Becoming a Citizen Leader

By: Ian Adams ’23

The following work was created for FYS 101: Becoming a Citizen Leader.


Within the semester of the FYS “Becoming a Citizen Leader” taught by Professor Harvey, I have gained an extreme amount of knowledge on leadership, what it takes to lead, and how to become the greatest leader you can possibly be. We have gone over dozens of readings, presentations, and visits from leaders within our college and the Chestertown community. Five important and key lessons I took from this semester involve readings such as Leadership Is Authenticity, Not Style by Bill George, On Becoming A Leader by Warren Bennis within chapter 3 “Knowing Yourself,” Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Force by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee, and Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones, as well as from the presentation Professor Caddie Putnam Rankin gave on moral courage. These five key lessons have impacted the way I look at leadership and will shape the way I lead for the rest of my life. 

Authenticity in a leader is a vital characteristic in their role. Being authentic to me is when someone is genuinely real and true to themselves. They do not change themselves for anyone, they show uniqueness, and they are the people they were made to be. Obviously, this is extremely important because without a truly authentic person leading others, then how will people succeed? When you have a leader that is genuine, real, and different, that is when you succeed. Leading people while full of lies and doing what everyone else is doing won’t get you anywhere. I am a huge believer in being different, as it is tattooed on my left-inner bicep.

Leadership Is Authenticity, Not Style by Bill George was about the leadership quality people came up with that every leader should have. There are three major points I’d like to bring up from this reading. First, being your own person; this is incredibly crucial to everyone you lead. As he says on page 88, “The one essential quality a leader must have is to be your own person, authentic in every regard.” This means you must be different and authentic. It can seem extremely challenging and might even be looked down upon; however, if you are you and true to yourself, that is when people respect you. Loneliness comes with staying true to who you are. He gives an example of going against the crowd in a meeting where he was the only one standing up for an idea that he believed was not right and or would fail. Thus, he stood alone, fought for what he believed, and made a compromise. That is what authenticity is all about.

Second, leading with heart. George goes on to talk about how when you lead with heart is when you truly get the maximum effort out of your employees or the people you lead. If you give your followers reason to believe what they do is bigger than themselves and has a purpose, that is when you have won and will exceed all competition due to the vast majority of people using their hearts along with their minds and bodies. When you lead with heart, you lead with empathy, which is being understanding to another individual and passionate. If you lead with your heart and have a purpose, that is when others will follow; we can ignite people’s flames. George uses Marilyn Nelson as an example, she took over as CEO of the Carlson Companies. It had a bad name to itself and she immediately wanted to change that. They treated employees poorly, reports said, and Nelson decided enough was enough. Therefore, she made a program called Carlson Cares and gave her full empathy, passion, and heart into it. Showing how truly authentic she really is.

Finally, the dimensions of authentic leaders. This list is the list of essential qualities George thinks all leaders should have or need to adopt to become authentic: understanding their purpose, practicing solid values, leading with heart, establishing close and enduring relationships, and demonstrating self-discipline. Understanding their purpose is simple, if you were following someone, and they did not have a sense of purpose as to why they do something, you wouldn’t want to follow them. Having purpose is essential, you must find and understand yourself first. Then you find what your passion is and act upon it; this is purpose. Practicing solid values—when you have a set list of values you follow and tie them into the person you are. “Leaders are defined by their values and their character.” This is the way you act, speak, listen, etc. Authentic leaders are the ones who are shaped by what they believe in and prove it. Leading with heart—when you show your passion for something and give it all you got, because that is where your heart is. You aren’t afraid to go and get it. Establishing close and enduring relationships when you network and building your team into a family of brothers and sisters. This is how you win; the military is a great example. A captain in the Navy Seal Special Forces has brothers and sisters, there is no team and it’s a family. The last one is demonstrating discipline. Leaders are driven and competitive people, without discipline you cannot gain respect. You need to be consistent, hard-working, and show your family that you will do whatever it takes to succeed.

Overall, I believe that this lesson from George’s reading is the best lesson from the semester. As I explained earlier, authenticity is what makes or breaks a person and who will follow them. No one will follow someone doing exactly what everyone else is doing, and that is what separates the good and the great, the failures and the successes, the poor and the rich. Great leaders also have an understanding of themselves and their followers. They know themselves, their leadership abilities, and the tools on how to lead.

When becoming a leader, or if you are already a leader, you need to know yourself. What I mean by this is knowing your role, personality traits, and how you lead others to success. If you jump into a leadership role, and you know who you are as a person, it will severely change the outcome and increase your chance at success and growing a foundation with a vast number of followers. There is a process of self-invention and self-knowledge that young people need to start earlier in life and carry with them until the day they die. This will also help with their leadership. This simple process of knowing yourself was brought to my attention in Warren Bennis’ reading this year.

