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I have known Nathan since my freshman year of college, and I have always been impressed 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 Life group leader, Avalanche chair) team based activities on campus. The main team activity that seemed to be most prevalent to leadership was his role as the president of broomball club. As an introduction question to the interview, I asked Nathan, “What is your definition of leadership?” Nate responded, “Leadership is the ability to understand a group of people and facilitate cooperation among them to complete a goal by using that groups’ collective abilities.” Something interesting to add was that Nathan believes there are two vastly different leaders: Small team leaders and large group leaders. Small team leaders are more personal in scale (knowing and understanding every member in the group) while large group leaders are more focused on task behaviors or goal completion rather than relationships oriented behaviors. The true definition of team leadership defined in class is a small group of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. It was interesting to note Nathan’s definition of leadership. “The ability to understand a group of people” relates to emotional intelligence in the category of social awareness- where in order to become a great leader, one must be constantly aware of other’s emotions and needs. “Facilitation cooperation among them to complete a goal” implies there is a common purpose to achieve in the team. “Facilitate cooperation” also means leaders are in place to oversee conflict issues and promote the idea that cooperation results in mutual accountability. Finally, “using group’s collective abilities,” relates to gestalt psychology- that a whole (team) is greater than the sum of their parts (individuals). It is also related to the strengths approach in leadership. Through this phrase, Nathan believes that team leadership is also shared; each member has their own unique talents that allow them to step up in a leadership position. It was great to see that Nathan believed that in order 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 diminishes and 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 try to focus the goal on obtaining a balance between being competitive yet having fun at the same time. Keeping the atmosphere light is something that is important for leading intramural sports. In the beginning of the intramural season, I get the team together and discuss the ground rules. Some of the rules include: Staying positive no matter the outcome, encouraging others, promoting competitiveness, and good sportsmanship.” If situations get out of hand, such as if a team member reacts poorly to a call, Nathan explained 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 6080 individuals. According to the definition in class, team leadership is with a small number of individuals. So what Nathan may be leading as President would be a group rather 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 down the 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 on the fact that I have authority, knowledge, and power to do so.” In relation to behavior in teams or groups, Nathan is most likely focused on furthering the accomplishment of goals and tasks. He is also in charge of creating, clarifying, or modifying those rules and goals of 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 to legitimate power and is based on the position of the organization. “As I see fit” can be congruent 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 is sometimes key. Nathan believes that there is little room to be unsure of yourself and large 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 extremely important. I am unsure whether legitimate power is used throughout the entire intramural season, but according to discussions in class, it is more likely to be effective when the group 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/how much one knows. Information power would be most effective in the forming of the group or beginning of a season, as many of the members may be new and not understand the rules or method of the game. When asked about power, Nathan seemed to view his use of power as assertive; taking initiative and looking out for the best interest of the team, but also trying his best to learn names of individuals (a way of reducing power distance) who show up for broomball on a regular basis. I then asked Nathan, “How would your leadership skills change if you were in charge of a small team of broomball?” Nathan responded that he would still be respectful towards all, listen to everyone’s ideas attentively, and identity group goals. “With a small team, Nathan replied, “ I always try to actively seek feedback from others and remind 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. You have to ensure that each person is represented as they want and you have to try to match their talents to accomplish the goal in the most efficient way. There is also an effort to get to know others on a personal level other than their first name, to better understand who they are and where their motivation comes from.” Nathan also believes that communication 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 a special request, they have to come to me. If the group were smaller, I would want to engage in round table discussion to make sure that everyone could get their requests made somehow, possibly through collaboration or compromise. If broomball club was a smaller 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 is working on the most is accountability. Accountability often suffers most likely because this 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, he continued, “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 the team 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, we are able to accomplish team objectives and follow ground rules.” To follow up these questions, 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 the right amount of games are completed (goals achieved, tasked accomplished) and there are no fights or injuries for the night. Its also important that success also includes having fun and 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 to avoid it all costs and it drives me crazy.” Nathan believes that conflict is constructive and it helps find out about other people. “I almost feel guilty because I look forward to conflict” Nathan continued. “Conflict gives you a real window into the real wants and desires since they cared enough to bring up an issue.” By talking out the conflict, you can see what their real goals are and most often, the goals of the two people in conflict are just misidentified by the other. By engaging in constructive conflict, you build trust among 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 my notes that stated that the cons of both compromise and accommodation were the lack of sustainability. I mentioned this, but Nathan claimed that questions about sustainability had never been a problem in the past. Collaboration is virtually impossible when you have 60 members in a group, so a compromise (where each side gives in a little) and accommodation (one sides “gives up”) results in a quick end to conflict. I was excited to listen to Nathan’s perspective as it was right on target to what we have been learning about 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 my leadership 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 be much 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 had misidentified what the goals were, which was very frustrating. Because of this experience, 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, and it was great to understand how important it is to not have a hidden agenda. Not having
that agenda allows for a greater sense of trust among the team. “In addition,” Nathan continued, “I believe I am a good leader because I try to look out of other peoples’ wishes since in the past I was so tired of mine not being met. I think a good deal of becoming a great leader is watching from others and learning how NOT to lead!” In conclusion, it was joy to interview someone who I always looked up to as a leader. Being able to apply what we learned in class to a real world experience was a great, refreshing experience.
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