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Core Competency Interview

Core Competency Interview

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Published by: runner4556 on Oct 19, 2009
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07/23/2010

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Core Competency InterviewThe individual I interviewed was Nathan Baird, a junior at the University of Illinois. I have known Nathan since my freshman year of college, and I have always beenimpressed by his outstanding leadership qualities. Nathan has been involved in professional (software development co-leader), educational (homework group member,Teaching Assistant), athletic (President of Broomball Club) and social (Relay for Lifegroup leader, Avalanche chair) team based activities on campus. The main team activitythat seemed to be most prevalent to leadership was his role as the president of broomballclub.As an introduction question to the interview, I asked Nathan, “What is your definition of leadership?” Nate responded, “Leadership is the ability to understand agroup of people and facilitate cooperation among them to complete a goal by using thatgroups’ collective abilities.” Something interesting to add was that Nathan believes thereare two vastly different leaders: Small team leaders and large group leaders. Small teamleaders are more personal in scale (knowing and understanding every member in thegroup) while large group leaders are more focused on task behaviors or goal completionrather than relationships oriented behaviors.The true definition of team leadership defined in class is
a small group of peoplewith complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable
. It wasinteresting to note Nathan’s definition of leadership. “The ability to understand a groupof people” relates to emotional intelligence in the category of social awareness- where inorder to become a great leader, one must be constantly aware of other’s emotions andneeds. “Facilitation cooperation among them to complete a goal” implies there is acommon purpose to achieve in the team. “Facilitate cooperation” also means leaders arein place to oversee conflict issues and promote the idea that cooperation results in mutualaccountability. Finally, “using group’s collective abilities,” relates to gestalt psychology- that a whole (team) is greater than the sum of their parts (individuals). It isalso related to the strengths approach in leadership. Through this phrase, Nathan believesthat team leadership is also shared; each member has their own unique talents that allowthem to step up in a leadership position. It was great to see that Nathan believed that inorder to lead an effective team, there needs to be a small number of individuals involved.When a large number of individuals are involved, flexibility towards change diminishesand social loafing occurs.I followed up with the question, “What roles do you play as President of  broomball club?” Nathan mentioned that he had been broomball captain four consecutive times and his role within the team had mainly stayed the same. “ I always tryto focus the goal on obtaining a balance between being competitive yet having fun at thesame time. Keeping the atmosphere light is something that is important for leadingintramural sports. In the beginning of the intramural season, I get the team together anddiscuss the ground rules. Some of the rules include: Staying positive no matter theoutcome, encouraging others, promoting competitiveness, and good sportsmanship.” If situations get out of hand, such as if a team member reacts poorly to a call, Nathanexplained that he is quick to confront those members, explaining that certain actions will
 
not be tolerated.It is important to mention as President of Broomball, Nathan leads a group of 60-80 individuals. According to the definition in class, team leadership is with a smallnumber of individuals. So what Nathan may be leading as President would be a grouprather than a team. When I asked him about how he goes about leading a large group of  people, he stated, “If it is a large group of people, it is really with an iron fist. I lay downthe rules and goals as I see fit. Members can come up to me and I listen to their  proposals and act appropriately if they are reasonable. This leadership is based purely onthe fact that I have authority, knowledge, and power to do so.” In relation to behavior inteams or groups, Nathan is most likely focused on furthering the accomplishment of goalsand tasks. He is also in charge of creating, clarifying, or modifying those rules and goalsof the group. This response led me to conduct conclusions about positional and personal power within groups and teams. “I lay down the rules and goals as I see fit” relates tolegitimate power and is based on the position of the organization. “As I see fit” can becongruent to the phrase, “Because of I said so.” Nathan believes that with a large group,it is harder for those individuals to adapt quickly, so exhibiting this legitimate power issometimes key. Nathan believes that there is little room to be unsure of yourself andlarge groups are more likely to be easily
 
