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Bri MT

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Being a Leader
« on: December 23, 2017, 11:10:21 am »

Being a leader
Leadership is extremely diverse, and many different definitions of it exist. The one that I am going to use is “influencing the actions of a group to achieve a desired outcome”. When this is broken down there are three key components 1) the influencer/leader 2) the group and 3) the desired outcome. Effective leadership requires understanding of all three, with knowledge of the outcome being the least important factor.

Before I leap into that, I’m going to give some information about my experiences so that where I am coming from is better understood. My first introduction to leadership was in my primary school’s junior school council and this year my leadership experiences have included being chairman of a venturer scout unit, being youth mayor of my local youth council, being vice school captain, and attending Rotary Youth Leadership Award (Highly recommend btw). The highlights in between those times include Alpine School and Venturer Scout leadership courses. Through my experiences I have developed ways of thinking and responding that can be used as a guide or example, but there are certainly other ways of thinking and acting in regard to leadership. Take from this series what works and is relevant to you and don’t worry about the rest.

The first installment in the series will focus on The Leader – Leadership Styles
(If there is anything that someone really wants covered, please suggest it and I'll focus on addressing that next. Feedback is also appreciated)

The leader
Understanding of self is highly important for leadership. Not only does learning about how you operate aid understanding of others, it also allows you to confidently draw on your areas of strength and deliberately build areas of weakness. If you become consciously aware of your biases (we ALL have them) and learn what your key values are you will make better decisions as a result.

Leadership styles
Leadership is often broken into three styles: relaxed (“you will determine what you do”), democratic (“The group/majority should will determine what we do”), and autocratic (“I’m going to determine what you do”).
This may be the point at which some of you ask “Is a relaxed style even leadership? And why would you pick it?” Yes, it is still leadership. Firstly, these styles work on a continuum so while members may be largely autonomous major decisions might be made by group consensus or the leader. Secondly, you can be a leader without telling people what to do – being a role model can be effective leadership. Because the leader isn’t busy micromanaging everyone, things can get done faster and often more creatively than in the other styles. Relaxed leadership is suited for when you have an experienced team that knows what they are doing and can be trusted to get the job done. It is not suited for a team with low motivation and poor understanding of requirements, unless you want them to struggle as a learning experience. Even then, caution is recommended.

Democratic leadership is what many people think of first and are comfortable with; I know it’s my favourite. It encourages emotional investment by having everyone contribute to discussions and collaboration can produce great ideas as everyone’s experiences and strengths combine. It is also usually seen as fair; however, resentment may build if people feel that their ideas aren’t being listened to and/or they are being dismissed. A weakness of this style is that it can involve back and forth discussions and votes that seem to drag on forever – which is especially likely if the group is large and there is any pre-existing antagonism between members. This style works best with small, diverse groups. If you need to work with a large group, strongly consider breaking it up into smaller ones ASAP.

Authoritative leadership may be criticised for the lack of group input and/or being overbearing. However, there are situations in which it is clearly the best choice. For example, if someone breaks their arm it might not be the best idea to call for a group meeting or let everyone run around in a panic. In that case, giving clear instructions such as “call the ambulance” or “run and get the first aider” will lead to the best outcome. This shows some of the strengths of authoritative leadership - it is highly time efficient and can inspire faith by displaying confidence. This style works best when there is time pressure, and/or the leader is already respected by the group. If team members do not respect the leader and do not understand why this style has been used, they may rebel against it and sharply reduce the leader’s effectiveness. This becomes increasingly likely the longer that the style is used.

