Throughout my life, I’ve seen great leaders and very poor ones. The skills and traits vary wildly between them, but there is certainly a general correlation between their characteristics and their success at being an effective leader. The one that most obviously comes to mind is an ability to listen—what we named in the class as active listening. I’ve never met a good leader who wasn’t able to listen and adapt to what people in their ‘team’ were saying, be they a teacher, coach, or club leader. The next most common characteristic for me is self-awareness. Frequently, poor leaders severely lack it: it’s not just about understanding your environment and your team, but about knowing your limits and knowing where you fit into the group. The final such trait I’ve seen and value is empathy. Even if a leader is a great listener and very self-aware, without empathy they would prove a terrible leader. It allows leaders to put themselves in the place of the people they’re actually trying to lead, and as such more effectively and accurately provide that leadership.
I think these characteristics that I emphasize come through in my results to the Conceptualizing Leadership Questionnaire exercise. For the activity, I scored a six in trait, seventeen in ability, eighteen in skill, sixteen in behavior, twelve in relationship, and eleven in process. This matches up from what I would have estimated based on the reading in an ordered ranking, but I think the scores are a little inaccurate relative to one another. I definitely would rank leadership as a trait last—I find the specified traits a little ambiguous and I don’t really like the idea of born leaders—but I think a six might be overstating my aversion. Similarly, I would rank the leadership types in the order the questionnaire gives: next process, then relationship, behavior, ability, and skill. The numbers seem a little random, though, and don’t really resemble how I would rank them relative to each other.
Based on the results (and what I would have similarly estimated), skill and ability are the most important to me and trait is the least. I’ve already touched on why I don’t really love leadership as a ‘trait’. Skill and ability are the most important to me, and I really agree with this. I really appreciate leaders who value leadership as an ability that they need to work on to grow, and leaders that are competent and skilled in what they are doing. To me, these are the most important parts of leadership. The only part of the results that surprised me was the actual numerical values associated with each type; I really agree with their ordering and am pretty unsurprised by it.
Overall, a person’s leadership style is a constantly developing and unstable concept. Through both learning about leadership and actually practicing it, your style changes over time. Clearly, reading about other people’s styles of leadership can change how you practice, as you incorporate their strategies into your own. But also even in the act of practicing leadership your style is in flux—you see first hand what works and what doesn’t, and you better the skills and abilities you need to be an effective leader. Just by thinking about and engaging with your leadership style, in shifts and morphs to better perform in practice.