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Running head: THEORETICAL ANALYSIS INTERVIEW

Theoretical Analysis: Interview with Tricia Banach


Allison Schipma
Loyola University Chicago

THEORETICAL ANALYSIS INTERVIEW

My interview took place with Tricia Banach, an Office of Campus Life Coordinator at the
Illinois Institute of Technology. I chose to interview Tricia for a couple of reasons. The first
reason I chose to interview Tricia was because she was a graduate of Loyola University
Chicagos Higher Education program and I was curious to see how what she learned in the
similar courses we have taken related to her work after graduation. I also chose Tricia because
her position is very similar to a type of position I would like to work in after I graduate. As a
coordinator within the Office of Campus Life, she mainly works with the new student and
transfer orientation programs. I wanted to know how leadership plays out in a real context that I
may soon be working in. Tricia also works as a faculty member in the Shimer School of
Business at the Illinois Institute of Technology so she has a student life lens as well as a faculty
lens on leadership. Finally, I chose Tricia because we have a relationship that is both
professionally formal and personally informal, so I knew that we would be able to speak
candidly and honestly with each other about the various questions and ideas that this assignment
was asking me to focus on.
Administrative Leadership connecting to Theory
When sitting down and talking leadership with Tricia there were a few overarching trends
that spoke to how she defines leadership and how she uses that definition every day in her
personal and professional life. Within the Office of Campus Life at the Illinois Institute of
Technology, Tricia spoke about the dynamics of power and how those have played out into her
understanding of leadership at an administrative level, about how important team leadership is,
what guides her as a leader and how as practitioners it is important to remember to meet students
where they are in their leadership journey. My interview with Tricia gave me a lot of insight to

THEORETICAL ANALYSIS INTERVIEW

how helping to develop leadership within students can be both personal and practical for the
student you are working with as well as yourself.
Servant Leadership
One of the first things that Tricia and I spoke about was the dynamic of leadership within
the office that she worked in. Last year, I had the opportunity to work in the same office as her
as a graduate assistant. I was curious to see how Tricia viewed the leadership within the office
and how her view was or was not different from my own perspective and experience. The main
theme of our conversation was that Tricia viewed her office as having very complex dynamics.
She first spoke about the leadership being evenly spread amongst the three coordinators and one
director within the office. The director of the office, Ryan Miller, is more than willing to give
autonomy to each coordinator and serves more as a support in the background in his approach to
supervising. In my understanding, this type of leadership connects with the servant leadership
theory.
The concept of servant leadership involves the overall theme of the leader being there to
fully support the subordinates and empower them to lead. Tricia reflected that in her mind, being
someone who creates a community where others can flourish is what it means to be an
administrative leader. To her, administrative leadership is about knowing what is best for the
entire office that you have been given the opportunity to lead, and carrying out any action you
can to help others succeed. This directly connects to the theory of servant leadership. As we
have discussed this semester, being a servant leader means taking time to not only engage with
your followers or subordinates, but also create a space for them to develop their own skills and
leadership techniques. It was interesting to know that no matter what stage of your career that

THEORETICAL ANALYSIS INTERVIEW

you are in, your views and opinions on leadership will continuously be shaped by your
supervisor and the environment in which you work.
Team Leadership
We also discussed the idea of leadership being spread out amongst a team. As someone
who works with a team of orientation leaders throughout the year, Tricia has always found
herself researching the various ways in which team leadership is effective and how it can be
improved. She also intentionally finds exercises and activities that build the efficacy of her
student leaders, similar to how Ryan supervises her. She noted that in staff meetings, Ryan is
very intentional about using professional development activities and discussion to engage each
coordinator. She reflected that she needed to focus on team builders with her orientation staff
since that was a key component of them functioning well under the pressure and stress of the
busy orientation season, and the efficacy piece to help her students feel more confident in the
work place once they graduate. I appreciated her motive to help students connect with what they
are doing to what they want to do after they graduate.
I found it very interesting when speaking with Tricia how she viewed team leadership in
a lens of the business world since that is typically looked at as the origin of the team leadership
theory and not necessarily how researchers view the theory now. When team leadership was first
being researched in the early 1920s and 30s the focus was more on an industrial type of view on
group efforts found within the workplace. (Northouse, 2013) This then shifted over time to a
more outcome based focus of productivity. The current understanding of team leadership tends
to be more post-industrial by focusing less on outcome and more on the individual leader and
how they are able to function within a team. While Tricia does focus on the individual