As I hope has become apparent, they key to these styles is to adapt and choose them based on the group and the situation that the group is in. Consciously think about which one is being used and why - will it truly lead to the best outcome?
The best way to build up strength in these areas is to find yourself in diverse situations and practice.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2019, 04:07:08 pm by Joseph41 »


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Re: Being a Leader
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2017, 08:35:35 pm »
This is such a wonderful post, miniturtle  :)
Leadership is a quality that is perhaps too undervalued in today’s world. So thank-you for reigniting its significance.
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Bri MT

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Re: Being a Leader
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2018, 11:44:12 am »
Working with others (The Team)

You might think that this is easy, in which case I invite you to remember every group project you have had to do. Sometimes you get stuck with people who aren’t good team mates but even then you can usually do things to make the situation better.
1. What is their motivation?
Feel free to directly ask your whole group this. Understanding the motivations will give you an idea of what to expect and what roles are appropriate for that person. By verbalising their intent they also commit to it in their mind, thus increasing the chance that they will contribute more. This can also help with conflict management - if they understand where you are coming from they may be more sympathetic and vice versa.

2. What are their strengths & interests?
For example, some people are great at coming up with ideas, and others love critiquing them. Both are valuable. It’s pretty obvious, but you’ll get better contributions from someone who is in a role that suits their interests and strengths.

3. What is their conflict management style?
There are a whole range of these, but as an overview some people tend to prioritise avoiding conflict over their goals and values (rabbit) whereas others prioritise their goals and values over avoiding conflict (shark). Some shut down and retreat entirely (tortoise) and some try bargaining and compromise (fox). If you have someone acting as a tortoise or rabbit in your group you aren’t going to get their full contribution or potential, if you have someone acting as a shark they may inadvertently alienate themselves from the group, and if you have someone acting as a fox it may take a long time to reach any sort of decision.
How to counteract these effects:
Tortoise: If a tortoise leaves the room it might not be the best idea to immediately follow them. Give them some breathing space first.
Tortoise and rabbit: Approach this from a socially-based perspective. Just after the session in which the conflict happened, or during a break approach them and actively seek out their opinion. This affords them the opportunity to contribute without being embroiled in conflict and shows that someone sees their value to the group. This may lead them to contribute more
Shark: Approach this from a goals-based perspective. Let them know that you appreciate their contributions, but that you are also concerned that some members of the team don’t operate so well in such a high-energy environment – and thus progress is impaired. This should increase their focus on other team members and may soften their approach.
Fox: Equally weight both perspectives. Let them know that you appreciate their balancing role in the group, and that you are worried that the longer the conflict goes on the more frustrated people will get and the less time there will be to work on the project.

4. Delegation
You can’t do everything on your own; if you are a leader there are times when you will need to delegate. The extent to which a person is capable and reliable should dictate a) the tasks that you give them and b) the extent to which those tasks are delegated. Someone new to their position with limited skills could be told “Come up with an idea and tell me about it. I’ll provide feedback. Create a plan based on that, I’ll provide feedback on that too. Then action it and let me know what is happening at each stage.” By contrast, someone who has proven themselves may be told “Create a plan for this. If I don’t say otherwise by [date] enact the plan.” The most frustrating position for a person to be delegated to is “Do the preparation/work for this, but don’t actually enact it until I say so. No, I’m not going to provide feedback – you don’t need that anymore – but I still need to approve it. And oh, woops, I forgot I gave you that task so now you’re waiting for no good reason.” Sometimes that is the necessary level of delegation but use it sparingly.

5. Time management
Your team should have goals that you have agreed on, and these should be bounded by time frames. The less capable and reliable someone is, the greater the number of sub goals and time frames – this gives them more guidance and also gives you advance warning if they aren’t meeting schedule. These goals and relevant information should be easily accessible by the team members from a mutually agreed location (eg. shared area on the internet).

6. Communication is two-way
Get seek out feedback on your performance and only give out feedback if your aim is to help the receiving person. When we give out feedback to make ourselves or our ideas look better in comparison or to vent emotions it undermines us and is usually poorly received.
People tend to remember negatives more than positives so counter that effect by framing more things positively and looking for the good.
Consider your own preferred conflict management styles and how they impact the team and situation – they are all a combination of positives and negatives too.
Aim for improvement not perfection and congratulate or thank your team when they improve despite the remaining imperfections.

This post is also imperfect, and any suggestions for improvement and feedback is welcomed.