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Running head: PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY OF LEADERSHIP

Personal Philosophy of Leadership


Tyler Sanders
Western Michigan University
EDLD 6020-Educational Leadership, Systems, and Change

PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY OF LEADERSHIP

Personal Philosophy of Leadership


In society, leadership defines our life on a daily. Whether it is your daily work or the
policies and judicial regards of our nation, leadership holds steadfast in creating the makeup of
life. With an ever progressive and evolutionary movement in our worldviews, our philosophies
of leadership change on a regular basis. From childhood and into the development as an adult,
there are several factors that influenced my philosophy of leadership and the philosophies of
those around me. While years of research support various types of theories in leadership, every
leader experiments with styles to create an individualized effective leadership. Through the study
of leadership theory, this article reflects a refined personal philosophy based on beliefs and
supported with literature.
Leadership Foundation
Before understanding the evolution of leadership, an individual should recognize what
the foundation of a philosophy looks like for an individual. As I became a student leader, I
started to mirror the qualities of leaders that I had seen as my mentors in various programs.
Potential leaders must identify the power of a similar goal among individuals within a group.
Being together as one, as a family, as a joint unit we are able to work as a team in reaching
accomplishments and being successful. Several theories look at the concept of leadership from
an organizational or group dynamic instead of individual follower development. Maybe none as
specifically as team leadership theory that focuses directly on a leader knowing and
understanding the team (Northouse, 2015). Leadership does not have to be about power or the
dynamic created with an individual sharing one vision and dishing out responsibilities.
Leadership can be the idea that everyone gains from an experience by using their strengths to
work together.

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In these formative years of my leadership philosophy, my actions were deeply rooted in


chaos theory and the natural environment that I was a part. With little to no leadership
experience, allowing the world to naturally flow seemed like the best approach. Whereas Newton
ideas believes that organization is very mechanic, the philosophy believing that working together
would solve the organizational problems followed the theoretical construct of complex adaptive
systems (Northouse, 2015). By living together that organization would occur by being on the
same page with everyone in the group.
However, during those storming years of my leadership philosophy, I started to realize
that everyone was not going to be on the same page and did not think exactly like me. As
Wheatley and Frieze (2011) describes the complex adaptive system, there is a desire for people
to have control. Therefore the result of everyone not having a shared vision as the leader created
an organization that was dysfunctional and not natural which is one of the criticisms of the
complex adaptive models. Individuals that try to adaptive this system, like I had, risk the
challenge of working with individuals whom do not trust others within an organization to make
decisions or to be as knowledgeable as themselves. Because of these foundational experiences, I
started to fine tune what my philosophy could be from my minimal experience in acknowledging
structure and teamwork.
Formative Leadership through Empowerment
Leadership started to have a different understanding in my life as I gained more
knowledge and experience. I found leaders were the ones who were not afraid to lose power to
others. Leaders were not afraid to get dirty and were not afraid to make someone unhappy. For a
long time, I believed that happiness with the key to success and if everyone was happy then
teamwork and leadership were being accomplished. When we look at Bridges (2009) concept of

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transition, the author discusses being able to navigate this culture by leaders being transparent in
their actions and decisions. Leaders have to be able to make the choices that are best for an
organization and support individuals that will be handling the most difficult parts of transition.
Bridges (2009) suggests that leaders assist those facing difficult change by supporting the ending
of the old process to move through the neutral zone to end up in this new space. By recognizing
the difference in producing results and producing positivity, I soon learned that happiness was
not the key to success. My mentors were not influential by only creating positivity environments,
but by being transparent in moving the organization to effective change.
My philosophy of leadership became more clearly defined as I started to experience
diverse opportunities and challenges during my undergraduate career by understanding each
individual as a leader within a team. Leadership is about empowerment. Every individual has the
ability to lead and the strength to be successful within that leadership. A great leader is able to
hand over the reins and empower everyone within their team to understand their abilities and to
give them the chance to showcase their talents and strengths. Similar to the research found on
leader member exchange theory, the idea is that by building relationships with individuals one is
able to impact their ability to work effectively as the work becomes more about the group than
the employee (Northouse, 2015). Through my experience with students, I had these individual
interactions that created working relationships that helped the overall good as we were able to
accomplish more. In every group that I have worked with there were students who were part of
the out-group that created uncomfortable relationships some employees. These individuals
desired a different kind of working relationship and thus were worked with on a different
individual level to try to benefit the group and organization the most.

PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY OF LEADERSHIP

There are many experiences that could be the root where I found my philosophy of
leadership, but there is a specific set that I think resonates most to understanding this
empowerment piece of being a leader. For a majority of my life growing up, my mother was a
high school volleyball coach. Seeing one of my parents in that role and observing athletics on a
regular basis gave me the value of teamwork and understanding of working together to be
successful. Although I did not understand what being a coach meant until my cognitive years, I
watched my mom work with teammates who were struggling. What I found beneficial from this
experience was watching her take students who are struggling both in the classroom and on the
team and sit down with them individually.
In her last few years of coaching she started to use recognition in the creation of various
awards to help promote strengths of each individual team number, not just athletically but on a
social level and in various aspects of their life. One specific instance that I remember is my
moms work with an individual who had gotten pregnant. I observed the delicate way that she
took her under her wing to recognize not the difficult circumstance, but her potential and how to
stay on track in her life. Whether taking her out to dinner or just talking to her on the phone
regularly, my mother to an active positive role model position in this individuals life. I think that
from observing my mother during those years, I started to gain a mentality of creating familial
relationships that could be connected to the idea of team leadership (Northouse, 2015). This is
where the ideals of making sure that the team faces success and failure are experienced together.
Growing up as a 4-H member, I also gained lots of experience through working and
competing against a bevy of friends. One of my greatest mentors comes from participating in the
lamb club and eventually would bring me on as an advisor for the club. Within the county, our
club is recognized as one of the best because of the opportunity that we give to our youth. The

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difference is in the philosophy that other leaders and I hold when it comes to recognizing our
members. Where other clubs are focused on the market competition or the individualized
competition of an animal, our club looks for various opportunities to award the kids for their
efforts during the year. We have a point system, Skill-A--Thon, Shepherds Quiz, judging contest,
costume contest, obstacle course, and various scholarships and other awards that the kids can
apply for. At our end-of-the-year awards banquet, it is rare to see a member leave without an
award because of the various opportunities that we are able to grant them through recognition.
When it comes down to it, we have to acknowledge that everyone has different talents. This is
the reason that we work so hard as club leaders: To guarantee children the opportunity to be
successful through hard work.
Essentially, my experiences with my mother and 4-H had made me become a leader using
the approach of transformational leadership. In working with groups, I used intellectual
stimulation or idealized influence process to engage with individuals (Northouse, 2015). Because
of my belief in followers going about and beyond expectations, I act as a role model for change
and vision of the organization. My connection with students was about creating a support for
them by helping them to realize their fullest potential. In various activities, I used intellectual
stimulation role by challenging students to identify the status quo and how much more one can
do. According to the model of this overall approach, it recognizes how active a leader is in an
organization, but also how effective the approach should be. With my experience of using this
theory of leadership, I have confirmed my belief in being a transformational leader.
Leadership in Academics
Academics was a challenging opportunity for me to explain my definition of leadership
as there have been numerous experiences that have helped me to understand leadership with a

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different lens. As an individual who is more introverted within the classroom and prefers to work
alone on academia, leadership was hard for me to see as something that was relevant in the
classroom. For me, I think it is understand the power and influence of the educator. However,
power and leadership in the classroom is not just about being the most knowledgeable individual
at a table. It is not about being the only one who talks during the class discussion, but instead it is
about being an individual who bring something new to the conversation. Leadership is
empowerment and thus within academics, leadership is seen when individuals are able to
empower others to gain knowledge. Whether that is through enhanced discussion that is not
being how held by others in the class, bringing a piece of literature, or an experience from your
past this is all about engagement with in the classroom and the loss helps individuals grasp
concepts and gain new knowledge into the academic realm.
In the classroom, it is important to understand the team dynamic and defining personal
role in terms of knowledge distribution. If I found myself in a position where I was the leader in
an academic setting, I would use a preferred theory of situational approach to leadership. Firstly,
I would try to take an inventory of my fellow students during the storming stage of the groups
conception. Northouse (2015) points out the fact that some individuals try to use team to label a
collection of individuals, but notes that a team is made so after developing relationship and
knowledge of the team dynamic. Assessing the competency level and commitment level of each
member to a project or assignment, I would be able to use a specific leadership style as required
to the group to be the most effective. An example of the use of the theory is working with
individuals who I have worked with before. I was able to delegate because of the recognition that
the team was highly competent and commitment could be observed among group members.

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However, if assigned to work with other individuals in the class, there are other styles that have
to be taken into consideration so that a leader is able to change their style to work with the group.
Another resounding example of leadership within the classroom has to be brought up
when it comes to working on group projects. While it is easy to split up work, it is difficult to
analyze the strengths of your group members in a short period of time. Sometimes I think that
this is a born skill, but as I worked in various different groups and individuals who are able to
navigate the styles of each individual these are the groups that are the most successful.
Professional Leadership
Within the professional work world, leadership starts to become more complex because
of the different individuals hoping to gain leadership. In my experience, it becomes about
navigating various visions of what leadership looks like: How can one individual work with
another individual who has a very different perspective of what it means to be a leader? This
raised a lot of conflict for me because, in my eyes, I look at it as a client relationships with an
empowerment level. What this means is that the client deserves to be empowered to make
decisions and to be the one who is ultimately pleased at the end of the day.
It is acknowledged that not everyone has the same style. Therefore, an individual who
believes that they have the power at the end of the day and should be the one satisfied creates
tension with my philosophy. Is it more important for a supervisor to be content or for your
student or client to be content? As I had experience through athletic teams and 4-H, navigating
this political climate of the workplace did not align well with the ideals of team leadership.
Using my philosophy, there was value in that everyone was on the same page and in my
professional experiences I was able to recognize what my team of subordinates needed to be
effective and work together. However, individuals in supervisor roles above me did not follow

