Reflections on the Meaning of Leadership

When I think about leadership, I think about results. I look at challenges that I have faced in the past, and then at the people to made overcoming those challenges possible. Sometimes, it was one person, a singular leader, that organized an effort to overcome a challenge. In other instances, people shared the responsibility. The most effective leaders all shared several characteristics in common with each other. First off, they all had proficient communication skills. They knew had to convey what they needed to happen in a manner that people responded to. These people were also knowledgeable in the areas where they led. Effective leaders need to gain the trust of those following them, and one way to do that is to demonstrate knowledge in the field you’re leading in. Another way to do this is through confidence, even if there is no clear answer to a problem. Things brings me to the final shared characteristic, a determined drive. I have never had an effective leader that chose to give up when a problem got too difficult. Rather, effective leaders create a space where new ideas are welcomed, and they work with their teams to solve difficult problems. In the end, results speak to effective leadership.

When I took the test to learn about my leadership priorities I processed a few presuppositions. Firstly, I expected the ability to be high on my priorities. I am a person that feels most comfortable following a leader if I feel like the leader possesses more knowledge or ability than myself. If I question a leader’s abilities relative to my own, I feel compelled to try to insert myself into more of a leadership role. Therefore I expected this to be the highest. I anticipated behavioral emphasis as being my lowest emphasis. I believe that this is due to my task-oriented perspective. I have a tendency to overlook the actions of a leader towards their followers, including myself, so long as they are leading effectively. I have a theory that this extends to my history with sports and the oftentimes strict leadership style of coaches. When I took the questionnaire, I saw that as expected ability emphasis was the most important. However, it was trait emphasis that was the least important to me. This surprised me. Another thing that surprised me was how relatively minor the difference in my valuations was. There was only a difference of 5 points between my most valued emphasis and my least valued one. To me, this really illustrates why there is no clear singular definition for leadership. So many aspects of leadership are valuable, it is just a matter of situation and perspective as to which ones matter when.

Your perspective on leadership has a great deal of influence on how you act as a leader. This perspective can vary from situation to situation. I’ll provide an example from my own personal experience. When working on a class project, I try to lead with an emphasis on ability. My priority is on producing a quality project, meaning I have to sacrifice some relational emphasis. Although it is critical that any effective leader maintains a respectful working relationship with those in their group, in a class project environment there is no need for a relationship to go beyond this. Contrast this to when I am put into a leadership position amongst my friends when deciding say where to go to dinner on a given day. Here, my emphasis is far more on the relationship, whereas ability and process don’t matter quite as much. Hopefully, these examples demonstrate how influential perspective and circumstance can be on a leadership style. I also hope that it is apparent how this can then influence results.

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