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Running head: MY LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY

My Leadership Philosophy
Jacob A. Hartz
Seattle University
EDAD 570: Leadership in Education
Monica Nixon, Ed. D.
March 19, 2014

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Purpose of Leadership

Before enrolling in this course, my perception of leadership was concerned solely with
the characteristics that, in my mind, create an ideal leader. However, it was not until after the
first class discussion and readings that I realize that leadership and the actual positions I initially
thought embody a leader might be two separate ideas. Gardner (2000) distinguishes leadership
as not necessarily embodied by status, power, official authority, and managerial skills (pp. 6-8).
My initial, rather elementary view of leadership stemmed from the exact factors that Gardner
(2000) lists, seeing individuals that hold some combination of these characteristics as
exemplifying leadership.
In light of my experiences at Seattle University, my perceptions of the role of leadership
have shifted drastically. Witherspoon (1997) states that a leader often helps organizational
members make sense out of what is going on in the environment by synthesizing and explaining
the myriad of factors, influences, and events affecting their workplace in terms that are
understandable (p. 7). At Seattle University, I have witnessed particular instances where this
form of leadership has been absent, and the organizational members seem to be unaware of
various office goals and instead, are on alternative agendas. Through my work in student affairs,
I have learned that communication is vital for any form of leadership, which Witherspoon (1997)
names as the common language, in order to create a shared commitment (p. 7). Leadership is
then the ability to adapt and work toward a common goal, using diverse perspectives yet a shared
commitment.
What Leadership Looks Like
Initially, leadership looked a lot like a single individual with particular characteristics,
taking initiative to direct a group of individuals to complete a goal. However, through my

MY LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY

experiences and expanding knowledge of leadership, my conception of leadership is slowly


transitioning into more of a complex function, expanding upon just one individuals
characteristics. Kezar et al. (2006) suggests that perhaps leadership can be more of a
postmodernist idea, utilizing subjective and local experiences, history and context, fluidity and
change to formulate leadership styles amongst not just a singular leader but perhaps a collective
group of individuals as well (p. 23). Instead of having the innate ability to be a leader,
leadership instead might emerge through experiences learned, through the context of an
opportunity, and through the ability to adjust to changing situations.
With this concept in mind, leadership stems from a blend of Witherspoons (1997)
highlights of the personal/situational theory and the humanistic theory. Expanding on the
postmodernist idea of leadership as a function, situations in which leaders find themselves in
with the personal behavior styles they hold, should also complement the humanistic idea of
encouraging contributions to the organization and personal development (Witherspoon, 1997, p.
15). In order to successfully do this, the behavior of the leader needs to be focused primarily on
effective communication and collaboration with organizational members. Collaboration might
resolve stress on the individual seen as a leader through what Stogdill and Bass term, the effect
of interaction, referenced in Witherspoon (1997, p. 4). In essence, the leader is no longer
viewed as the sole holder for organizational movement as group members become essential to
the progress of their organization. Wheatley (2000) argues that when leaders allow for
transparency within an organization, trust is established and members collectively engage with
work in a constructive, energetic manner (p. 341).
Effective Leaders

MY LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY

Effective leaders strive for moving past individual gains and instead focus on group
progress and the goals of the organization by eliminating their own desires to better their careers.
Regardless of leadership style, effective individual leaders and collaborative leadership should
adhere to the Higher Education Research Institution (1996) Social Change Model and the
following 7 Cs that shed light on the models values: (a) consciousness of self, (b)
congruence, (c) commitment, (d) collaboration, (e) common purpose, (f) controversy with
civility, and (g) citizenship (p. 21). It is through the blend of these components that effective
leaders are capable of attaining positive social change through their own development along with
the development of their organizational members. The model demonstrates that through
implementing the 7 Cs into the perspectives and interactions of the individual, the group, and
the community or society that the organization is functioning in, growth and change should
occur.
Linder and Rodriguezs (2012) study on women of color student activists exemplifies
effective leadership given their achievement of positive social change. The participants in the
study personify the Social Change Model in that their individual growth through identity
development and intersectionality theory inevitably guided their interactions with various groups
and the campus society. Through this interaction, the participants established themselves as
advocates for a better, more inclusive society. Linder and Rodriguez (2012) state that the
participants navigated their beliefs about their internal selves and the external expectations of
others, consideration of their multiple identities, and challenges of their phenotype, (p. 390)
revealing effective leadership through the parameters of social change model and the interaction
of the three perceptions: (a) the individual, (b) the group, and (c) the community/society.
Myself As A Leader

