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Self Assessment: Colin Richardson
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A Leadership Self Assessment by Colin Richardson

It was not until enrolling in this unit that I gave the topic of leadership a great deal of thought as an academic subject. In my mind a leader was someone who assumed the title from their actions, not merely by being given the title. I justified this thought by the notion that a monarch or president is firstly seen as a ruler or representative before they can be seen to prove themselves as a true leader. Comparison can be drawn to the idea of a ‘team leader’ in an organisation who is on the same level as their colleagues until they are recognised to have leadership credentials. At this point they are given the ‘team leader’ title in recognition for demonstrating leadership capabilities. This paper seeks to explore the idea of leadership in more depth assessing my own leadership credentials and characteristics with the aid of texts, quizzes and people from various facets of my life. Using my experiences as a vehicle it is hoped that this paper will accurately assess my current and future potential as a leader whilst exploring the topic as a whole.

  

During class and after reading Durbin, Daglish and Miller’s (2006) work on the topic of leadership I began to see that a lot of the ideas they discussed where aligned with my own thoughts. Whilst the text explores a number of definitions for leadership they all maintain common themes and recurring ideas. Words such as inspire, influence, motivate and change appear regularly throughout chapter one of the text (Dubrin, Daglish and Miller. 2006) and closely follow what I would associate as leadership qualities. In class we discovered the broad range of qualities that people look for in a leader when we worked in groups to list our top five characteristics that we look for in a leader. As a class these short lists collectively blew out into over twenty different characteristics demonstrating the broad scope of opinions and ideas in approaching the topic.

 

Out of both class discussions and chapter one of the text (Dubrin, et al. 2006) the one characteristic that stood out for me was vision. Whilst a manager may dictate terms and hold power over their subordinates, can they be defined as a leader, or are they just superiors? A manager, by definition, has authority but what sets a leader apart is that they have a vision that they follow and strive for. This vision allows the followers to see a dedicated and passionate person taking control of the situation with an enthusiasm that is often contagious. A leader is someone who motivates people to follow their vision which means that they will often seek to implement positive change to achieve this vision. (Durbin, et al. 2006. p 3). The text (Dubrin, et al. 2006. p3) goes on further to explain that a leader willingly takes the blame or responsibility for their vision and actions. This can only provoke further motivation for followers as they are effectively stripped of accountability and are quite likely to admire their leader’s dedication to a common vision. Taking all these ideas into account I would define a leader as follows: A leader is someone who inspires and motivates others to follow and collaborate with their vision, ultimately this will enhance any positive outcome for their cause.

 

When looking at my own personal perception of leadership it is clear that external influences such as my upbringing, experiences and surroundings have played a major factor in my perceptions of the topic. The youngest of four children, my family immigrated to Australia from Zimbabwe in 1982, two years before I was born. As a result, my parents and older sisters brought to Australia a strong culture and tight family network that was passed on to me in my early childhood. Coming from a country recently witnessing civil war and international sanctions a strong sense of family values, honesty, resourcefulness, social responsibility and appreciation for what I have was distilled into me from an early age.

 

These values where put into practice when my Gran moved into our family home in her later years. My mum became her principal carer for 15 years which saw a deterioration in her health towards the end of this time. I was part of the family unit that collectively cared for her, providing meals and medication. Looking back this never seemed a chore but can best be described as a natural reaction to look after a family member.

 

Growing up, sport was a major influence in my life. During my early years on the sporting field I was happy to follow the lead of coaches and team mates in sports that I knew little about. Once I became familiar and comfortable with a sport and the team dynamics I would gradually start to take a leadership role as my confidence grew. This would turn me into a vocal and out spoken person that was a stark contrast to my social and family life. In my early teens I started officiating and refereeing basketball. This gave me a new perspective on sport and life as I took a liking to the power and authority. In this environment I discovered that is was a rewarding experience to become invisible as a referee, where if nobody noticed that you were there you must have managed the game extremely well.

 

In my later teens I continued with my sporting endeavours, and took up rugby. This was a sport that I immediately took to and found myself in leadership roles from the beginning. Within a couple of season I found myself playing age group representative rugby for regional sides and WA where I took a back seat to other players who clearly had more experience and knowledge of the game than me. As I began to experience higher levels of rugby on a more regular basis my confidence grew and I began to take more leadership roles within these representative sides.

 

A theme became apparent to me that I was far more out going in my sporting life than off the field. I believe this played a major role in my decision to travel and apply for exchange to an overseas university. In the first semester of 2004 I studied at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and the thought of going out on my own appealed to me. I was forced to be more out going and meet new people, which proved to be a great learning experience for me and fed my independent nature. After Canada I worked for several months in Edinburgh, Scotland, and again enjoyed the independence. In Edinburgh I tried my hand at bar work where I started in my typically quiet fashion working hard and learning the trade ending up night supervisor within four months.

