As a young professional there is still much for me to learn about myself, particularly as a leader within an organisation. Having accumulated a little over 3 years within the profession of Architecture, I have undertaken this course of study to complement my current experience.
I hold a genuine interest in acquiring knowledge to measure my current personality traits, so as to compare the results with my preconceived ideas. Furthermore, I hope to determine whether or not I possess the qualities of a strong leader.
The Literature review enables further exploration of the characteristics of strong leadership, with focus on traditional theory on relationship between personality and leadership, the emergence of Emotional Intelligence and finally the notion of Practical Wisdom, or Phronesis as identified by Aristotle. I feel as though these areas provide a good cross-section between longstanding and progressive concepts regarding leadership emergence, which will allow an opportunity to reflect on my own findings.
In line with this reflection, part three provides the opportunity to review and critique the application of self-assessment tools, assessing the relevance and validity of such tools with regards to developing leaders. Part 1
Assessments chosen and why?
In order for me to develop a better understanding of my personality and general capacity as a leader, it was essential to select a cross section of assessments that uncovered my essence. I began with a ‘Big 5’ styled personality test to obtain the fundamental dimensions of my personality, with particular interest in conscientiousness and extraversion as these characteristics have been identified as key performance traits. From here I selected assessments, which focused on aspects or particular traits of personality, so as to reveal a deeper perspective into my current disposition. The Briggs-Meyer assessment was more of a complimentary assessment to that of the Big 5, however I was interested to assess the quantitative measurements of each criteria. The rational behind this pair of assessments was to confirm and or challenge the outcomes of the general Big 5 Assessment.
In a bid to increase my self-knowledge, more specifically, how I respond to conflict and what my motivators and stressors are, I chose to complete the DISC assessment. In a similar vein to that of attaining self-knowledge, I was fascinated to investigate the notion that ‘Generation Y’ is revered as a particularly narcissistic cohort. I was therefore compelled to complete a ‘Narcissistic Personality Inventory’.
The final two assessments were selected for their team-focused theme. I was particularly interested in gauging my natural inclination within a team environment. This was achieved through the completion of a Belbin team roles assessment, which was deemed to be a valid teamwork oriented assessment, and an Emotional Intelligence Test, of which complimented and confirmed my team work predisposition.
To a large extent, the self-assessment results only confirmed and consolidated my preconceived assumptions that I held with regards to my personality. The outcomes revealed that I possess high levels of Conscientiousness (94%), Extraversion (92%), Emotional Stability (84%). However, in contrast, my results were quite low with respect to my level of Agreeableness (26%) and Openness (27%). These results offer me an insight to my job performance; however, they require additional findings in order to assess myself as a leader.
The results from the E.I. assessment help to affirm my current personality as one that possesses capacity to become a good leader. My levels of self-awareness, social-awareness and relationship management all revealed high outcomes. However, my self-management score was moderately lower, in contrast. This suggests that I may be challenged in keeping disruptive emotions and impulses under control in a leadership position.
These findings are reinforced with the outcomes from both the Briggs-Myers test (33% Judging) and the Belbin team roles assessment (Shaper). Although I possess lots of energy and take action in an effort to challenge others to move forward with me, I am likely to come across insensitively and will often employ a judgmental outlook as opposed to a more perceptive approach.
Challenges as a Leader
Based on the results and an increased understanding of myself, there are particular aspects of my personality that may present challenges through the coursework and my journey towards a leadership role within my present organization. As identified through the process of self-assessment, I generally possess moderate to high levels across the traditional traits of performance. Further to early research into leadership, that will be examined closer in Part Two, these traits won’t necessarily support my ability in becoming a leader. Self-regulation will be one of my biggest challenges in developing myself professionally as a leader and will therefore be an area that needs development. As identified further to the Meyer-Briggs assessment, my moderate inclination to judge in favor of perception indicates that being able to suspend judgment challenges me. This is further manifested by a predisposition to act before thinking, instinctual if you will. However, as the discourse of study richens, so do the skills and knowledge, which will ultimately allow me to recognize and manage these traits more effectively.
The importance of good leadership is generally understood, however beliefs regarding the knowledge, skills, and articles of good leaders has changed over the years and still continues to evolve today. Some of the first notions concerning leadership revolved around the belief that leaders were born, not made; that leaders possess certain innate traits that other individuals just simply do not possess. As Rupprecht et al go on to explain, this paradigm shifted as research and theory progressed, and today the prevailing idea is that anyone can be a leader, so long as they exhibit behaviours that are commonly accepted to describe leaders.
