Throughout the course of history leadership has been defined in many different ways. There have been no right answers or exact science when it comes to defining leadership. Early in history leadership included dominance and control, in which power was often sought after by individuals who were considered to be leaders (Northouse, 2006). Over time leadership has been molded into an ever evolving practice. This paper will discuss the importance of defining leadership and associating it to your own personal beliefs. In addition, this paper will discuss the importance of developing a personal philosophy of leadership and how it relates to different types of leadership styles. Finally, I will discuss how individual aspects of my life have molded my own philosophy of leadership and how I can continue to evolve as a leader in the future.
The text (Northouse, 2016), defines leadership as “a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal” (p. 6). I agree that influence and persuasion play an important role in defining leadership. However, it is our wisdom, integrity, competency, and ability to positive persuade others to drive them toward a specific goal that defines personal leadership. Personally, I find defining leadership a formidable task. As with developing a personal philosophy of leadership you must first focus on yourself. Sometimes focusing on ourselves is often something that does not come easy.
In the book entitled, Leadership and Self-Deception (Arbinger Institute, 2011) it discusses how we put each other in boxes and being in the box can often dictate how we treat other individuals. In Chapters 13 and 14 of the book it discusses self-betrayal. It references the following steps:
- Self-betrayal is an act contrary to what I feel I should do for another is called an act of self-betrayal.
- When I betray myself, I begin to see the world in a way that justifies my self-betrayal.
- When I see the world in a self-justifying way, my view of reality becomes distorted.
- So—when I betray myself I enter the box.
- Over time, certain boxes become characteristic of me, and I carry them with me.
- By being in the box, I provoke others to be in the box.
- In the box, we invite mutual mistreatment and obtain mutual justification. We collude in giving each other reasons to stay in the box (Arbinger Institute 2011, p. 83-107).”
When speaking about being in the box it often doesn’t make sense to people who haven’t read the book. But I believe the author of the book is saying you must overcome your own self-deception in order to be an effective leader. Putting yourself and others in boxes only negates the positive things we accomplish. We must learn to overcome self-betrayal as it is often the first step on the way to becoming an effective leader and communicator.
Personal leadership is often associated with creating a philosophy of leadership. A philosophy of leadership is simply a personal belief that is meant to be the foundation of how you make decisions and stand by those decisions. “When you truly know your leadership philosophy, you’ll know your course of action in any situation (Calvert, 2017).” Part of this paper is developing a personal leadership philosophy to stand by and use. Although this philosophy may change in the future it is a driving force in what I use to make decisions daily. Personally, my leadership philosophy is the following:
- I believe that leadership is a continuously evolving state that includes both subordinates and leaders.
- I balance my duties and success
- I always motivate people in a positive manner
- I spend time learning from my mistakes and giving credit where credit is due
- I value honesty and integrity
- I respect the opinions of others but strive to accomplish goals
- I listen with an open ear but am guided by my wisdom and experience
Let’s further discuss line five of my personal leadership philosophy, in which I value honesty and integrity. “The integrity of a working group is dependent on the individual integrity of its members and, there-fore, the integrity system of an occupation is in large part focused on developing and maintain the individual integrity of its members (Miller, 2010, p. 241).” Without integrity leadership especially related to criminal justice has no leg to stand on. It is important that an individual’s integrity is that of good character and high moral standards. Without such standards the agency or organization is only as strong as their weakest leader. Northouse, (2011 ) discusses integrity in chapter 2 entitled the Trait Approach. Northouse states, “Integrity is the quality of honesty and trustworthiness. People who adhere to a strong set of principles and take responsibility for their actions are exhibiting integrity. (p. 25)”
In determining the above mentioned philosophy of leadership. I had to first evaluate myself as a leader. I took four different surveys on evaluating my characteristics as a leader. The first survey was the Four Tendencies Survey in which my results were that my tendency is Questioner. “I do what I think is best, according to my judgement. If it doesn’t make sense, I won’t do it. (Rubin, 2018)”
According to results (Rubin, 2018), I am motivated by reason, logic, fairness and I resist doing things that seem to lack purpose (p. 3). I believe this to be true in my life as I tend to shy away from tasks that don’t make sense or there isn’t a logical reason to complete the task. I believe learning which tendency I am helps me to understand myself better when it comes to developing my personal leadership philosophy. For example, after taking the quiz and reading the documentation it shows that Questioners actually dislike being questioned (Rubin, 2018, p. 3). The reasoning behind this is they consider their actions carefully so they find that being questioned is frivolous to have to justify their decisions as they have already done the research. I believe knowing these aspects will help me understand and recognize when asked question which is not reasonable or logic, I feel the way I do.
