Are you a good leader? I always wonder that about myself. How do people view me? What do they think about when I ask them to do something? What do they say about me when I am not around? Unless you are the most supremely confident person in the world, chances are you have thought about this at one point in time.
5 months ago, was transferred from Maryland to San Diego, to go back to a deployable helicopter squadron where I fly in the back as a rescue swimmer and crewchief. This is a normal situation in the military, you move from place to place. However, the different thing about this move is that I had moved up enough in rank to be put in the position of leading 25 other rescue swimmers as the Leading Petty Officer (LPO). This was a huge step for me and a big difference from my previous positions.
The first day at work I felt like I was light-years behind. People were coming and going, I was getting weird looks, and overall people were avoiding me. I didn't like it all, and didn't like it because I didn't know anybody. The next day, I got up in front of my shop (work center) and gave a big speech. I said things like "Things may change...", "I don't like this...", and "This is how it's going to be done...". Well, it did not go over well. My Chief Petty Officer sat me down and gave me some advice. He said, being the new guy in the shop is hard enough; don't make it harder by trying to make everyone know you the first day. Next, he said not to make any changes for the first few weeks, just sit back and observe the way people work and interact. Last, he said be yourself, don't change who you are just because you are in a leadership position. I didn't know it then, but my Chief was telling me to use the psychodynamic approach.
The psychodynamic approach has to do with personality (Northouse, 2013). More specifically, how we interact with other people in the environment of the workplace. The psychodynamic approach focuses on the way a leader leads based on what the followers personalities are (Northouse, 2013). So when I came in the second day, and put my foot down, I was doing so without any consideration for the personalities I was working with. Now don't get me wrong, you don't have to worry about anyone's personality when you are a leader, but if you are constantly asking yourself: "I wonder what they think about me?" You might need to be a psychodynamic leader. In that case, you should worry about other people's personalities.
What I should have done that second day was sit down and watch, and get to know the people I was going to be leading, or as Northouse puts it, analyze the relationship between the leader and the follower (2013). I could have figured out what was appropriate for me to do when it came to leading each person, before I addressed the group as a whole. Now I want to make myself clear, I might not have changed anything at all about my speech, but at least I would have known who I was alienating and who I was inspiring. After my speech, I could have gone to the people that felt alienated and explained myself a little more, in hopes of connecting with their personality. The psychodynamic approach will also increase your awareness as a leader (Northouse, 2013). Understanding why people react to certain situations the way they do allows the leader to control the actions of the people he or she is leading, so they can use them to his or her advantage. For example, a coach is getting ready to lead his team on to the field for a big game, he wants to get them fired up. Who do you think the coach turns to? The kicker? Or the amped up linebacker who is easy to get going? Because the coach understands his subordinates using the psychodynamic approach, he is able to go to the linebacker, and call him out, get him all fired up, and use the linebackers reaction to motivate and fire up the rest of his team.
The last piece of advice my Chief gave me was to be myself. Your subordinates and followers are trying to figure you out, just like you are trying to figure them out. They are analyzing you and your reactions just like you do to them when they are reacting to your leadership. If you are being someone you are not, overly laid-back, demanding, or scatter brained, they are going to have a hard time learning how to follow you. In an article by Shelley Kirkpatick and Edwin Locke, they state that "Leaders can gain trust by being predictable, consistent, and persistent and by making competent decisions" (1991, p. 54). I'm sure all of us have experienced a person that you didn't know who you were going to get that day, the bubbly happy -go-lucky person, or the cold, heartless demon with no soul. If your followers cannot gauge who you are, how are they suppose to know who to be. Being the same person everyday is easier to do when you are being yourself, and consistency is much easier when you do not have to act like someone you are not.
Many of the styles and approaches to leadership we have learned about in this class are things we may have already been familiar with. Like myself and the psychodynamic approach. After reading the lesson, I went to the Chief who gave me the advice about laying back and learning about my people and told him that he was telling me to use the psychodynamic approach. After hearing this he looks at me with a smirk and says, "What do you think you are smarter than me now because you read a book, smart guy?" Man, I'll never understand that guy.
Kirkpatick, S. and Locke, E. (1991) Leadership: do traits matter? Retrieved on December 14th, 2012 from http://sbuweb.tcu.edu/jmathis/Org_Mgmt_Materials/Leadership%20- %20Do%20Traits%20Matgter.pdf
Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.