My New and Improve Leadership Style
I recently looked back at my views and experiences with leadership before coming to CSSA and I say with absolute certainty that those feelings and experiences still influence my leadership to a great extent. I am still a leader who leads by example. While my original reasons for leading in this fashion were more simplistic, I didn’t want to come across as a jerk or as a boss, per se, I now realize a different reason for this facet of my leadership style. Part of what makes me a good leader is my ability to analyze problems or current issues and find ways to make things more efficient, more in line with a particular mission, more apt to serve more students or address certain issues, etc. I am also a kinestic learner; I need to engage in a particular act or program before I can understand it fully. Therefore it only makes sense that I would need to jump in and engage in the process with those I am supervising.
One of the leadership styles that I have tried to move away from in the past few years has been that of the pacesetter. I cannot expect that everyone will have the same work ethic or style, dedication, communication style, or demeanor as myself, nor can I assume that they will absorb mine as I “lead by example”. I think that my second year in AmeriCorps was a perfect example of how the pacesetter style not only failed to bring others in line with my standards, but that it eventually wore me down to the point where I could not even meet my own standards. Instead of setting the pace, I think it is much more important to meet people where they are, assess where they want to go and work as a team to develop ways to get there.
One of the faults I saw in my previous leadership style was not recognizing and respecting the diverse strengths that people I was leading were bringing to the table. I am now much more aware of the concept of appreciative leadership, where people are encouraged to capitalize on their strengths and use them to benefit themselves and the whole team. I think that this concept is particularly important to me as I look out at the myriad of issues faced by student affairs professionals and recognize that I will have to rely on others skills and knowledge in order to be successful in my work and my leadership positions. In addition, my time in graduate school has helped me to realize and more thoroughly appreciate the various learning styles, identities, and viewpoints that people bring to the table. More than ever before it seems like my leadership style should be equally reflective of my new appreciation for the diversity of human experience.
Lastly I wanted to address the concept of authentic leadership that I explored in both my Organization and Administration and Professional Development courses. For me authentic leadership is something that looks to the outsider as though it is effortless and natural. While my original inclination was to believe that it was so, I have had a change of heart. Those that practice authentic leadership, who seem genuine and thoughtful in everything they do are not simply better than the rest of us at it. Instead they are mindful of their own strengths, weaknesses, and bias. They are constantly assessing their own needs, goals and affinities and ensuring that they are in line with the mission, values, and goals of their institituion. They are graceful enough to admit when they need help or when they’ve made a mistake, adventurous enough to take on new challenges and never stop learning, confident enough to let others lead and praise others for jobs well done, and have enough perspective to laugh at the bumps in the road. This is my view of what makes an authentic leader, which is something I definitely aim to be.