THEORETICAL ANALYSIS INTERVIEW

development of each student and their leadership journey, I believe she also sees that each team
member needs to see the buy in factor or they will not contribute as much as they are capable of.
When I asked her about this connection to the origin of the theory as opposed to just the
contemporary understanding she said, Everyone needs a buy in. I found this to be particularly
eye-opening when looking at the context she was speaking from. Having worked at the Illinois
Institute of Technology for a year, I have had experience working with this type of student. I had
always had trouble connecting to them or getting them to volunteer for what I needed. I, in turn,
had always assumed that I didnt know what I was doing or that those students just didnt like
me. When I shared these thoughts with her, she reflected this business lens of team leadership
and my struggles back to type of student that she and I work with on a daily basis. She feels that
the student population at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) is a different type of student.
The students at this institution need logic and different types of models to understand and
appreciate the programming that we put on. They are very focused on the outcome, and not the
process. They need a rationale. The students at IIT tend to get involved with student groups or
leadership positions only when they know it will benefit them in the long term for their career.
Once they sign up for these positions, they expect to participate in work that will boost their
resume while not taking a significant amount of time away from their studying. Since they are
so logic based- they consistently need reassurance that what they are doing is going to better
prepare them for life after graduation.
This was a very important piece of the interview when considering how to connect theory
back to practice. It is essential as professionals that we are consistently reflecting back on to
how our students function and at what type of institution we work for. To me, this is where
situational leadership theory really comes into play. Situation leadership is based on the idea that

THEORETICAL ANALYSIS INTERVIEW

leadership will vary within situations. Without keeping context in mind, it can be easy to
become stagnant in our own understanding of theory which is dangerous. Tricia mentioned that
to her, leadership is an ever changing term that has many layers and multiple context dependent
aspects. I would agree that there is no solid definition of leadership. The idea of being a leader
and the concept of leadership is a very personal idea. Leadership connects to the core of who we
are, what we value and what we believe we can do. That being said, it is important to understand
and remember the lived experiences of each of the students that we work with and be willing to
be adaptable and respectful to their stories.
Authentic Leadership
One of the main experiences that has shaped Tricias definition of leadership is her
continued experience with her sorority, Pi Beta Phi. Her personal identity as a Pi Beta Phi sister
throughout her time in college as well as her current involvement as an alumnae advisor has
helped her distinguish her values which has helped ground her own leadership style. She
mentioned that within her time as a Pi Beta Phi sister she was required to do a lot of selfreflection on why she joined the organization and how her values matched up with those of the
organization. Within Pi Beta Phi, she held leadership positions and those positions helped her
find herself and her leadership style and define what leadership really means to her.
The importance placed on values and staying true to who you are connects deeply to the
theory of authentic leadership that we have discussed in class. Authentic leadership speaks to the
idea of keeping your values and intrapersonal relationship and reflection as a part of your
leadership. By being your most authentic self, you are able to truly connect with your followers
or subordinates because you are remaining grounded. Tricia spoke of a particular exercise she

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does with her orientation staff that connects directly with authentic leadership. She has her
students sit and identify on a piece of paper six separate aspects of their life. From their values,
and their social identities to important relationships and what they love; she asks the students to
identify and then share those aspects and how they connect with their position. This is a very
practical approach to showing students how to connect what matters most to them to what they
are doing. For IIT students it is especially helpful, she noted, because they can be so linear in
their thinking. These students need the more relational and emotional piece because so many of
them are so academic and logic focused that they tend to forget the heart.
Relational Leadership
Another aspect of leadership that Tricia talked about was her personal identity and how
that connected with her approach to working with student leaders. Tricia stated that she was
most connected with the work and theory of Susan Komives and relational leadership, and she
even referenced a specific article that she uses. The article speaks to the idea that there are five
main aspects of relational leadership that stem from the research that Susan Komives has done.
These five main aspects, or key elements, are: inclusion, empowerment, purposefulness, ethical
behaviors, and process-orientation. (Rice, 2012, p.2) These five elements speak to helping a
student develop within a group as a leader as well as developing the group dynamic to be as
successful as can be. With this structure in mind, Tricia plans all of her trainings for student
leaders around these concepts.
Tricia spoke about the importance of combining these elements within her orientation
staff. The purpose of a new student orientation is to connect with incoming students on a
personal level that helps them feel comfortable with their new surroundings. When training

THEORETICAL ANALYSIS INTERVIEW

orientation leaders in the best practices to accomplish those goals, keeping those five elements in
mind helps the staff to maintain a human relationship focus rather than just an outcome based
approach. When I asked her to share more about how she is intentional with relational leadership
she focused a lot on providing opportunities and activities that foster a shared experience.
Shared experiences can be one of the most impactful ways to bring your student staff together.
Creating a place or space where students can get that experience will be crucial to getting your
staff to bond and be productive together. To me, this was very powerful. I have always known
that a shared experience brings people together, but have never connected that to how I carry out
my every day work responsibilities and tactics when working with students.
Critiques
When speaking with Tricia about how she defines leaders, I began to notice the distinct
differences in our ideas of what makes a student leader a leader and how we as practitioners go
about helping not only find student leaders on campus; but also help draw out potential students
who want to develop leadership skills. There were two main areas of critique from my
perspective that came from this interview. The first area of critique speaks to situational
leadership and the need for a deeper understanding of contexts. The second area of critique is
how Tricia defines student leaders on campus.
Situational Leadership
Throughout the interview, Tricia mentioned several times how important it was to her that
you need to meet students where they are and specifically how she meets her students where they
are and tries to connect what they are doing now in college to what they will be doing in the
future. I kept referring back to situational leadership and how that can carry out into the team

