I am extremely appreciative of my growth this summer in regards to finding myself as a leader. After researching and learning the multitude of leadership styles, I feel confident in the theories, styles, and mindset I must follow in order to be successful as a leader and align with my own morals. These leadership theories include: behavioral approaches, authentic leadership, situational leadership, and leadership ethics. These four theories align with my current beliefs surrounding the importance of integrity, honesty, and being yourself, regardless of your position.
Behavioral approach focuses on the behaviors of the leader including “what leaders do and how they act towards followers” (Northouse & Lee, 2019, p. 33). There are two types of behaviors associated with behavioral approach: task behaviors (accomplishing goals) and relationship behaviors (driving follower comfort levels). Depending on the context, as well as the follower, a strong leader uses a combination of task and relationship behaviors to influence others (Northouse & Lee, 2019).
In learning about behavioral approaches, I was reminded of the elephant and the rider (Heath & Heath, 2010). In order for change to be successful, the leader must change the environment, heart, and mind of a person. This means appealing to the emotional and logical sides of a human being and setting the path with specific examples to move forward. The emotional side (or the elephant) is instinctive and reacts to pain and pleasure. The logical side (or the rider) is reflective and deliberates before making a decision (Heath & Heath, 2010, p. 5-6).
Using this analogy, it becomes apparent the importance of behavioral approaches in leadership. The context, personalities of the followers, and the type of change will dictate the specific behavior needed (task or relationship) to appeal to either the elephant or the rider. Using these theories together can help elicit change and motivate the followers and stakeholders.
I felt myself align with authentic leadership as I further explored this theory. As discussed previously, authentic leaders rely on their ability to self-reflect and maintain their own integrity (Northouse & Lee, 2019). Personally, I am an open book and often struggle with hiding my own emotions. Additionally, I live my life based on my own morals of being family-oriented, having integrity, and maintaining inner harmony. Because of this, I find myself falling back on authentic leadership – more just being myself – in my journey.
It is interesting to see the connection between situational leadership and behavioral approaches, especially in the use of task and relationship behaviors. Situational leadership is an application of the behavioral approach and relies on the idea that “different situations demand different kinds of leadership” (Northouse & Lee, 2019, p. 42). In my own leadership experiences, I find myself gravitating towards being a situational leader. I often base how I work with other people on the type of project that is occurring, and even the personality of the person. I believe this automatic behavior stems from being a teacher and having to alter my tactics to ensure student success based on the student. The best aspect of situational leadership is how your leadership style can change as the person grows in their own position.
While reading Heath & Heath‘s (2010) discussion of what seems to be a person problem, could be a situation problem, I realized that the environment in which I work often changes how I work. This is true not only in how I approach problems (positively versus negatively), but also my work ethic. When I feel valued and heard, I speak up more in meetings and produce my highest quality work. However, when my ideas are swept under the rug or presented as someone else’s I begin to slide into the bare minimum. This reflection and realization has helped me start shaping and refining the type of leader I would love to be in the workplace. I want to be someone who inspires, values others, empathizes, puts family first, and creates a culture of high productivity with fun.
While reading Northouse & Lee (2019), I found the common theme of having the expectation of integrity, moral responsibility, and self-reflection amongst the most positive leadership theories and frameworks. The strongest quote for me was “ethical leaders do not lie, nor do they present truth to others in ways that are destructive or counterproductive” (p. 127). Personally, having ethical and moral responsibility comes natural to me. I rely heavily on having integrity and lying is impossible for me. However, I can see how fear of repercussions or fear of failure can hinder leaders from practicing this in their own leadership. From my experiences, integrity and owning up to one’s one shortcomings helps build trust within a team. As a leader, you do not need to know all the answers – that is why you have a team.
I was reminded this summer that I do not have to be in a leadership position in order to be a true leader. There are ways to influence and empower others and build trust as a colleague versus a formal leader. I needed this reminder as since stepping down from a formal leadership position, I have been overwhelmed by the feeling that I must now be a follower. This is not the case – I can still be myself, which is a leader who encourages change for the better of everyone.
Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2010). Switch: How to change things when change is hard. New York, NY: Broadway Books. ISBN: 9780385528757
Northouse, P. G. & Lee, M. (2019). Leadership case studies in education. 2nd edition. SAGE.