Going into Spark Leadership I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know much about the program except for the fact that it was required for my scholarship. I thought it was going to be like every other leadership training where we get split up into groups and go through a series of team building activities. Not that team building activities are necessarily bad, they just tend to get sort of … redundant. Fortunately, Spark Leadership surpassed all of expectations, and I learned so much about myself as a leader more than I ever have.
One of the very first things we completed was a self assessment describing what kind of leadership style you possess. I always questioned why I wasn’t similar to the leaders around me and why I felt like I didn’t fit in with certain groups of leaders. I quickly learned that I am not a poor leader compared to others, I am simply different from other leaders. The assessment was categorized into four leadership styles: Direct, Spirited, Considerate, and Systematic. I scored highest in the systematic category meaning that I lead with accuracy and objectivity. As I started reading more about my strengths as a systematic leader I realized that they described me exactly. Whenever I come face to face with a problem I tend to analyze each aspect in great detail, focusing on one thing at a time while asking many questions and organizing all of the facts until the best decision is made clear. Systematic leaders are most effective in situations that call for careful, long-term planning, accuracy, and objective analysis. By knowing these strengths I have a better understanding of how to use them to my advantage when leading others toward a common goal.
Along with every leadership style comes weaknesses or “trouble spots”. Systematic leaders can over analyze situations to the point where their thoroughness prevents them from making quick, urgent decisions. Learning about weaknesses is just as important as learning about strengths because every situation calls for different styles of leadership and some strengths, when taken to their extreme, can be counterproductive. As a group of systematic leaders, we discussed how we can improve our strengths while managing our trouble spots. Being able to adapt your dominant style to better suit the situation, also known as “flexing”, is also a critical part of being a leader. Using systematic approaches for every task may not always be effective but by learning how to use other leadership styles I can achieve success as a leader. This means that sometimes I will have to step out of my comfort zone (of course) and be more assertive, energetic, or flexible.
Towards the end of the program we all constructed a Leadership Development Plan that describes what leadership style area has the greatest potential for growth. I decided to improve on the direct leadership style by being more assertive, confident, and bold. Specific behaviors that contribute to these three skills are speaking up, being urgent, and taking charge. These behaviors challenge me because I often struggle with telling instead of asking and quick decision making instead of long-term planning. To improve these direct skills I plan on surrounding myself with direct leaders and observing how they use their strengths effectively. One similarity between systematic and direct leaders is their ability to control emotions during a crisis or disaster. Using these similarities between leadership styles helps me know when to adapt my dominant style to a different behavior.
In any environment there is going to be a variety of unique styles and approaches people bring to the table and knowing how to interact with others effectively is key. Being able to identify my strengths and weaknesses as a leader and recognizing the style of others has helped me know when to step forward or step back in certain situations.