THEORETICAL ANALYSIS INTERVIEW

leadership that Tricia utilizes with her orientation leaders. IIT has a very diverse student body.
While there are plenty of traditional domestic students, there are also a variety of students who
very from this identity. When looking at the demographics of IIT students, 59% of students
identify as international students. During the interview, Tricia did not mention the difference
between international students and domestic students at all. To me, this serves as a potential area
for more critical reflection. She mentioned how important it is to create a shared experience, but
I think it is equally important to create a shared comfortable experience. International students
come from various types of cultures and religions that can put certain identities at risk to feel
unease at the idea of leadership. It would be important to connect situational leadership in these
circumstances to understand the developmental level of students and whether or not they feel the
efficacy to be able to lead within a group. Without considering the contexts and experiences that
your students have, you are discounting the stories of who they are and where they have come
from.
Trait Approach to Leadership
The second area of critique I have comes from the prompt question that we were given in
the assignment. The question asks, What would you identify as critical skills for engaging in
leadership? Immediately after I asked this Tricias response was that she didnt feel comfortable
with this question because she felt as though it implies that you can teach someone how to be a
leader by adapting these critical skills. Her discomfort with this question stemmed from her
belief that you cant teach someone to be a leader. You can teach positive values and traits, but
you cant teach someone how to be a leader. I found this to be unique and quite different from
my own views. She mentioned that she identifies leaders on campus as those students who have
a great deal of visibility and are always getting involved. Her beliefs, in my mind, connected

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strongly with the theory of the trait approach to leadership and the idea of charismatic leadership
that we have discussed in class.
The theory of trait approach to leadership focuses on several identified positive traits that
are associated with strong leaders, therefore making people with those traits strong leaders as
well. (Northouse, 2013) Trait leadership also speaks about charismatic leadership and the While
trait leadership can seem appealing to those who identify with the long list of positive traits, this
theory and thinking can be dangerous to the students you are working with and even your own
personal journey with leadership. Along with my first critique, her idea of what makes a leader
and trait leadership can be dangerous when considering the multitude of identities and
experiences that students have encountered. When saying leadership cannot be taught it feels
as though we are discounting the several life experiences that students who desire to become
leaders have had. It also would make me consider the effect on the efficacy of students who
perceive that they do not have the traits and therefore cannot be taught how to be a leader. When
working with students, it seemed that one of Tricias main goals was to help her orientation
student staff build their confidence in their abilities. It was interesting to me that Tricia was
adamant about meeting students where they are, but seems to ignore the importance of the life
story.
In a way, it also seems almost hypocritical to me that when working with student leaders
we aspire for them to be their most authentic selves and to get them in touch with their most
authentic side, but at the same time- we do not allow them to share those experiences. By
holding true to the idea that leaders possess a certain set of characteristics; we are not allowing
for students who do not feel as though they identify with those characteristics to view themselves
as leaders. It becomes dangerous when we ask students to lead but do not give them the proper

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opportunities to distinguish their experiences and their values and how those two very powerful
things can combine and create a strong leader, and person.
Conclusion
In conclusion, I believe that there are two core concepts to take way from this interview
process in regards to how to connect theory to practice. The first core concept being that theory
is ever changing and evolving. At one given time, there will never be on sure fire theory that will
apply to each and every student that you work with. That is not the point of connecting theory to
practice. To me, connecting theory to practice means taking the aspects of the theories that make
sense to you and connect with who you are as a leader, and translating them into concepts and
strategies that will connect with your students and their identities. Connecting theory to practice
means being able to be uncomfortable with a theory at large, but still able to find the value in the
theory.
The second core concept that I have identified through this interview process in regards
to connecting theory to practice is that no matter how much a student may identify with traits,
characteristics, different stages of development or theories at large- that student, just like
ourselves, is not defined by that theory. The most important aspect of the leadership journey is
the pathway on which you are walking. Each life experience, good or bad, creates more stepping
stones. It is crucial to honor those stepping stones with care and to respect them throughout the
rest of your journey.

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References
Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Rice, C. M. (2012). Peer-Led Team Learning Leader Training: Relational Leadership and its
Usefulness to the Workshop Model. Retrieved from http://www.pltlis.org