar to the achiever leadership transformation in that they both challenges and supports those who work for them and creates a positive team and interdepartmental atmosphere (Rooke & Torbert, 2005). Followers of transformational leaders are more likely to pursue ambitious goals, be familiar with and agree on the strategic goals of the organization, and believe that the goals they are pursuing are personally important.
I have identified the following three strengths integrity, dependability, and relationship building as they relate to my leadership. Integrity is often seen as just truthfulness or honesty but in many cases, it also means having and standing by a set of strong values. Integrity in the workplace often means being able to make ethical choices and helping the company maintain a positive image. All businesses seek to hire workers who have a strong sense of integrity. Being a dependable leader means that people can trust and rely on you. A dependable person follows through on plans and keeps promises. The strong relationships built by a dependable leader create a resilient team that can work through difficulties that may arise. Leadership requires the ability to build and maintain a strong and collaborative team of individuals working toward the same goal. Leaders engage in behavior that is sensitive and responsive to employees' values, needs, and individual differences in order to build trusting relationships and open communication between a leader and employees where 'high-quality relationships are considered mature partnerships based on respect, trust, and mutual obligation for one another' (Dunst, Bruder, Hamby, Howse & Wilkie 2018). Team building requires other leadership strengths, like effective communication skills and conflict resolution.
I have identified the following three weaknesses, perfectionism, not recognizing personal limitations and I'll do it myself mindset as they relate to my leadership. These three weaknesses are more of a personality trait that has spilled over into my leadership. I am a perfectionist. I have high levels of motivation and conscientiousness but I hold myself to an all-or-nothing mindset and I expect the same. This mindset can negatively influence those who work for me because my standards that I hold for myself to are based off of what I know I can do or have done in the past and I cannot set an expectation for others based off my own experiences or skill level. I do think I am getting better at acknowledging this flaw but with acknowledging this weakness I have fostered another. Because I know that I cannot force the same high levels of standards and expectations I have for myself I have developed a 'do it myself' mindset. I have a habit of taking on projects or assignments when I notice it is not getting done in time or being done how I feel it should be done. This mindset helps no one. My subordinates are not taking accountability or ownership of the work and growing from their challenges. Leaders provide learning opportunities and a supportive climate (McClesky 2014). I am stripping them of that opportunity. I am taking on a new project and not recognizing my limitations which can cause burnout and undue stress. Also, I have grown accustomed to taking on more work than I should which can equate to long hours but not necessarily better job performance thus affect those around me. I am fully aware of the area in which I am lacking and committed to improving.
In terms of how I can work to improve the effectiveness of my leadership, I have identified three tangible ways to grow as a leader. First, clear and effective communication about expectations and deadlines with periodic check-ins. Inspirational Motivation whereby the leader communicates high expectations and inspires the crew to reach higher (Ecoggins. 2016). This will help with my want to do everything by myself and feeling as though my expectations or standards are not being met. Also, becoming knowledgeable about my employees’ performance and delegating tasks accordingly. This also combats my habit of doing everything by myself as well as not overextending myself by taking on more responsibilities. Lastly but most importantly recognize, emphasize and leverage strengths. Doing so will allow me to delegate tasks accordingly and not have my perfectionism get in the way because I am fully aware of what my subordinates are capable of.
My first short term goal is to be a better coach. I will improve my coaching skills. I will commit to a 1:1 coaching conversation per week with each of my six employees. This will enable my team to independently resolve challenges or issues with greater confidence and free up my time to work on other strategic priorities. My second short term goal is to become a leader. I will find a mentor by the end of quarter 1 who can provide coaching and guidance to support my career development. I will commit to reading 1 recommended article/book per month connected to leadership development. I will take a course to help me develop leadership competencies by the end of quarter 3. I will actively seek out opportunities to take on informal leadership responsibilities at work or through volunteer opportunities. Lastly, become a strategic thinker. I will develop my ability to take a big picture view and build strength in strategic thinking. I will commit to thinking before reacting/acting to ensure what we're doing fits into the strategic vision of our organization. I will engage with my colleagues quarterly to understand their priorities to identify where there are opportunities to gain efficiencies. I will conduct monthly meetings with my team to link our accomplishments to our strategic goals and ensure alignment of our priorities for the month ahead. In conclusion, by analyzing my leadership skills, I identified my strengths and weaknesses and developed some ideas on how to improve to become a more knowledgeable and skilled leader. I plan to be an effective and ethical leader by further educating myself in this area.