MY LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY

My time at Seattle University has shifted my perspectives of what amounts to a leader


and what exemplifies effective leadership. While I feel like I am in the phase of navigating the
individual level of the Social Change Model through establishing qualities that will best transfer
to the group, I do not necessarily think I have achieved positive social change quite yet. In this
regard, I do not consider myself an effective leader.
At the same time however, my graduate assistantship required me to supervise Program
Assistants to help them create and implement various programs. In this space, I feel like I
adhered to Witherspoons (1997) personal/situational theory and the humanistic theory in that I
strived to achieve the best communication possible between the Program Assistants and myself.
The graduate assistantship was an interesting position to be in, as the students I supervised
seemed to view my position as an individual leadership position, while I preferred for the
leadership role to be more collaborative. Initially, this power dynamic seemed to dominate my
role in the office and I had to work hard to reestablish how I wanted my leadership role to be
with the students I supervise. This experience has influenced my view of leadership and the
fluidity that comes with diverse positions, yet it is incredibly difficult to immediately translate
the guidelines laid out above into my own leadership style.
Salient Identities and Leadership
As a White male, I have come to realize the privileges my most salient identities hold,
and how those privileges directly affect my perceptions of leadership. Although I have been
aware of these privileges, my time at Seattle University has truly allowed me to better understand
what my privileges mean in terms of leadership and interactions with individuals in a team
setting. It is vital for me to always be aware of my privileges especially in spaces where

MY LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY

marginalized populations are present, and work towards understanding others perspectives on
my leadership and goals for the organization.
Given my salient identities, my leadership often revolves around feedback from others
and ensuring that voices are being heard within organizational settings. It is my goal to be aware
of the historical dominance my identities come with, and utilize this awareness for more
equitable, collaborative relationships. My leadership has shifted to revolve around the
organizational members I aim to lead, and always striving to be aware of within-group
differences. Initially, I exercised leadership blind to how my identities might influence my
interactions with individuals. However, the more I understand dominant groups influence on
society, the more I understand my need to combat my expected role as a White male,
particularly in educational leadership roles.
Resources within Leadership
Through my experiences in higher education, I have found the most effective leaders are
those who exercise Kouzes and Posners (2003) guidelines for setting clear standards. In order
to appropriately set standards, long-term values and principles must be identified. For instance, I
have been a member of teams that have not necessarily identified the end goal, but rather
dedicated all focus to fulfilling short-term projects. The team in turn did not understand the
larger picture of the smaller tasks simply because the overall values and principles were never
communicated. I realize the importance in transparency around the values behind actions
towards designated goals. Similarly, Kidders (1995) short-term versus long-term decisionmaking mirrors my experience. By emphasizing long-term goals, teams understand the value in
short-term projects, and tasks are not necessarily seen as busy work but as applicable to the

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progression of the long-term goal. Goals seem to be more accomplishable if there is overlap of
personal and organizational values.
Kouzes and Posner (2003) state, clarity of personal values is the force that really makes
the difference in an individuals level of commitment to an organization, which truly resonates
with my work in student affairs (p. 50). I try to utilize this guideline as frequently as possible in
my own leadership style. However, I also realize that not everyone will agree with the
underlying values and principles behind all goals. In order to fully capitalize on individual
potential, it seems necessary to determine how, if possible, to align personal values with an
organizations values. While I attempt to solve this dissonance in my work with students and the
organization, I find myself lacking in an area that seems directly applicable in understanding
value: paying attention.
One area of potential growth is applying Kouzes and Posners (2003) guidelines for
paying attention. While I certainly am not a controlling manager by any means and do believe I
exercise some areas within the stated guidelines, I have a difficult time opening up with all
individuals within the organization. I realize effective, productive work environments stem from
opening up with individuals to establish trust within an organization, yet I often find myself
viewing this type of relationship as unprofessional in the workplace. It is because of this view
that I identify with areas within Witherspoons (1996) Limited Rational Model of Decision
Making, specifically that I am occasionally taking decisions. It seems that sometimes I utilize
previous behavior to make decisions rather than engaging with individuals on a personal level to
gain new information and instead, make decisions (p. 103).
Leadership Frame

