Over the course of the last few years I've had the opportunity to teach several sections of Interdisciplinary Research Studies at Valdosta State University in Georgia. During the first-ever semester of the course, my students were seniors preparing for graduation and I came to the realization that these folks were all on track to become leaders in their chosen disciplines — without having been exposed to any guidance on what a leader is, or how a leader leads his or her people.
This thought prompted me, heading into the second semester, to incorporate a section into the course on leadership styles. This section was so well received by my second-semester students, as borne out in comments I received at the end of the course, that I have incorporated it into every class since, no matter whether it was an intro class or a capstone class.
The way I have since presented the module is was simple but powerful. Depending on the number of students in the class, this section is introduced during the second or third class session. During this introduction, I share some stories about leadership styles I have experienced within the certification and assessment field. Some of these leaders were outstanding and made a very positive impact on me professionally, while others were the polar opposite.
Following these brief introductory tales, I share with the class a few videos (see references 10, 22, and 23) that provide an outstanding introduction to leadership styles. The videos are followed by an assignment that directs students to explore eight-to-10 different leadership styles and then select two to research and present to the class via an eight-to-10 slide PowerPoint presentation. The following is the format for the slides in each PowerPoint presentation.:
Slide 1: Title
Slide 2: A Working Definition of Leadership
Slide 3: Introduce the first Leadership Style
Slide 4: Introduce the second Leadership Style
Slide 5: Compare the two styles stating their similarities
Slide 6: Contrast the two styles stating how they differ
Slides 7 and 8: State an argument for your preferred style
Slide 9: Summarize your research findings on Leadership Styles and being a Leader
Slide 10: List your references
Since this has worked so well with classes of students who were for the most part uninitiated to the world of the certification, my hope is that this series of articles will be helpful to those who deal with certification on a daily basis.
Here is my plan for this series: In each installment I will examine two of the key leadership styles, explore their strengths and weaknesses for those involved in the certification world, and do a quick compare-and-contrast writeup of the two styles being examined in that installment. Finally, I will put forth an argument in favor of one of the two styles.
In the final installment I will explore all of the certification leadership styles that I have favored in all of the earlier installments, side by side, and see what they have in common and what makes each stand out. The last thing I want to share with you the reader, is my top pick of all the potential certification leadership styles for Program Leaders and give you my reasons for this selection.
In this installment, we will first of all explore a host of definitions that have been applied to the term leadership. Second, we will examine a number of the key qualities of good/great/successful leaders. Finally, I will briefly provide an overview of a number of the key leadership styles involved in managing a successful certification program.
No matter what your title is, whether your are Chief Learning Officer (CLO), VP of Education, VP of Certification, Director of Certification and Assessments, Manager of Certification, or simply the Project or Program Manager of Certification, if you have somehow been blessed with the responsibility of making certification a priority for your organization, then this series of articles will help you better understand your options for leveraging a leadership style within your organization.
What is leadership?
Let's now look at some of the key definitions applied to the term leadership. Leadership is defined and interpreted in many ways. Until an institution agrees on a definition of Leadership, it will be virtually impossible to interest potential candidates in the possibilities of becoming a Leader.
Before jumping to a definition, it is always a good first step to see how others have defined the process. Here are some of the most widely used definitions out of the more than 850 (22) that have been documented by experts in the field.
Leadership is influence.
Leadership is undefinable. It is subject to each person's interpretation.
Leadership is a skill, a learned and practicable, skill.
The textbook (16) definition of leadership is leading a group to accomplish a process.
Leadership, in a nutshell, requires power. Power comes from upper management, from followers, or from both.
Leadership is the ability to lead or guide a collective group to a common goal. Whether filling the leadership role on a team, day by day, in a workplace, or at school, a leader is someone who is passionate and who understands the voice of those she or he leads.
Leadership involves establishing a clear vision and sharing that vision with others convincingly enough that they will follow willingly. Leadership requires providing the information, knowledge, and methods to realize the established vision, while coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders. A leader steps up in times of crisis and can think and act creatively in difficult situations.
Leadership is a process, not a property of a person. The process involves a particular form of influence called motivation. The consequence of the influence is collaboration and pursuit of a common goal. The great things to be accomplished are in the minds of both the leader and the follower.
Leadership is a noun meaning the act or instance of leading. (3,6) According to the dictionary (3,6) leadership is the act of leading a group or an organization.
Now that we have reviewed several of the mainline definitions of leadership, we now have to look at the attributes of good, great, effective leaders.
Key qualities of a good (successful) leader
According to Bob Iger (15), CEO of The Walt Disney Company, the attributes of a great leader are:
- Be Optimistic
- Be Confident
- Be Decisive
- Be Fair
- Be open and honest
- Don't be afraid of failure because fear destroys creativity
Next, let's review eight qualities (17) of effective, successful, leaders listed in Forbes by leadership coach Kimberly Fries:
Sincere enthusiasm: To me this means that a leader has to have a great outlook on what they are leading their subordinates to.
Integrity: Even if it's not what he or she wants to do, a leader knows they must ALWAYS do what is right and give proper credit where it is due.
Communication Skills: Poor communication skills always result in poor outcomes. Therefore, it is important to listen to your subordinates and find a common ground solution that everyone will be satisfied with.
Loyalty: To me this means that a leader ensures that everyone in the workplace has equal opportunities for training and access to the same resources.
Decisiveness: A leader needs to provide clear, unambiguous direction. You cannot expect subordinates to follow if you're unsure of your next move.
Managerial Competence: A leader should familiarize himself or herself with all of the resources at his or her disposal. This allows the leader to answer any questions subordinates may have.
Empowerment: A good leader is confident in his or her ability to help any subordinate and develop the abilities of those he or she works with.
Charisma: A leader must be personable because it allows subordinates to feel more comfortable. A leader always welcomes everyone with open arms.
Leadership requires leaders to be empathetic and have perspective. Subordinates should feel their leader has both talent and commitment, and that they have been provided high-quality guidance. According to CNN (24), the following are key qualities of a great leader:
Be Honest, Focused, Passionate, Respectful, and Able to Persuade Others
Be Confident, Clear, and Caring
Have Integrity, Confidence, and Articulate a Shared Vision and Actions,
Be Engaging and Allow Teams to Celebrate Their Successes
Be Humble, Empowering, Collaborative, a Good Communicator, and Fearless
Be Genuine, Self-aware, and Look to Leverage the Strengths of Team Members
Be Supportive and Understand Your Role in the Business Model
Now that we have reviewed several lists of key qualities of effective and successful leaders, it is time we do a high-level overview of a number of contemporary leadership styles that I have experienced in our industry.
2. Cherry, Kendra. Know More. Live Brighter. Verywell Mind, Dotdash, 8 Feb. 2019, www.verywellmind.com
3. Leadership. BusinessDictionary.com. WebFinance, Inc. February 12, 2019 - http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/leadership.html
8. Biola University. Ken Blanchard : Lead Like Jesus. YouTube, YouTube, 27 Apr. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGPg7o6JeQo.
9. Leadership Styles. Hoonuit Online Learning Framework https://learnit.hoonuit.com/5698/learnit
10. Riggio, Ronald E. Take this test: Are You a Transformational Leader? Psychology Today, 24 Mar. 2009, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/200903/areyou-transformational-leader
11. What Kind of Leader Are You? TestQ, 2017, http://www.testq.com/careers/quizzes/237- what-kind-of-leader-are-you
15. The Ride of a Lifetime, Robert Iger (2019)
16. Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies, 2nd Edition, by Allen F. Repko
23. Lawrence, D., 2014, Transforming Leadership: An Introduction, ATD.