In order to generate a deeper understanding of what these behaviours are and what the likely outcome of possessing such traits is, we need to inquire further. As Colbert et al illuminate, given the growing body of research that supports a link between personality and leadership, an important next step is to shed light on the mechanisms by which personality influences leadership. It is important, however, to look beyond the traditional indicators and understanding of effective leadership and investigate more contemporary literature, as leadership has more to do with personal authenticity than an easily learned formula. In support of this authenticity, recent findings reveal that the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. Another area of knowledge, which is referred to as ‘Practical Wisdom’, explores the idea that effective leadership stems from the ability to make prudent judgment and take action in actual situations, which are guided by morals and values. It is recognized as an attribute of tacit knowledge that is acquired through experience and provides the foundation for enlightened decision.
Many of the theoretical arguments for the relationship between personality and leadership suggest that individuals with certain personality traits emerge as leaders and are more effective leaders because their trait-consistent behaviors contribute to the goal accomplishment of the group. Effective leaders serve as role models for desirable behaviors. As leaders attempt to motivate others to exercise effort toward achieving common goals, their own goal motivation can serve to encourage others to exhibit similar behaviors. Further studies in this area have found that conscientiousness and extraversion are the two Big Five personality traits with the strongest relationship to leadership and may provide a valid basis for identifying behaviours that are commonly accepted as leadership qualities.
Two main facets make up the trait of conscientiousness: achievement orientation and dependability. Conscientious individuals are often described as thorough, responsible, organized, and achievement striving. Whereas, the two classical indicators of extraversion, are sociability and dominance. These can be further described as individuals who are affable, gregarious, and kind. Both of these traits are deemed to be reliable indicators related to leader emergence and effectiveness . In contrast to the seemingly positive indicators above, individuals who possess high levels of neuroticism are typically self-conscious and anxious as opposed to those with low levels of neuroticism. These tendencies may restrain their contributions to group success and leadership.
Although there is sufficient evidence in support of the relationship between personality and effective leadership, it is not enough to employ as a model indicator. A deeper understanding of supporting instruments is essential in determining leadership emergence. Leadership rests on more than mature appreciation of strengths; great leaders acknowledge their incompetencies and some may even make them work for them.
There seems to be an agreement that leaders need energy, a strong sense of direction and a clear vision. But it’s important to remember that in the age of empowerment, it is difficult to do anything in organizations without followers. Goffee and Jones go on to explain that each leader is unique and it’s that difference that others follow. There is no golden rule for top managers/leaders, but the best have something in common, they aspire to be true to themselves, not to emulate the habits of other leaders. This maturity and understanding transpires from a form of intelligence that has built up significant momentum, particularly over the past decade – emotional intelligence.
There are two aspects of emotional intelligence, which set themselves apart from other personality assessment criteria and complement leadership development; self-awareness and self-regulation. Self-awareness is the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others. People who have a high degree of self-awareness recognize how their feelings affect them, other people, and their job performance, as put by Goleman . Conventionally, the notion of being ‘self-aware’ implies weakness or not being tough enough, however, in light of topical research, it is quite the contrary. Self-aware people can be recognized by their self-confidence. They have a firm grasp of their capabilities and are less likely to set themselves up to fail. In line with the territory of being an effective leader, candid judgment calls need to be made, often resulting in capability scrutiny – the leaders and those of others.
Self-regulation follows on and echoes the concept of self-awareness. It is the ability to manage the impulsive drive of emotion and rationalize thoughts and feelings as they emerge. Goleman highlights the progressive nature of self-regulation by describing people who are in control of their impulses, people who are reasonable; create an environment of trust and fairness. The outcome of this environment is heightened productivity through a reduction in things like internal politics and squabbling. This type of ability extends beyond the norm and begins to straddle the line between personality theory and practical wisdom – an intuitive sensibility.
