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On Leadership

Welcome to the Fall 2022 semester, everyone! It is that time of year when everything gets busy and everyone gets tired. It’s also that time of year when I get reflective about my own goals and accomplishments. This semester, one of my classes is about leadership, so that’s the topic of my reflection today. Am I a leader?

The semester started with a Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire. The exercise reminded me of the Emergenetics instrument that I completed when I started working as an instructional designer. Emergenetics identified me as a mixture of Analytical and Conceptual, meaning that I have big ideas and then I figure out data-driven ways to make them happen. The overall description seemed pretty accurate, so I was excited to see how this leadership questionnaire would portray me.

Taking the Survey

Before I dive into the results, I want to reflect a little bit on the process of completing the questionnaire. I actually had a hard time thinking of myself in a leadership position at first. I thought of all the reasons that I’m not a leader. I first went to my main job, which is Instructional Designer at Houston Community College. I’m the newest member in a small department. While I’ve taken lead on projects, I have a hard time considering myself in charge of anyone. Then I considered my position at the University of Houston where I’m an adjunct lecturer. I work with a teaching partner, and I defer to the professor who supervises us and the professors who teach the course with which mine is paired. Working as a contract-based freelancer, I’m not in charge of anyone, doing all of my work solo.

It took me until I’d fumbled through about half of the statements to remember the areas of my life where I am or have been a leader. I have two current research projects where I am lead author. When I was a middle school English teacher, I served for two years as department chair. Heck, even all the way back to high school, I was a youth leader in my church.

I wonder what that says about my leadership style before I even completed the questionnaire. I’ve frequently said that I have no interest in an administrative position because I’ve always been more focused on curriculum than administration. In all of my roles, I view myself as a team member before a leader, even when I am in positions of seniority or leadership.

The Results

The results of the questionnaire do seem to support my musings about my style as a leader. I scored highest in “Tolerance and Freedom” and “Consideration” with 43 out of 50 possible points in each. “Tolerance and Freedom” says that I allow “followers scope for initiative, decision and action” (Stogdill, 1963, p. 3). This feels accurate to me. I hate being micro-managed, so I work hard not to micro-manage anyone else. I believe that a team is made of the sum of its parts. Every member has strengths and weaknesses, and a good team balances each other out. As much as I do sometimes suffer from the thought “If you want it done right, do it yourself,” I put faith in my teams to complete the tasks at hand, and I make sure they are capable of doing so by playing to each person’s strengths.

My high score in “Consideration” says that I regard “the comfort, well being, status, and contributions of followers” (Stogdill, 1963, p. 3). I was happy to see this as one of my highest areas. I value mental health and wellness above productivity. Always. This is something that I have personally struggled with as a recovering perfectionist, and I make it a priority to ensure that my teammates are well enough to complete the work in front of us. A missed meeting because of a sick family member or just not being in the right headspace to be productive is not the end of the world. Wellness comes first. Considering that, I was also unsurprised to see that I scored second lowest in “Production Emphasis” with only 33 out of 50 points. Someone who scores high in this area “applies pressure for productive output” (Stogdill, 1963, p. 3). I’m sure that I have a few friends who will read that and be surprised that I didn’t score higher, but I was personally relieved to see this as a low area. As a recovering perfectionist, this is an area that I’ve specifically been working on in myself. I have this tendency to overexert myself that I’m trying to eliminate. As a leader, I certainly don’t want to push or apply pressure to increase productivity. I believe that taking care of a team as human beings first will result in higher output anyway. An appreciated employee is a productive employee.

Finally, my lowest score was “Tolerance of Uncertainty” with 30 out of 50 points. Honestly, that’s a higher score than I expected. I remember back when I was a teacher, I had a dream that I was driving a truck but the brakes didn’t work and I couldn’t control the truck to keep it from crashing through everything in sight. I don’t usually put a lot of time into analyzing my dreams, but that one came at a time that I was feeling like I wasn’t in control of anything. I hate not knowing what’s going on, and that has probably only gotten worse since the constant uncertainty that came with this pandemic.

Moving Forward

So, am I a leader? I still don’t want to be an administrator, but there’s no denying that I am a leader. I’m glad that this questionnaire seems to portray me as a compassionate, people-focused leader. These are qualities that I want to build as I move forward in my career, no matter where it takes me.

I like these types of assessments of personality. I believe they lead to interesting reflections and insights into the self. Completing this questionnaire with other teammates can be a useful tool for identifying people’s styles and matching them to the right projects or positions. Of course, it’s important to always take the results with a grain of salt. There’s a certain bias in the way that we perceive ourselves that should be taken into account.

As I move closer to finishing this doctorate and coming face-to-face with the future that lies beyond the degree, I hope that I stay true to who I believe myself to be as a leader. I’m glad that I’ll have this blog here to remind me and keep me humble.

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