Assessing Your Leadership Philosophy
Leadership has been the buzzword of my undergraduate career. Whether it is Sunday night chapter meeting or a speaker at Greek Week, hearing leadership advice is very common. One of the misconceptions about leadership is that you have the ability to lead or you don’t. Not many campus speakers or leaders lay out a process that allows you to find and develop a leadership style.
Throughout my tenure at Missouri State University, I have been fortunate to have been exposed to some top tier leaders who aren’t just a buzzword. All of these individuals have what I call the “It Factor”, or the ability to influence others and drive organizational success. You can tell someone has the It Factor when they walk into a room and can immediately get the team focused on the next objective. These leaders are practiced in their craft and seek to help others develop just as they have.
At its core, having the “It Factor” is having a leadership philosophy. I believe possessing a leadership philosophy is like having a north star that can guide you through your most difficult leadership decisions. Once you establish this central point, you can become more decisive in your decision making and set obtainable goals for your organization.
In the quest to further understand how the “It Factor” is developed, I created a guide to discovering your leadership philosophy. I call this guide the ADP System; Assessment, Development, and Performance. Each of these keywords will allow you to take a systematic approach towards uncovering your leadership philosophy within yourself, your executive council, and your chapter as a whole. While the “It Factor” can’t be developed overnight, I believe the steps in this guide will allow you to further hone your leadership skills. Keeping this in mind, let’s move to the first part of the ADP System: Assessment.
Joining a fraternity was one of the most introspective experiences of my life. Throughout my tenure in my organization, I was constantly challenged to take a personal inventory of who I was as an individual. The assessment portion of the ADP System is much like the introspective period you experienced within your organization, but more targeted and focused. Those who possess the “It Factor” can use their personal assessment to better connect with the team members they serve with.
To begin the assessment portion, you must take a personal inventory of yourself. This process requires taking several personality tests and aggregating the results of each of them. Personality tests are essentially rulers, all with different measurements systems. They will give you similar results but use different methods to create that result. Thus, aggregating the results is important to creating accurate findings.
When trying the assessment process, I recommend these three tests: True Colors Test, Myers Briggs 16 Personalities, and the DISC assessment. Each of these are free and can be found with a simple Google search (you can take paid versions, but I do not recommend). Each test has a debrief portion that will allow you to interpret the results to better understand yourself. For frame of reference, my results in the tests are, Green, ENTJ, and DISC, respectively.
Once you have completed all three tests and have analyzed the results associated with each of them, you can start to aggregate the three together to create a comprehensive inventory. To do so, start by writing down all characteristics from the three and circling the ones that are similar. This should create an ideal inventory of yourself, which will help you with the Development portion of the ADP system.
Now that you have established your ideal personal inventory, it is time to develop a leadership philosophy that best matches your personality assessment. This leadership philosophy will be the driver to create your “It Factor.” Around two years ago, I learned about The 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership Model. I believe each of the five practices contained in this model represent five unique leadership philosophies. The five practices are:
- Model the Way – you create standards of excellence and then set example for other to follow
- Inspire a Shared Vision – you envision the future, creating an ideal and unique image of what the organization can become
- Challenge the Process – you search for opportunities to change the status quo
- Enable Other to Act – you actively involve others and understand how to build spirited teams
- Encourage the Heart – you make people feel like heroes by recognizing the contribution of your teammates
I consider these five practices to be great leadership north stars. To figure out which of the five best fit you, refer back to the Assessment portion. As mentioned previously, my three results are ENTJ, Green, and DISC. I consider Model the Way to be my philosophy. I seek to inspire others in my organizations by grabbing the shovel and digging with the team. Whether it is volunteering first for a project or upholding standards in front of younger members, Modeling the Way has allowed me to create my “It Factor” and gain credibility as a leader both inside and outside of my fraternity. A very simple but effective Modeling the Way moment that occurred for me was when I gave up my single person room in the house to fill additional spots. Serving as chapter president, I was willing to put my own comfort aside to further the success of my organization. This small sacrifice encouraged other members to make similar decisions, and we ended up filling our house. This moment also furthered my “It Factor” by increasing my credibility.
Additionally, choosing one of these philosophies allows you to better understand your dynamic on a team. This leads me to the second part of the development process, team feedback.
After choosing one of the five philosophies, create an anonymous leadership questionnaire that you can use to poll team members that you have worked with. This questionnaire would have questions ranging from, “On a scale of 1-10, how well did I perform my duties” to “What do I bring to the team?” Giving this standardized survey to 5-10 team members you have worked with serves as a control for the leadership philosophy you choose. If the results collected during this process match the philosophy chosen above, then your peers agree with your selection. If the results vary, your current philosophy may be different than your desired philosophy.
I conducted this experiment with my executive council two years ago, and my results were between Challenge the Process and Model the Way. Overtime, I believe that I have leaned more towards Modeling the Way because of my focus on mentoring younger members.
Once you have established a leadership philosophy and asked for feedback, it is time for the final step in the process: Performance.
Performance can be summarized by this quote from Vince Lombardi, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” Leaders who have the “It Factor” are willing to put in the work. They don’t commit to the idea of being a leader because of a fancy title or an additional email signature line. The performance portion of the ADP system has two components: goal setting and risk taking.