Good leaders rely extensively on their ability to read situations. They sense an environment, picking up and interpreting soft data without having it spelled out for them. It seems apparent that effective leaders are continually learning about the motives, attributes and skills of their important subordinates as a means of optimizing their resources to maximize the outcomes for the organization. An area of research that adopts a progressive approach to leadership is the concept of ‘Practical Wisdom’ or Phronesis. Aristotle identified three forms of knowledge; defining Phronesis as “a true reasoned state of capacity to act with regard to things that are good or bad for man”. Aristotle also identified episteme, or universally valid scientific knowledge, and Techne, or skill based know-how. If Episteme is know-how, Phronesis is know-what-should be done. Suffice it to say; Phronesis enables managers to determine what is good in specific times and situations and to undertake the best actions at those times to serve the common good.
It is now widely accepted that business demands a different kind of leader – one who will make decisions knowing that the outcomes must be good for society as well as the company. Leaders must keep a higher purpose in mind. Although such leadership demands more knowledge than ever, managers should not depend on precise knowledge alone. They also need a third, often forgotten kind of knowledge, practical wisdom. This wisdom, acquired from experience, enables people to make good judgments in a timely fashion and take actions guided by values and morals. When leaders distribute such knowledge within their organizations, they can reach enlightened decisions
A cultural group, which manifests this selflessness approach to organization and leadership, are the Japanese. A number of phronetic leaders exists within the Japanese economy who allegedly possess six key abilities: They can assess what is good; quickly grasp the essence of situations; create context learning; communicate effectively; exercise political power to bring people together; and encourage the development of practical wisdom in others through apprenticeship and mentoring. This could quite possibly reflect the ideological framework for the development of leaders in western society. Part 3
There are arguments for and against the use and validity of self-assessment tools in the work place, particularly with regards to indicators of job performance. As previously discussed, the self-assessment tools that I used largely confirmed what I already understood to be true about myself. Nevertheless, I found them to be quite useful in developing more self-awareness with regards to my personality traits and inclinations. I found the Emotional Intelligence test particularly useful and managed to practice the fundamentals of self-regulation in the work place during the course of this assessment; proof of some degree of success.
Further to the literature review and analysis of OB theory, my understanding of the limitations of self-assessment is directly related to predictions of job performance. From what I’ve read, the problem is that no one selection method can accurately predict how an individual will perform in a particular job or occupation. Therefore, the organization is limited by its application. Self-assessment tools, generally speaking, are useful complements to other methods of personality assessment; however they are usually poor indicators of performance.
My area of study focused on the emergence of strong leaders and the findings revealed that there is very little connection between self-assessment tools and strong leadership. Leadership cannot be defined by aptitude or personality; leaders are unique individuals who manifest themselves as personal qualities. Leadership is an expertise that develops and strengthens with years of experience; it is characterized by a capacity to assess ‘soft data’ and quickly grasp the essence of any situation. With this in mind, it would seem impossible to measure such traits through the means of self-assessment tools.
The tools should not be weighted as a definitive outcome, but more as a means to generate discussion and promote awareness within the individual. The most common criticism of self-assessment tests, particularly personality based, is that they can be completed fraudulently. Just as I, in my own sub-conscious, would have selected answers that I perceived as the more desirable outcome. Not to say that they are a complete misrepresentation of individual personality, but a more inaccurate measure.
I believe that self-assessments are all inextricably linked. As this assessment stipulated, we were to complete six different assessments in order to review ourselves. Upon reflection I feel as though this approach garnered more weighting as patterns emerged within the results. For example, my high levels of conscientiousness and extraversion linked directly to my lower levels in self-regulation and awareness. Therefore, my argument would be, that the application of self-assessment should be done as a collection as opposed to a singular or one-off. As encouraged as part of this assessment, I am in support of conducting such self-assessments at the initiation of any team engagement or as pre-employment measure. It encourages the individual to reflect on him or herself, which sets the tone for an open dialogue between the members of any given organization.
Self Assessments are a valuable tool and an important measure for organizations to take towards the person development of individuals and to better understand and foster working team relationships. However, it is paramount that these are only used as a tool and not as a definitive outcome for individuals. The challenge facing all those who aspire to be leaders is to be themselves but with more skill. The typical qualities discussed through this assignment are necessary for effective leadership but they cannot be used formulaically. Awareness of these qualities can help individuals develop a unique style that works for them. If you want to be a leader, you have to discover and express your authenticity; however, it would seem that this comes with time. Bibliography
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Appendices Big 5 Personality Assessment
Emotional Intelligence Test
Briggs Meyer Personality Assessment
Narcissistic Personality Inventory