Next, I took the Myers-Briggs Type (MBTI) Personality Test which showed my results were Extroversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging (ESTJ) or commonly known as the Guardian- I was considered practical, traditional, and organized. Likely to be athletic. Not interested in theory or abstraction unless they see the practical application. Have clear visions of the way things should be. Loyal and hard-working. Like to be in charge. Exceptionally capable in organizing and running activities. “Good citizens” who value security and peaceful living (Site the website). According to the text (Northouse, 2011) possessing this trait is most commonly associated with being a conscientious person. Conscientiousness is defined as the tendency to be thourough, organized, controlled, dependable, and decisive (p. 27 ). This trait is part of the what (Golderberg; McCrae & Costa, 1987) refer to as the Big Five personality factors.
The results of this personality test describe my personality very well. I am not interest in theory or abstract work at all. It must have a practical application and shouldn’t deviate from the practical aspect. I am loyal and hard-working, however, I believe respect is earned and not given. So after you earn my respect I am a very loyal and hard-working individual. In my personal life, I have organized and ran many events to include youth athletic programs and charitable events for Fallen Police Officers.
Another survey I took entitled, “Leadership Skills Survey”, I scored a 90, which is considered for the purposes of this test excellent. I believe the results of the test were only that high because of my decisiveness. Although the results of this survey show that I scored excellent, personally I know there are areas of personal growth and development that I should work on. I believe that my youth shaped many of the characteristics that I have today. From athletics to academics my parents always told me to lead from the front but to motivate others to want to be at the front also. According to documentation provided from the survey it states, “Good leaders lead by example.” (SITE SOURCE) I believe that is important way of running a team, a project, or being a parent.
The final survey I took was entitled, “Leadership Frames.” According to this test my raw scores for each of the four frames were:
- Structural: 22
- Human Resources: 11
- Political: 15
- Symbolic: 12
The test results of this survey show that I rank in the 90th percentile in structural leadership. According to this I emphasize rationality, analysis, logic, facts, and data. It also states that I believe in the importance of clear structure and well-developed management systems. However, I also scored high on the political frame. According to this it is the belief that managers and leaders live in a world of conflict and scarce resources. The central task of management is to mobilize the resources needed to advocate and fight for the unit’s or the organization’s goals and objectives. Overall, I believe that I only fall under this category because I typically am a good negotiator and am comfortable with conflict. (SITE SOURCE)
After taking these four surveys they were able to give me a personal understanding of what qualities or traits I possess. According to Northouse (2011), the trait approach shows that there is not a definitive list of leadership traits. However, some important traits that are considered are “intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability (p. 40).” It is with this understanding that can help me define leadership and create a personal leadership philosophy to live by. A good understanding of the trait approach much like taking the surveys gives you a better understanding of what personal qualities or traits you possess.
As previously discussed I rely on knowledge and past experiences to help mold my philosophy of leadership. I will discuss two specific experience which have provided an opportunity to learn qualities of leadership. One outcome was not what I expected or wanted but helped mold the person I am today.
Often times it’s our mistakes that pave the way to future successes. It’s the lessons learned from failure that help mold our future success. In high school, I was an athlete and often looked to in times of stressful situations. I remember a situation in which actually was brought up during a background interview at my previous employer. An employer where I worked for over eight years. I graduated high school in 2002 and my background for this Law Enforcement job was conducted in 2007. After five years after I graduated high school an experience was still being talked about that involved leadership. The incident that was discussed in the interview was a situation in which I made a decision which ultimately resulted in the failure and a loss for a team. As an athlete you learn early in life that leadership is important and you learn to become goal driven. When the game is on the line you want the ball in your hands. I believe it was this that showed me what true leadership was not the action but the results of the action. The failure hit hard when it happened but it was the aftermath that first shaped my leadership foundation. In 2001, I was a senior in high school and the quarterback on the football team. The last game of my senior year we always played our rivals, the two towns separated by only three miles. It was a close game throughout a battle back and forth. Late in the fourth quarter I broke free and scored a touchdown to put us within one point. With a few seconds left in the game and the opportunity to win a timeout was called to discuss the upcoming 2 point play. The coach had called a dive play off of right tackle the team huddled and looked to me. Before we broke from the sideline coached pulled me aside and said if it’s not there make the audible. As we broke the huddle and approached the line of scrimmage I saw that the play would not work. I made the audible to a follow play where I would follow the fullback over the tackle. Unfortunately, when the whistle blew and the pile was uncovered the ball didn’t break the plane. We had lost, 27-26. The last game of my senior year I felt like a failure, I felt like I had let my classmates and the whole team down. Little did I know it would be how I handled this situation that would be one of the determining factors of me being hired in the law enforcement field.
