Do I really know what it takes to be a great leader? Before participating in the Leadership Institute, I wouldn't have answered this question with an emphatic YES! Now that I'm several months in, my answer is changing.
I applied to be a part of the Institute because I wanted to bridge the gap between where I am and where I desire to be. I recently transitioned from managing programs to now overseeing the youth program quality improvement process as the Evaluation Manager at After School Matters, an organization that provides after school and summer opportunities to more than 15,000 Chicago teens each year. My goals for the Institute are to identify areas of growth, improve my leadership skills, and figure out next step in my career. It has been a valuable experience speaking with my mentor and learning from amazing cohort members who have shared their challenges and experiences. In just the first couple of meetings, I had a few aha! moments.
Awareness of Self
This may seem like a no-brainer but self awareness is not often included when you research top qualities of an effective leader. Many of us can identify our strengths and weaknesses but only use it to prepare for interviews or complete a performance evaluations. Knowing what I do well and identifying areas of improvement are important but understanding how these are perceived by others is key. During the Leadership Institute, we completed the StrengthsFinder test–an assessment to help identify our talents– and spent time reflecting on the implications. We learned about how a natural strength, such as being an overachiever, can either motivate those I work with or drive them completely insane. As a result, I am more mindful of how my qualities affect those around me.
Transitioning from working in the field with program providers to primarily working in the office with data was a big adjustment for me. The StrengthsFinder exercise helped me pinpoint what I need to thrive at work. I no longer choose to place a huge focus on my weaknesses but rather, find opportunities to build upon my strengths within my new role. I've recognized that the areas where I lack are an opportunity for someone else on my team to shine. Most importantly, finding ways for others to maximize and celebrate their strengths is the key to getting the best from those you manage or work with on a daily basis.
The most successful leaders are those that know when to adjust their leadership style. I was eager to discover the one style that is most effective, but there is no one size fits all way to lead. Depending upon the situation or needs of your team, there are times where you have to be direct and times to be supportive. Do you really know what it takes to be a great leader? I encourage you to create your definition and strive to become that leader. My answer to this question is not quite complete but I'm certain I'll get there as I continue to engage in the Leadership Institute. I'm ready for more aha! moments.
About the Author
Eboni Prince-Currie is currently the Evaluation Manager for After School Matters where she oversees implementation of the continuous quality improvement process and provides professional development training in data utilization and quality coaching for program staff. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and blogging for BestiesAndBrunch.com. Connect with her on Twitter at @colorme_eboni.