First, let us start with goal setting. There are usually two types of goals in your organization: qualitative or quantitative goals. Traditionally, qualitative goals allow us to fulfill an objective statement and are more big picture-focused. Quantitative goals, on the other hand, are associated with a numerical objective. Both types of goals are critical to the success of your organization, because more often that not, completion of quantitative objectives lead to the completion of the overall qualitative goals.
Using your chosen leadership philosophy, you can understand which goal type that fits you best. I consider Model the Way and Challenge the Process to be quantitative focused, Inspire a Shared Vision and Encourage the Heart to be qualitative focused, and Enable Others to Act somewhere in between.
Quantitative folks are going to want to focus heavily on tracking data, such as creating a scorecard system for their organizations that records weekly and monthly data. This allows teams to measure performance over time and compare it against a benchmark. For fraternities and sororities, that could involve tracking against last year’s performance or even against another chapter on campus. Within my own organization, I developed a scorecard system to track GPA, service hours, philanthropic donations, social media follows, the number of people on probation, and a variety of other statistics. If you fit this quantitative category, I recommend reading “The Great Game of Business” by Jack Stack. It dives deeper into the details of a successful company that is run completely on a scorecard system.
When I implemented a scorecard system, my chapter saw an increased amount of organizational buy in because everyone knew how we were doing. Before using this system, we set goals, but we didn’t have a system of accountability. When considering a scorecard system or any other measuring system for your organization, make it accessible to all members. The more members who have access to it, the greater the impact a tracking system will have.
For qualitative folks, your focus will be catered towards the people on your team and the processes associated with those individuals. You will be looking for weakness that will cause detriment towards your overall organizational objectives. I recommend using a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to better understand where your organization excels and what could be seen as a detriment. These strengths and weaknesses can sometimes be individuals on your leadership team or general members in your organization. With this analysis, you can address your weaknesses and threats while capitalizing on the strengths and opportunities you already have. Qualitative individuals will be working with a lot of people-oriented goals, and I recommend checking out, “Motivating the Middle” by T.J Sullivan.
In any organization, the greatest asset is the people. You more than likely joined your chapter because of someone you connected with, not the awards hanging on the wall. When conducting a SWOT analysis, never underestimate the value that your members bring to the day to day operations of your organization. As chapter leaders, it is important to take a moment to express your gratitude for the members of your organization.
With our preferred method of goal setting in place, it is time to take some risks within your organization in order to hone your leadership philosophy. I define these risks in two ways: personnel or event driven risks.
Personnel risks can be some of the most rewarding choices that you make in your leadership career because you have the opportunity to entrust new individuals with leadership and create an amazing leader. These also require an extreme amount of trust and will put your leadership philosophy to the test. During my term as chapter president, I lead an executive council member that was under-performing in the first part of his term. This individual was constantly dropping the ball and was not able to efficiently hold their executive position. However, by using my Modeling the Way philosophy, I was able to help him improve his quantitative and qualitative performance by hosting an evaluation. During this evaluation, I was able to uncover what I could be doing to set a better example for this member to elevate their performance. At the end of the term, he ended up winning executive council member of the year and is one of the most inspiring men in my chapter. If you are having trouble with a member that you lead, I have discovered that the best way to improve their performance is to simply ask what you can do for them. Sometimes leaders are lost and need a push in the right direction. Personnel risks take the most effort, but they can improve your organization significantly. A personnel risk one year might be chapter president the next. Take time to properly invest in your team.
On the other hand, event driven risks revolve around trying new chapter events or adding a twist to your current ones. These risks are extremely results driven, and individuals with quantitative leadership philosophies flourish in this environment. Taking event driven risks is an important part of testing your performance because it forces you out of your comfort zone. If you are planning a new event, it is sink or swim if you want to make it a chapter tradition. One particular program comes to mind when I think about event driven risks. After my term as chapter president, I wanted to create a leadership program for freshman and sophomore members of the chapter. The program was a five-week course intended to instill leadership values and serve as an executive training program. This idea was a risk because it required many chapter member to want to be intrinsically motivated to participate in this additional program. The program saw the success of 14 graduates in the first and second semester of its inception, but interest died out for the third semester of the program. While it didn’t continue to be a chapter tradition, I learned a lot about myself as a leader and how to create such a program. When choosing to take an event driven risk, go all in because you will learn the most.
Practicing your leadership philosophy is the best way to further yourself as a leader. Iron can only be reshaped when put into the fire, much like you can only improve yourself as a leader when placed into new scenarios. Overtime, you will become more comfortable in any situation you find yourself in. One of my favorite traits I observe in “It Factor” leaders is their ability to navigate any unknown situation or problem with ease.
The path to understanding your leadership philosophy is a unique and as leaders, we must remember that our growth is never complete. As you are exposed to new opportunities you are given the chance to further develop your philosophy. You might be like me and focus on Modeling the Way during your undergrad, while after graduation you might find yourself in a role that has challenged you to Enable Others to Act.
Leadership styles and methodologies don’t develop overnight, but I hope to refer to the ADP system will allow you the opportunity to develop a leadership philosophy and find your “It Factor”.