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Taking a personal leadership inventory

Working to become a good leader is essential for career advancement, even if you never hold a supervisory position.

By Alaina G. Levine                     

           
Personal Leadership image - Careers
           

When I graduated from university, I didn’t imagine myself becoming a consultant, writer, and speaker. Among the several common threads that interweave my multiple careers, one of them is striking: my constant quest to serve as a leader. I consider leadership a critical metric of my professional growth, as it has been the step for every next level I’ve achieved.

Leaders can see both the holistic and the granular aspects of a particular problem. They have vision and are able to identify and execute the actions that need to be taken to reach a viable solution. They know how to galvanize and leverage their own talents and those of the people around them. They are able to deliver value to their customers, their colleagues, and themselves. And they constantly look for new opportunities to improve the system in which they work.

Even if you are not leading a team of coworkers, it is invaluable to hone your leadership skills. To aid in that pursuit, I recommend periodically filling out a leadership inventory. Here’s how to do it: Look at the list of leadership characteristics and qualities below. Write down experiences in which you have exhibited those characteristics. Think about the problems you solved that allowed you to learn or sharpen that particular leadership quality. For example, when was a time you demonstrated to yourself and your colleagues that you were a true connector of people and ideas? How did this manifest itself? What were the results of that undertaking? Then, after going down the list, pay attention to any gaps. Where there are holes in your leadership abilities, you can try to pursue opportunities to pick up those skills.

The beauty of the inventory is that you will probably see that you have certain leadership qualities you didn’t realize you had. You’ll better be able to see the big picture of who you are as a leader and employee. You’ll get better at ensuring that teams and projects are being managed in the best ways possible. For example, realizing that you have engaged in conflict mitigation will make you more aware of potential friction that could arise in a certain project, enabling you to find a solution before things boil over.

Finally, the exercise will allow you to identify what you want out of your next job and to highlight the skills that will help you get that new opportunity.

So look carefully at this list. Be honest. The more data you have about yourself, the better you can optimize your career strategy. Your leadership inventory will be a road map to self-improvement.

A leader is a(n)

  • Connector, who links previously disparate ideas, transforms a group of individual colleagues into an efficient team, and fuses teams together in an organization.
  • Culture advocate, who understands the culture of an organization and suggests ways to support it or change it when required.
  • Creator and creativity advocate, who looks for new ideas and fosters an environment that rewards and encourages thinking outside the box.
  • Entrepreneur, who challenges the status quo and looks for problems to solve and walls to knock down.
  • Enabler of team success, who wants to see team members advance and improve their skills.
  • Visionary, who sees the big picture and looks for links between everyday tasks and the overarching mission of the organization.
  • Conflict mitigator, who helps minimize friction and spots conflict before it gets out of hand.
  • Goal setter, who knows the overall objective of each action and task.
  • Tone setter, who dictates how a team will communicate and ensures professionalism and respect among members.
  • Executor, who sees a project through from start to finish.
  • Decision maker, who acquires data from multiple sources, then picks a side and stands by it.
  • Accountability taker, who assumes responsibility for choices a team makes, whatever the consequences.
  • Communicator, who keeps everyone in the loop as a problem is being solved.
  • Networker, who aims to craft long-lasting, win–win alliances.
  • Unifier, who brings a team together and affords the members the chance to be successful.

 

Alaina G. Levine is a science and engineering writer, career consultant, and professional speaker and comedian. She is the author of Networking for Nerds, which was named by Physics Today as one of the top five books of 2015. She can be reached through her website, www.alainalevine.com, or on Twitter at @AlainaGLevine.