A coach pulled me aside after the loss and told me its opportunities like this that don’t define who we are. It’s what we do after that determines our individual success. I took responsibility for that decision. Even though it was heavily criticized by fans and others on my team. Looking back on this showed me that failure is often what drives us for success. This failure shaped me as a seventeen year old kid in a way that paved the path for future success. I believe it was my caring for my teammates that drove me to accepting the decision and wanting to do better.
I told the story about failure to now tell a story about success. It was the failure that drove me to be successful. The leadership qualities I thought I possessed at seventeen were only the foundation for qualities I possess as a thirty five year old today. I could have dwelled on the outcome of that football game and let it affect me the rest of the year but I didn’t. I chose to put that away and use that experience to drive me.
In 2007, I sat down with a background investigator with the Joplin Police Department and the very situation I spoke about earlier was brought up. The investigator asked me to tell him about the situation and what had happened. He explained to me that he spoke with a teacher at the school who told him of the situation and that it was my perseverance and positive attitude that allowed me to overcome that situation. It also showed me that failure even in leadership can teach you a lesson. We must take responsibility for our decision and learn from it. Throughout my time in Law Enforcement I have had many positive experiences with leadership from leading major criminal investigations to executing search warrants. However, it was the qualities and leadership skills that allowed me to get my dream job as an Agent with the United States Secret Service.
In the text (Northouse, 2011) refers to Path Goal Leadership which “is unique because no other leadership style deals directly with motivation (p. 123).” It was the goal of beating our rival which motivated us to come from behind to have a chance to win. However, the outcome was not the one we all expected. It’s the traits I possess which allow me to set goals in my law enforcement career and my future success as a leader.
In an article in Military Review Colonel Maureen Leboeuf states, “Leader development is a lifetime process and has three components. Our leader development programs must be a blend of education, training, and experience. (Leboeuf, 1999)” I believe this in an important quote in regards to leadership and something I incorporate in my personal leadership philosophy. As a take on more leadership roles within my current career I plan to use the traits I have identified as well as the weaknesses to improve on my leadership style. My goal is to communicate a clear vision in which has the goals of the organization in mind as well as the employees who work for that organization. “Effective leaders care about fellow employees, the department, and the community. They must be ethical and possess the desire and ability to do the right thing no matter how hard it is (Zuidema & Duff, 2009) (Article)
In closing, I define leadership as the ability to use personal moral traits and past experiences to influence individuals in a positive manner to achieve success. Furthermore, as leaders we should never settle we should be constantly educate ourselves so we can become more effective leaders. A better understanding of ourselves and how we interact with individuals will help us lay the foundation to becoming good leaders. Finally, I leave you with this, leadership philosophy is something you must continually evaluate but follow. It is the foundation I use when I make all decisions and my leadership philosophy is mine. It’s because of this my leadership philosophy may differ from others. It’s how I choose to lead my life that effects the people around me.
- The Arbinger Institute. (2011). Leadership and self-deception: Getting out of the box. Richmond, British Columbia, Canada: ReadHowYouWant.
- Calvert, D. (2017, January 5). To Lead, You Need a Personal Leadership Philosophy. It’s Not Optional Any More. Retrieved January 14, 2019, from https://medium.com/@PeopleFirstPS/to-lead-you-need-a-personal-leadership-philosophy-its-not-optional-any-more-9369e008eec7
- Miller, S. (2010). Integrity systems and professional reporting in police organizations. Criminal Justice Ethics, 29(3), 241-257.
- Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership, theory and practice (7th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.