Within On Becoming A Leader chapter 3, “Knowing Yourself,” by Warren Bennis, there are essential lessons that I believe pushed this reading to a top five important key lesson throughout the semester in “Becoming a Citizen Leader.” Bennis talks about how every leader he has ever talked to “agreed that no one can teach you how to become yourself, to take charge, to express yourself, except you” (Bennis 49). This means you are your own controller and no other person can physically or mentally teach you how to be yourself; you learn this on your own experiences. However, there are four essential lessons that others can or have taught you during your process of finding yourself and your leadership style. Lesson one is “you are your own best teacher” (Bennis 50). What this lesson entails is that you are your own best teacher. It sounds so simple but dives into this hard and grueling process that leadership does not show from the outside. Gib Akin, professor at the McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia, studied sixty managers and their learning experiences. Akin found that the managers’ “learning is experienced as a personal transformation… To learn is not to have, it is to be” (Bennis 50). This shows that people do not just take in learning experiences and keep them, they exploit them and become a new person.

Akin’s built a list of learning modules, this includes emulation of someone or their work. Role taking, where one decides this is what they should be and creates it. Practical accomplishment—where someone oversees a problem to be an experience and learns from it. Validation—one tests concepts by adopting that style and learns from experience and reflection. Anticipation—where one learns before they act upon something and then develops something to apply. Personal growth, this is when one thinks self-understanding and values are more important than a set of skills. Finally, scientific learning—when someone observes and experiments with the idea’s they observed from someone else. These learning modules Akin built were designed to show the ways a leader, or someone who is pursuing a leadership role, can learn and understand themselves through others to implement a sense of how they can teach themselves.

Lesson two, “Accept responsibility. Blame no one” (Bennis 51). When reading this title and trying to process what you might think it means, you can conclude that when you have responsibilities, roles to oversee or take, or a position of authority, you cannot blame someone else for the mistakes of yourself or your team. You must take responsibility for your teams’ failures and your own failures. Marty Kaplan is the best example of responsibility and accepting failure without blaming anyone but himself. Kaplan is the director of the Norman Lear Center and associate dean of the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California, as well as an accomplished screenwriter and producer. In his third career with Disney in the mid 1980’s, he was not fully prepared for that position and was not capable of doing the work without intensive preparation the day before. He would sit in the studio all day every day to become caught up and took responsibility. Lesson three was the idea that “You can learn anything you want to learn” (Bennis 53). Kaplan is another great example of this due to his passion to learn every day to experience ups and downs throughout his Disney career. He used a learning style known as full deployment. Full Deployment is when you find another way of learning something that does not come to you familiarly. You take it and see the world simultaneously, understand what you see, and act upon it. “Kaplan didn’t just study business, he embraced it and absorbed it” (Bennis 54). As the reading goes on for lesson three, Kaplan goes to talk about how if you are not hungry enough to absorb information that could possibly be “unsettling,” experience life, reflect upon your mistakes, and have that all in mentality, then you do not learn. You must be fearless, optimistic, brave, hard-headed, confident, and have integrity to do such things. Kaplan expresses his opinion greatly on not being afraid of failure. Ultimately, lesson three was a way of understanding that one can learn if they truly put their all into something and have that fearless mentality of failure is okay and guides me to success.

Lesson four consists of “True understanding comes from reflecting on your experience” (Bennis 54). Reflecting upon yourself is a great way to understanding yourself and what you have learned. Kaplan did not use all those hours of experience and studying for nothing, he then reflected upon it and learned even more based off his experiences and then came to understand new content. “Reflecting on experience is a means of having a Socratic dialogue with yourself, asking the right questions at the right time, in order to discover the truth of yourself and your life” (Bennis 54). With this, one can locate the knowledge they had forgotten and revisit it to absorb it. What Bennis is trying to get at here is that you truly have nothing until you understand it and understand yourself.

Leaders must have a sense of being able to understand, without this quality they do not have the key or answer to success. Understanding and having that power then creates an idea of knowing exactly what to do in any given situation. This idea of understanding also creates an importance for reflection, this can give an excessive amount of feedback on the way you lead. The chapter “Knowing Yourselfin On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis was essential to the five key lessons throughout the semester. It shows how leaders should know how to understand their followers, work, and most importantly, themselves. As well as giving four important lessons within itself to reflect on yourself and gain knowledge on how to become a better leader going forward.

Leadership also involves a great amount of emotional intelligence—the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships with empathy. Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee expresses how emotional intelligence, mood, and the leader’s ability to show emotion can make or break how effective a leader is for their followers or team. I’d like to talk about emotional style, and there are five questions Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee ask and help answer with examples and thoughts they have. They include “Who do you want to be,” “Who are you now,” “How do you get from here to there,” “How do you make changes stick,” “Who can help you?” As well as why mood is important.

A leader’s mood and emotions are a set of chain reactions, this causes either great success or massive failure. The leader’s mood and behaviors have the powerful effect of influencing everyone else’s mood. This is essential for leaders to understand, because someone who is cranky and aggressive will cause their followers or team to disobey them, not work as hard, or create underachievers. Whereas an influential, inspirational, and honest leader will cause their followers or team to link as one, work hard, and create overachievers, which causes success. High levels of emotional intelligence create climates in which information is shared and trusted, and healthy risks and learning increases. Low levels of emotional intelligence often create fear, anxiety, and bad organization (Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee 2).