 

In a working environment I often found myself in leadership roles within a year of working at any one place. As with any other aspect of life I would initially sit back and take the lead of others demonstrating my work ethic and reliability. After high school I started work at Myer in dispatch and logistics where I was employed for two years. In my second year I was one of a group of four staff from Karrinyup’s four hundred strong employees to represent the store at a Retail Traders Association Youth Development Forum. At RugbyWA, where I am currently employed, I started as one of six Development Officer’s where at the completion of my first year I was promoted to the position I now hold as Senior Development Officer. It is in this role where I believe I have achieved outcomes under pressure that have been extremely rewarding.

 

One recent example that comes to mind of an occasion where leadership has been necessary in my role as Senior Development Officer is a tour that I organised at short notice in 2006. To cut a long story short, a decision was made for a WA Under 15 Representative Team to tour the Gold Coast one month before the commencement of the Canterbury Gold Coast Rugby Carnival. At this point I was given the responsibility of assistant coach and tour coordinator, essentially organising everything necessary to make the tour happen four weeks from departure. For those who aren’t familiar with a touring team this involves trials, team selection, training schedules, organising uniforms, traveling gear, accommodation, transport, meals and entertainment to keep twenty three fourteen-year-olds out of trouble for a week. Whilst the tour requirements where extremely tight as far as time was concerned, the real challenge was to maintain the integrity of the team that was going to represent WA and make sure that we picked the best players from the age group in the limited time we had. This task required a great deal of dedication and was quite daunting at first, however I was quite pleased that I had been chosen to make the tour happen and saw it as a challenge. 

 

With a long list of things to do I had to prioritise activities in order of urgency, first a coach and manager needed to be appointed and trials for the selection of players organised. Once the coach and manager were selected an initial trial was advertised and held within the week. From this trial over one hundred and thirty players were whittled down to forty two invited back for a second trial. Looking back on the trial process, there are a number of positive attributed that I believe I demonstrated in handling the task at hand. The trial involved the promotion, communication, organisation and delegation of about eight support staff including coaches, referees, and RugbyWA Development staff. Giving over one hundred players a fair run for selection in three hours worth of trials was definitely a challenge, as their parents quite rightly wanted their children to have a fair shot at selection.

 

Luckily for me, the manager and head coach appointed where extremely good at their jobs and made the organisation of the tour a lot smoother than it could have been. A week after being given the task of organising the tour I seemed to be on track with a team now selected, coaching staff finalised and tour planning underway. With most of the logistical elements taken care of, the only issues remaining was the clothing needed to outfit the players and coaching staff from formal travel wear through to training and match day uniforms. With a few hiccups along the way, favours from suppliers, tight deadlines, and some negotiations involving taking some of the less urgent under 16’s gear, the tour went ahead smoothly.

 

Delving deeper into the subject of my leadership, I undertook a number of quizzes designed to profile my leadership. The first test I took, ‘What Kind Of Animal Are You?’ (Author unknown, 2007), was designed to profile the participant into one of four behavioural categories. In this test I fell into the category of an “Understanding Beaver” who’s basic motivation is “quality control” and “to do things right”. (Author unknown, 2007). The characteristics of the “Understanding Beaver” have an uncanny resemblance to the results seen in other quizzes and to interviews I conducted with a family member, my employer, a colleague and a team mate about my leadership. To gain a 360’ evaluation it was important to interview people from a number of different areas of my life which is why I went for these particular interviewees. (Dubrin, et al. 2006. p 71). A written Survey was used to allow the interviewees to complete the interview in their own time and without me present in the hope of gaining unbiased and honest answers. Copies of all interviews can be found in the appendices.

 

The notion ‘to do things right” can have a number of meanings including task orientation or ethically driven motives. Both of these qualities featured in my interviews and quizzes where Leadership Assessment Quiz 5.1 (Dubrin, et al. 2006. pp 124-125) indicated that I had a high average degree of ethical awareness. Integrity and honesty was an area where I also excelled in my interviews as all of the interviewees, from various areas of my life, gave me a perfect score out of five for my credentials in operating ethically. (Interview Summary, Appendices. p 9). The interviewees also used words such as diligent, dependable and thorough which tie in with the motivation of quality control. (Interview summary, Appendices. p 9). From a task based perspective, Leadership Self-Assessment Quiz 3.1 (Dubrin, et al. 2006. p 66) saw me as having a strong task orientation and scored me at nine out of a possible ten. (Interview summary, Appendices. p 9).