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The frame that best embodies my leadership is Bolman and Galloss (2011) Human
Resource Leadership model. The five tenets: (a) open communication, (b) empowerment, (c)
effective teams for collective action, (d) support, coaching, and care, and (f) hiring the right
people all speak to the values I see as important in establishing effective teams and
accomplishing tasks. While this concept is relatively new to me, the tenet I most frequently
incorporate into my leadership frame is open communication. Open communication does not
necessarily mean just communicating at organizational members, but rather taking the time to
listen to issues that are occurring within the organization. Through these personal interactions,
subsurface issues that may plague the advancement of an organization arise, along with potential
strategies to resolve them. Bolman and Gallos (2011) identify that open communication often
results in learning relative information that is the key to individual empowerment (p. 96). As
individuals share relative information about themselves and the organization, effective leaders
are capable of providing resources to help the organization function at capacity. Open
communication also allows for unforeseeable situations to arise, therefore having the ability to
lead in evolving scenarios is invaluable.
Heifeitz et al. (2009) state adaptive leadership stems from the ability to exercise
improvisational skills in which current situations are resolved using present information rather
than building upon past experiences (p. 199). Without open communication, the most present
information will not surface and the ability to adapt to evolving situations is inhibited.
Additionally, Heifetz et al. (2009) argue that situations often elicit different responses within an
organization. The type of response can range from developing courses of action or simply
shifting organizational alliances (Heifetz et al., 2009, p. 209). Relating back to the previous
discussion on salient identities, how an individual incorporates situational responses certainly

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revolves around the multiple yous and the identities that are most salient in situational
contexts (Heifetz et al., 2009, p. 183). Being aware of my salient identities and allowing open
communication to occur in situations that elicit new responses is a challenge I face throughout
my leadership development.
Pros and Cons of My Leadership Frame
While some areas of Bolman and Galloss (2011) Human Resource Leadership model
and Heifetz et al.s (2009) adaptive leadership model complement one another, there are certain
areas that are difficult to exercise. Utilizing adaptive leadership through the open
communication and empowerment lenses of the Human Resource Model seems to come
naturally, as the two tenets of the human resource model seem obvious in lending insight to
adaptive leadership situations. Yet, adaptive leadership also requires extensive understanding of
triggers and identity awareness, which I feel I am in the early stages of understanding these
qualities. Heifeitz et al. (2009) state uncomfortable dissonance may occur when the purposes
you believe you have do not align with the purposes that are suggested in your behavior (p.
223). Therefore, it seems like adaptive leadership is most effective when one is fully aware of
their purposes and how identity might influence them. Additionally, awareness inhibits an
individuals ability to fully exercise the Human Resource Leadership model in the sense that one
might not know how to appropriately support, coach, and care for employees if they are not in
touch with their actual purposes. While it seems some areas of the two models are easily
applicable, the underlying themes of each require a deeper understanding of not only the
organizational goals, but of oneself and ability to reach those goals. A con of the frames selected
is certainly establishing oneself at each level of the guidelines, whether that is learning to
understand triggers in the adaptive leadership frame or learning to hire the right people in the

