One of the primary objectives of this course was to “Demonstrate an understanding of the various dimensions of leadership and what it means to be a leader in the physical therapy profession.” Given this objective, the primary frameworks by which we explored and examined the concept of leadership through was the Kouzes & Posner Practices of Exemplary Leadership and the LAMP Assessment. Here are several “artifacts” examining some of my self-assessment of the various aspects of the Kouzes & Posner model.
Artifact - LAMP: Leadership Development Self-Assessment
As evident from the above artifacts, the main area that I feel like I have successfully embraced the ability to be a leader is in “enabling others to act.” This is an area that I have noted significant improvement, even within the past year. I have found that this change has occurred concomitantly with my work as president of the PTSA. While last year I might have been more inclined to just do things that need to be done, my work as president of the PTSA has shown me that there are easier, better, and more inclusive mechanisms for completing tasks. I have had the luxury of being surrounded by some fabulous classmates and fellow board members, and have learned to rely on them and trust them, delegating tasks appropriately (based on each individual’s strengths and weaknesses). I recall discussing in class “what does it mean to be a leader?” In this discussion, various potential definitions were introduced. Stemming from this, the follow up question of, “does a good leader have to be the best at the thing they are leading? lead to a fruitful discussion on leadership qualities and what makes a successful leader. My personal definition of a quality leader is, “one who recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of individuals and him/herself and delegates task accordingly, towards the pursuit of a common goal.” Given this definition, my answer to the follow up question is “no.” A leader doesn’t need to be the best at a given task, in order to be a good leader—he/she needs only to recognize who is the best person/people for that task, delegate the task to them, and encourage their individual success. I think this is a lesson I have learned from my tenure as president of the PTSA. I am not the smartest person in the class, the most organized, the most creative, the most innovative, or the most diligent. Despite this, I view myself as a great leader because I have learned to accept this fact, and through this acceptance, figure out who is the best at each of the aforementioned attributes, and delegate tasks appropriately.
I think an area of potential improvement that I still have, with regards to “enabling others to act,” and something I noted when completing this self-reflection in the first place, is the idea of giving people the ability and choice in deciding how to do their work. Given that I am still improving on my ability to delegate tasks and accept the actions and contributions of others, I can often times have some issues with needing to have control over how and when things get done. Everybody has their own style on how to complete things (i.e. how to write drafts and revisions or part-vs-whole completion of a task), and being able to accept conflicting or differing styles of work is an area I am still developing. A specific way that I am striving to improve in this regard is in being able to identify and give credit to individual contributions—seeing and expressing the positives that other individuals bring to the table. For example, when working with some classmates on putting together a poster, I readily admitted that creativity is not my strong suit—however it was a strength of several of my group members. Given this, I provided positive feedback to the individuals who were working on the aesthetic aspect of our project, while not being overbearing. I let myself let them take charge (a convoluted, yet profound, principle).
Through my self-reflection on the Kouzes & Posner model of leadership, one of the aspects that I could use improvement upon is the concept of “modeling the way.” Two specific areas of this concept that I identified include “spending time and energy making certain that the people work with adhere to the principles and standards we have agreed on” and being “clear about my philosophy of leadership.” I think these are two areas of my leadership skills that can use significant improvement—and they both stem, somewhat from the same underlying premise. I would characterize my leadership strategy, with regards to completing a given task, as somewhat laissez faire—that is, I am somewhat flexible with the ability to adapt to roadblocks on the route to completing a task. While this might, in some instances, be a good thing, as being adaptable can be a sign of resilience, it can also mean that any time something goes wrong, there is a disproportional overhaul of the principles and standards. I think I need more of a balance, in terms of my leadership qualities, between allowing room for if things go wrong and remaining steadfast to an underlying set principles, standards, and expectations. For example, this past semester, I was in a group working on a large group project. We had agreed, as a group, to complete our sections of the project over Spring Break, so that we would be well “ahead of the game” for the ensuing weeks of difficult and time consuming coursework. As it occurred, however, other things came up, and no one stuck to the original plan. While it wasn’t an area of contention between group members, since there was somewhat of an unspoken agreement that the previous principle and expectation of when to complete our sections of the larger task had become null, it was not conducive to timely completion of group work. This situation could have been improved upon by better communication. Rather than just assuming that the verbalized agreement was now nullified, when we realized the impossibility of its completion, we should have agreed upon a variation to that plan. In other words, we should have respected the underlying principle and standard of abiding by our verbal agreements. I think that moving forward, I can improve upon this balance between a somewhat “lax” style of leadership and a more “accountable” one, through better communication when plans don’t go as predicted. This communication allows for modifications to the plan, but still relies upon an underlying principle of mutual respect and consensus.
Artifact - At The Listening Wall During this semester, I have been reminded on numerous occasions to visit the "Listening Wall" at GSU, where individuals can place note cards discussing various social and cultural points. I thought the concept of the "Listening Wall" is in many ways congruent with my goals for improvement at communication within my leadership strategy. Communication is a two way street, with "listening" being an inherently necessary part of the process.