Leadership Course Reflections

AGED 260 - Intro to Leadership Studies (Fall 2011)

          The more you learn about something, the greater you can appreciate it. Many of the concepts I learned in AGED 260 seemed somewhat obvious: there are many theories about leadership, leaders can vary between being people or task oriented... However, only after defining and quantifying these ideas, I was able to clearly and consciously apply them to my own leadership skills.

          We went through Northouse's book on leadership which comprises the numerous theories of what makes a leader and how a leader actually leads. The most predominant in the public eye and my old understanding of leadership is the trait approach. This idea is leaders have certain, intrinsic traits that some are gifted with, while others are not. Oftentimes when I tell people I study leadership, they look puzzled and ask "You can teach that?" Many of the traits, such as being tall and dominating, held me back from realizing I could classify myself as a leader.

          After defining what traits and skills make up a leader, we also discussed different styles along task and people oriented axes. I realize how much my style changes depending on the situation. When working on a group project for a class, I'm completely task-focused on just getting this done. But when I'm teaching animation programs to middle-schoolers, I shift for a more people-focused approach. Part of my strength of being a leader is my adaptability of my style to accommodate the goal, team, and general atmosphere/energy of the group.

          From this class, I've also learned how to gauge in what capacity I should lead. When I was serving as an Engineering Learning Assistant, I had to use a hands-off, facilitator approach. This was to allow the freshmen to come up with their own ideas and make their own mistakes so they could learn from them. My role was to ensure discussion moved along and be helpful in any administrative concerns they had.

          We also did a group presentation on diversity and how various groups are perceived. My team was assigned ageism, which is interesting in it is the one category that everyone will experience the different stage of. During the research and planning stage, I suggested the idea of a game for people to re-enact possible cases of ageism in the workplace. On presentation day, everyone seemed very engaged and interested through the game simulation. Speaking in front of the class, even though I had my team with me, still made me nervous.

          This was my first class in leadership studies and became a great catalyst to my future learning in leadership theories and application.

GE 361 - Emotional Intelligence (Fall 2012)

          I had always thought I had exhibited fairly high emotional intelligence: I know myself pretty well and know how to act in social settings. After going over the various aspects of emotional intelligence, I was able to see my blind spots and how I could improve them.

          The topics I will remember most after the class is the discussion on crucial conversations. These are conversations where the stakes are high, emotions are strong, and there are opposing opinions. We also went over the various methods people do when avoiding these stressful conversations. I noticed within myself, I would tend to avoid them or jokingly be sarcastic to avoid them. This wasn't being authentic to myself and after learning how to properly handle crucial conversations, I am more comfortable talking with people about sometimes uncomfortable things.

          We did a project in which we designed team-building activities and then went to an elementary school for kids with behavioral challenges to demonstrate them. I came up with several of the activities that proved to be really engaging with the kids. I think my experience of teaching animation to middle-schoolers helped me relate more with children and think of new games if they feel disengaged. From this experience, I feel more comfortable speaking in front of groups of people as well as coming up with new ideas on the spot. Doing team-building activities with the kids also helped learn how to function better as a team with my fellow classmates.

          In this class, we wrote numerous reflection papers to really define and articulate our thoughts and personal growth. For one paper we recorded ourselves having a conversation with a friend and then evaluate our listening skills. After the hour long conversation, I learned there are quite a few things I do well- such as asking engaging questions and giving non-verbal cues I'm paying attention. But I am still working on re-engaging interest after the energy fades.

          Emotional Intelligence encompasses both personal awareness/management, as well as social awareness/management. This class helped me learn more about myself, discover my shortcomings, and improve upon them to achieve my goals of being more confident and a better leader.