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Human Resource framework. Given the various tenets of each model, it seems that in order to
proficiently adopt the frameworks one must truly understand their own development at each
stage, which is difficult to do while learning to understand my salient identities.
How I Do Leadership
The most notable leadership situation I have navigated in my professional development
has been learning to advocate for my own professional growth. After deciding to enroll in the
Student Development Administration program at Seattle University, I knew I would have to
narrow down my professional focus to experiences that not only interest me, but also grant me
appropriate learning outcomes for desired career paths. I learned early into my graduate career
that my assistantship was not the best situation to develop the necessary skills to become the
professional I hope to be. When I realized that the environment was not the most constructive
for me or even for some of my colleagues, I had to make a decision whether or not I should
deviate from my initial plan of remaining in the role or seek out a different professional
opportunity. While I identify most with the Human Resource Leadership model, I would say
Witherspoons (1996) Limited Rational Model of Decision Making better reflects the processes
of my decision.
I spoke with different professionals in the field, including my immediate supervisors
about my difficult experience and the appropriate course of action. I also met with individuals
outside of higher education to discern what my next professional experience should be to fit my
evolving professional interests. From this point of view, I collected information with recognition
of a presence of conflict, negotiation, and compromise in the process (Witherspoon, 1996, p.
104). I understood the information I received was considered from a biased perspective, given
my disappointing assistantship. While I would say I adequately gathered information, developed

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solutions, evaluated potential solutions, selected a solution, and finally implemented my


decision, (Witherspoon, 1996, p. 102) I would be lying if I said that I did not recognize that time
pressures, and being selfish in my needs did not affect my decision to transition out of my role. I
decided that the most productive course of action would be to leave my assistantship and pursue
a position outside of higher education.
However, the decision to take on a new professional role was not an easy one to make.
Multiple factors were considered, particularly the impact of leaving my initial office versus the
experience I was having and the potential for more positive experiences. In my eyes, the
decision boiled down to Kidders (1995) ethical decisions of truth vs. loyalty and individual vs.
community (pp. 6-7). I was offered a graduate assistantship by a person I truly grew to respect
and feel loyalty to and supervised a team of students I was consistently impressed by and wanted
to support. However, at the same time, the environment was draining and professional
opportunities seemed bleak and few and far between. I decided that I had to make a decision that
put myself first and supported my reasons for attending a graduate program in the first place to
develop professionally. I was fortunate enough that through seeking information from
individuals across and off campus, an opportunity arose that aligned with my current interests
and desired career path. Although I was not necessarily searching for a job opportunity through
the informal interviews, the process ended up providing one. Through networking and
expanding my reach to individuals I would not have communicated with, a position opened up
and was recommended to me. I made the decision to accept the position in order to further my
development and honor my reasons for enrolling in a masters program.
I would say my approach was successful. Although I recognize that I say that from a
biased perspective, as I seem to be the larger beneficiary in this scenario. While I am currently

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working on pursuing a new path and learning a lot of new information that will be helpful, I also
am reminded that I left an office short-staffed. The ethical dilemmas Kidder (1995) refers to
made me reflect on my actions and the effect they had on all parties. My intentions were not to
impact any one persons position in my previous office, or escape a situation I initially perceived
as highly problematic. My intentions were to grow as a professional and explore options while I
am still young and in the process of figuring out the ideal path for me. With that being said, the
process I went through utilized Carl Jungs (as cited in Witherspoon, 1996, p. 119) decisionmaking processes. Through a blend of Jungs (as cited in Witherspoon, 1996) analytic,
speculative, consultative, and charismatic approaches, I was able to absorb information from
various constituents and process it in a way that allowed me to pursue a path that would benefit
my growth.
As a result of this process, I learned a lot about navigating difficult workspaces and
utilizing experiences to gain valuable insight. While I developed my own plan of action to
improve my situation, I often reflect on what I would do differently if I could start over from the
beginning in my assistantship role. While I do not regret leaving my assistantship, I wonder
what I could have gained from the experience if I had stuck with it and instead utilized Heifetz et
al.s (2009) adaptive leadership model. I gained a lot from the situation, including learning to
talk about issues in a constructive way, and learning the early stages of managing up.
However, I wish I had leaned into some of my triggers, such as having a lack of guidance and
support, and worked with my supervisors to address and construct these. I understand now that
no job is perfect. It is vital for me to accept that I am in and will continue to be in positions that
often generate chaos, confusion, and conflict (Heifetz et al. 2009, p. 206). However, it is how
I respond to the chaos, confusion, and conflict that truly reflects my leadership.

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References

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