 

Perhaps the most common theme throughout the interviews and quizzes however, is that I am considered to be an organiser. A key feature of the “Understanding Beaver” is a desire to plan carefully and tackle problems that have clearly defined tasks. (Author unknown, 2007). My interviewees hammered this point home by scoring my organisational skills at an average of 4.74 out of five. In a list containing seven words, three out of a possible four interviewees circled Organiser as the word that best described me and listed it as one of my strengths. (Interview summary. Appendices. p 9). My employer went a step further than this and listed ‘Organised’ as the number one word that he would use to describe me. (Interview summary. Appendices. p 9).

 

If I am yet to convince you that I fit the behavioural characteristics of the “Understanding Beaver”, the behavioural quiz goes on to suggest that I desire team participation. (Author unknown, 2007). The interviewees saw my interpersonal skills as another one my strengths giving me an average score of 4.75 out of five. (Interview summary. Appendices. p 9). The comments from the interviews supported these findings as my employer went on to say that I was a “good person to have in a team environment”. (Interview summary. Appendices. p 9). A further communication based quiz ties in with interpersonal skills where Leadership Assessment Quiz 2.1 (Dubrin, et al. 2006. pp 31-32) categorised me as a mildly assertive person, leaning away from the aggressive end of the scale.

 

Staying with the theme of team orientation, Donald Clark (Clark, 2007) explores the degree at which individuals enjoy working with tasks and people through a quiz. Clark’s quiz (2007) identified me as a “Team Leader” with a relatively balanced orientation towards people and tasks. (Clark, 2007). The interview with a team mate of mine supported Clark’s (2007) findings from a sporting perspective by saying that I “vocally motivate my team mates (and) lead by example”. (Interview summary. Appendices. p 9). Interestingly, my team mate was the only interviewee not to pick “Organiser” out of a shortlist of seven possible words to describe me. Instead they chose “Motivator” emphasising a desire to lead by example and “continue to fight and work hard no matter what the likely out come is”. (Interview summary. Appendices. p 9). These findings suggest to me that in a team environment I have a relatively high locus of control by trying to take charge of a situation and turn the tables in my teams favour. (Durbrin, et al. 2006).

 

In a working environment my employer identified a behavioural trait that holds true with the “Understanding Beaver” yet remained overlooked by the other interviewee’s. Scoring my delegation skills at only three out of five, my employer commented that I needed to be more confident delegating and requesting assistance. (Interview summary. Appendices. p 9). This aligns with the “Understanding Beavers” Behavioural claims that I respond best to reassurance and a supportive atmosphere. (Author unknown, 2007).

 

When sitting back and taking a look at the results of the interviews and quizzes, the scores that I received seem generally to be quite flattering. But does this mean that I am an exceptional leader? Although I may like to agree with such ideas, the finding must be taken with a grain of salt. Whilst I took great care in choosing the subjects for my interviews, bias is hard to avoid when I know all of the participants on a personal level. I can definitely take many positives out of the findings however, as Leadership Assessment Quiz 2.2 (Dubrin, et al. 2006. pp 41-42) assesses my achievement rating as high where it indicates that I “think and act like a striver”. The interviewee’s comments describing my leadership potential acknowledge that I am improving in my leadership capabilities and will continue to develop with time and experience. (Interview Summary. Appendices. p 9). Further support for these ideas can be found in my results from Leader Assessment Quiz 1.1 (Dubrin, et al. 2006. pp 9-10) where I am deemed to be at the top end of moderate readiness for a leadership role.

 

Looking back at my experiences and upbringing I feel that I have fit quite a bit into the twenty two years I have been around. These experiences have immeasurably shaped the way that I act and behave today, although the “Understanding Beaver” behavioural classification seems to have me pigeonholed quite accurately. (Author unknown, 2007). Whilst I seem to have some strengths, notably in organisational skills, I believe that the biggest reward from the documented quizzes and interviews is identifying and learning of my weaknesses. As the interviews point out, I am relatively young and there is no reason why I can not develop and improve my leadership capabilities. Now that I am aware of behaviours and characteristics that I possess, I am provided with an opportunity to exploit my strengths to their fullest, limit any weaknesses and hopefully turn them into strengths for the future.

References

 

Durbrin, A., Daglish, c. & Miller, P. (2006). Leadership: 2nd Asia-Pacific Edition. (2nd Ed.) Milton, Qld, Australia: John Wiley & Sons.

 

Author Unknown. (extracted January 14, 2007). What kind of animal are you? http://exsel.mtu.edu/UN1000/Activities/Leadership%20Activities.pdf

 

Clark. D., (Updated January, 2007. extracted January 17, 2006). http://nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/bm_model.html