Kathy Douglas, Senior Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
The effective leader is someone who can communicate rationally, connecting relationally, manage practically and lead directionally and strategically. The head, the heart, the hands and the feet are all effectively engaged in the leadership process. – Australian Leadership Foundation
Leadership: Leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals, and use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others. The individual is able to assess and manage his/her emotions and those of others; use empathetic skills to guide and motivate; and organize, prioritize, and delegate work. – Career Readiness for the New College Graduate, A Definition and Competencies, National Association of Colleges and Employers
Most of us lead in unique ways everyday but can’t articulate how. And most people, when asked to talk about their leadership, default to examples of being the top person in charge of a team, of a club, of a project. Students I work with often get stressed if they have not been the captain of a varsity team, served as a board member or been the treasurer for a social club, stating I don’t have any leadership experience. The majority of people I counsel on this topic think first of charismatic or natural born leaders—the rare individuals with big personalities who motivate others through inspiration.
Leadership as defined by NACE’s Career Readiness for the New College Graduate goes beyond the “natural born leader” definition by focusing on the interpersonal, on empathy for guiding and motivating, on emotional intelligence, and on the ability to organize, prioritize, and delegate. The Australian Leadership Foundation draws from ancient Greek philosophers and the ontology of the human in naming four essential areas of effective leadership: Praxis, Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. A quick google search will provide another host of leadership definitions, theories and models, including:
For the visual learner, a google image search will also uncover an array of colorful charts, graphs and diagrams depicting many current leadership models, theories and styles—a bounty of choices to consider when thinking about how to frame one’s own leadership preferences and style.
What kind of leader are you?
While encouraging a student to do the research necessary to develop their own definition of leadership, I usually suggest that they begin with leadership model images that appeal to them. It is relatively easy to then follow the links to read about theories and types of leadership.
Some questions to think about while researching models:
- Have I held many official leadership positions in my life so far?
- Do I tend to foster collaboration? How?
- Do I prefer to do everything myself, or am I able to delegate?
- Who is my favorite leader? Why?
- Can I describe one specific example of my favorite leader’s leadership?
- Am I the volunteer note-taker who may go unnoticed but who develops an agenda based on group consensus and sends it out by email ten minutes after the meeting?
- Which of these models resonate with me?
- Do I insist on my own compelling strategy and sell it?
- Do I regularly advise and mentor peers?
- How do I define effective leadership?
The Importance of Team
As team models are integral to leadership models, I also refer students to the Margerison-McCann Team Management Wheel. With its holistic symbol, the circle, it illustrates the varied and equally important roles required in a group to accomplish goals. And in many leadership models, these team roles are also leadership roles. The majority of students I work immediately relate to one or more parts of this wheel—Creator/Innovators, Thruster/Organizers, Controller/Inspectors, Linkers, Concluder/Producers—and are quickly able to articulate their unique leadership style.
This model also helps students recognize peers in new ways. They may realize that a group member they are annoyed with who has trailed off at the conclusion of a project was, in fact, extremely active in the idea generation and organizing phase of the project and has already made a vital contribution. They may recognize that a team member who has not made a significant concrete contribution has actually been actively managing group dynamics and keeping communication lines open (The Linkers). They might newly appreciate the range of roles and types of leadership on their team, including their own.
Recognizing one’s natural leanings and the roles one typically assumes on a team is key to discovering and articulating one’s leadership style. Likewise, understanding the leanings and roles of others is extremely important. By delving into specifics, by thinking, talking, and writing about them, we unearth a wealth of interesting material for describing leadership. When we develop our own definition of leadership, we make a frame. And in that frame, we can see a concrete illustration of our leadership.