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the team leadership style and therefore it raised conflict for myself in what action should be
taken to maintain a successful experience (Bush, 2011; Northouse, 2015). Within one position, I
faced the dysfunctional challenge of having subordinates who could work with the style, but
supervisors who were not understanding.
For me it comes down to my philosophy as the solution to any conflict, and that is the
idea student empowerment, these are the individuals who make or break your year and if you do
not give them the opportunity to make decisions and to do what they want with their year then
who are we really serving? Navigating this climate is definitely a difficult task within a
profession. Perhaps Bush (2011) explains it the best when describing that of political models in
the idea of understanding the distribution of power and the conflicts that arise when goals are not
aligned for an organizations stakeholders. In a position where you are experiencing political
climate, one must learn how they can negotiate and bargain through policies to effective to be
successful while working with individuals who do agree with your actions and decisions. In
some experiences it was clear that control was being taken of information and in meetings that
did not allow for the empowerment piece that I had found beneficial in a team leadership
dynamic. By presenting information in a political mindset it created tension and discomfort that
was hard to navigate (Bush, 2011). In finding your fit with a career you must look at the style of
the organization and start searching for an organization that you can work for because you align
with similar values and styles.
It is an important one as you try to understand your philosophy. If I would have went
into my position with my philosophy of leadership being based on happiness then I essentially
would have never been able to be successful or content to the end of the day. Being able to
recognize my vision, I am able to know that if the students I'm working with have grown and

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learned at the end of the day and feel like they are the ones who are making the big change, then
I have been successful. Empowerment is about giving the reins to the individuals around you
who have the ability to change the world. We have the decision to trust or not trust. With my
empowerment philosophy, it is all about giving it the power to the real change makers.
This idea of establishing and giving power over to my employees has always aligned with
path goal theory. As a supervisor, I strive to create a participative style that allows individuals to
feel including in decision-making and moving the project forward. Essentially, employees are on
the forefront of any work and they must be empowered to assist in an organizations complete
knowledge. There also is a recognition of the achievement oriented style as working with any
student they are aware that I have high expectations. In my feedback that I often hear words of
intimidation because first reaction to my expectations are to be frightened (Northouse, 2015). My
belief is that you have the bar set high and I value the creation of high achieving employees. By
creating this mindset among a staff, everyone is focused on completely the goal intended for the
organization.
When trying to decide which one thing was the most significant in the development of
my current philosophy, it all comes down to the students. Working in Student Affairs, my
experience in one of my graduate assistantships was that people in administrative positions did
not care what the students thought or wanted to do because the students have not been around
long enough and they do not have the knowledge to make decisions. When we look at leadership
and we break it down and understand what it means to be a great leader, we see that doing things
differently and being able to have trust and being able to empower those around you are the
individual leaders that we know today that are in the history books. Within the profession, I have
gained the most significant exposure to recognizing the power behind giving others around you

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the ability and opportunity to use their strengths to be successful. I am able to use it and all of the
different facets of my life to give others power and to help them gain experience and to
understand what it means to empower others because of this knowledge.
Conclusion
When you take time to think about a personal philosophy within any around you start to
recognize why you are where you are in life. Whether that is the position you are in, where you
live in the world, or even just how you think about the world around you; your philosophy shows
us where you have been and where you are going. I could not be happier with my opportunity to
work with students and show them the potential that they have to change the world. Giving them
the opportunity and also the exposure to their strengths. There is nothing more powerful than the
moment you see the face of a student who realizes what they can do and that is why I am in
student affairs to help students know that they are not just a number. They are special individuals
who can do a lot during their time on earth. When it comes down to it, empowerment can also
mean that individuals feel content and satisfaction. Looking at this philosophy helps me to
realize that this is a way to justify happiness for the individuals that I serve on a daily basis.
In studying leadership this semester, it is clear how prevalent this concept remains in
today society. While our views continue to be changed to change and challenged, I believe that
this course has given me insight into how my process is actually recognized with research and
literature to enforce my personal philosophy of leadership. Throughout the years, I continue to
grow as a leader and I believe that one must strive to provide the best experience and growth for
your employees or followers. However, leaders must also take time to focus on the growth and
development of their organizations leadership is what you make of it and being afraid to change
or transition is a flaw if you hope to grow alongside your followers.

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Work Cited
Bridges, W. (2009). Managing transition: Making the most of change (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: De
Capo Press.
Bush, T. (2011). Theories of educational leadership and management (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks,
CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Northouse, P. G. (2015). Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE
Publications, Inc.
Wheatley, M. & Frieze, D. (2011). Walk out walk on: A learning journey into communities
daring to live the future now. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.