to get off task if you aren’t certain. This is why being confident and acting in authority, but still respecting others’ ideas is extremelyimportant. I am unsure whether legitimate power is used throughout the entire intramuralseason, but according to discussions in class, it is more likely to be effective when thegroup or team has been established and has already been through the forming stage. I believe that Nathan is also exhibiting information power; power based on what/howmuch one knows. Information power would be most effective in the forming of thegroup or beginning of a season, as many of the members may be new and not understandthe rules or method of the game. When asked about power, Nathan seemed to view hisuse of power as assertive; taking initiative and looking out for the best interest of theteam, but also trying his best to learn names of individuals (a way of reducing powedistance) who show up for broomball on a regular basis.I then asked Nathan, “How would your leadership skills change if you were incharge of a small team of broomball?” Nathan responded that he would still be respectfultowards all, listen to everyone’s ideas attentively, and identity group goals. “With asmall team, Nathan replied, “ I always try to actively seek feedback from others andremind myself that I am not more qualified, knowledgeable, or better than anyone else.In the small team, there is also a whole group dynamic you have to pay attention to. Youhave to ensure that each person is represented as they want and you have to try to matchtheir talents to accomplish the goal in the most efficient way. There is also an effort to getto know others on a personal level other than their first name, to better understand whothey are and where their motivation comes from.” Nathan also believes thatcommunication between a large group of people and a small team would also differ.“Currently, as President of Broomball, I often act authoritatively and if they have aspecial request, they have to come to me. If the group were smaller, I would want toengage in round table discussion to make sure that everyone could get their requestsmade somehow, possibly through collaboration or compromise. If broomball club was asmaller team, I believe there would also be greater trust among the team. A team is more
 
likely to follow if they trust your decisions. One ground rule that the broomball team isworking on the most is accountability. Accountability often suffers most likely becausethis is an intramural sport, a lower priority compared to student’s primary priority,academic life. Because accountability often suffers, building trust can be quite difficult.”It was interesting that Nathan was able to realize that without trust or accountability,teams have a difficult time being successful in their goals. “Although this is an issue, hecontinued, “I strongly believe that many trust my judgment and have a deep respect for my decisions to get things done efficiently. Getting a large group to invest in a common purpose and vision is sometimes not possible. Fortunately, the vision and goal for theteam is not too complicated. With broomball, group members realize that the objective of intramurals is to have fun no matter if they win or lose. It’s more of a social time rather than an intense elite competition. Even though there are some issues within the group, weare able to accomplish team objectives and follow ground rules.” To follow up thesequestions, asked him what success means to him after running a game of broomball.“Success,” Nathan replied, “For a large group, is being organized and making sure theright amount of games are completed (goals achieved, tasked accomplished) and there areno fights or injuries for the night. Its also important that success also includes having funand motivating others to compete to the best of their ability.”The best portion of the interview was when I asked Nathan’s perspective on conflict. Nathan explained that he believes conflict is positive. “There are some people that try toavoid it all costs and it drives me crazy.” Nathan believes that conflict is constructive andit helps find out about other people. “I almost feel guilty because I look forward toconflict” Nathan continued. “Conflict gives you a real window into the real wants anddesires since they cared enough to bring up an issue.” By talking out the conflict, youcan see what their real goals are and most often, the goals of the two people in conflictare just misidentified by the other. By engaging in constructive conflict, you build trustamong the team. In a large group, sometimes compromise or accommodation might only be the best way to manage a conflict.” As Nathan mentioned this, I referred back to mynotes that stated that the cons of both compromise and accommodation were the lack of sustainability. I mentioned this, but Nathan claimed that questions about sustainabilityhad never been a problem in the past. Collaboration is virtually impossible when youhave 60 members in a group, so a compromise (where each side gives in a little) andaccommodation (one sides “gives up”) results in a quick end to conflict. I was excited tolisten to Nathan’s perspective as it was right on target to what we have been learningabout conflict in class discussions!Finally, the interview ended with the question, “So why do you think you are a leader?” Nathan replied, “I think this is a question that is utmost importance as it contributes to myleadership attitude. I was a really quiet kid in high school. I just became tired of activities getting run poorly. Run poorly in two ways: 1. Simple things that could bemuch more efficient were not (ie. yelling at people when directions were not followed) 2.My interests were not met in things I was doing. A lot of teams leaders that I have hadmisidentified what the goals were, which was very frustrating. Because of thisexperience, I have been motivated to effectively lead teams. I feel that I have never led just to lead (for resume, self importance, glory).” This statement caught my attention, andit was great to understand how important it is to not have a hidden agenda. Not having

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