A great leader is open and honest with their followers or team; they can have a bad week or bad day. However, communication with these are key to not having a long-lasting effect on the organization and its workers. Leaders must oversee their overall mood before attending someone else’s. This is because the way you see yourself and the way they see you will impact the community, therefore you would want to make sure you can fix that and create something that inspires you which will trickle down the chain. Emotional style and mood are frowned upon, because it seems “soft”; however, this is something all leaders need to understand and know. If a leader with a more positive and happier mood is around their team, then that will create a lasting effect on and create a positive emotion through them. If a leader is the opposite, it will create an opposite effect as well.

An emotionally intelligent leader can monitor his or her moods through self-awareness, change them through self-management, understand their impact through empathy, and act in a way that helps boost the morale of their team. This then leads to the five-part process of questions that an emotional intelligent leader should follow in order to become more successful. It is as follows: imagining your ideal self, creating a tactical plan, concluding with a creation of a community (Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee 7).

“Who do I want to be?” This question is used to create of vision of yourself and what you want to be, causing reflection upon yourself and then trying to live out the ideal self you created within your head. An example would be Sofia, a senior manager at a northern European telecommunications company. She needed to understand how her emotional intelligence and leadership affected others. Sofia had a past of becoming too stressed and creating a poor work environment with bad communication and hostility. She began to work on picturing herself leading better with her group and what life could look like if everything went right. Upon this, she reflected and saw what impacts she had on people and now knows what to work on to increase self-esteem and increase leadership quality (Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee 7).

“Who am I now?” In this second step of the process, you come to reflect on yourself and see your leadership style as others do. You must be able to see yourself the way others do, because then that shows you how effective you are and what you need to work on to be able to become the best version of a leader you can be. Something that could be useful to get answers to this question would be to get feedback and reflect on it; reflection is always key to a healthier impact. It is crucial to find your weaknesses and act on them; this will create a sense of humility from the people watching you trying to fix yourself for the benefit of them. It’s more important to understand your strengths so that you can understand where you need to improve, where you’re strong, and what you can do to take everything to the next level (Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee 7).

“How do I get from here to here?” This is the part of the process where you know who you are, who you compare to, and what you need to do in order to change and create more of an impact. Sofia created an action plan for improvement in self-awareness. Her action plan was to ask each member of her team to anonymously give her feedback about her mood and performance each day and their effect on them. Sofia also created three tasks to complete each day, these include spending an hour each day reflecting on her behavior in a journal, taking a class on group dynamics at a college, and getting the help of a colleague as an informal coach. What people should get out of this is to be like Sofia, create a plan, stick to it, and reach your goal; that is when you will be successful (Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee 8).

“How do I make changes stick?” The fourth part is the hardest part of the process. Making a change requires practice, repetition, and an all-in mentality like in Bennis’ reading. Leaders must repeatedly rehearse a new behavior they want to change before it will become habit. For example, Tom—an executive who wanted to close the gap between his real self (cold and hardheaded) and ideal self (visionary and coach). Tom began practicing behaviors such as asking questions and letting others speak, coaching his employees without judgement, and planning how to handle encounters he might have that day. With these practices and repetitions, Tom will have implemented good habits within his team and created a positive work environment (Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee 9).

“Who can help me?” The final step of the five-part process is creating a community of supporters. For example, managers at Unilever formed a group where they learned from each other and provided adequate leadership skills to adopt for themselves. Creating this group will build a mutual trust and provide leaders a great way to solve their own issues, or help implement something that will change the way they lead or their boss leads. Without the help from others there is no way anyone can change their emotional intelligence level or leadership style (Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee 9 & 10).

Ultimately, the reading Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee was a great representation on how emotional intelligence, mood, and performance can affect your team or followers. It is important we realize this and change our leadership styles accordingly for the best overall environment our team or followers can be successful in. Without a strong foundation in leadership there will be no workers or team to create a successful organization. Emotional intelligence, leadership style, and the five-part process will help create leaders at their peak.

When you begin to question leadership and how one becomes a leader, you ask this question, “Why should anyone be led by you?” This question then sparks a deep reflection upon oneself, revealing their strengths, weaknesses, differences, similarities, and more. When leaders are asked this question, they are silent; it is because of fear. You have to have followers who are committed to what you are trying to achieve with them. Goffee and Jones in their excerpt, Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?,  found in their discoveries that effective leaders share four qualities: reveal and show their weaknesses to their followers or team, rely heavily on intuition to gauge the appropriate timing and their actions (becoming a sensor), manage their followers or team with tough empathy, and reveal or show their differences to others.

Revealing your weaknesses to others means showing everyone you are not perfect because perfect means you do not need help, and without others help, you will not go as far as you want. Trust is formed within this process of revealing your true self, which goes back to On Becoming A Leader by Warren Bennis within chapter 3 “Knowing Yourself.” “Exposing a weakness establishes trust and thus helps get folks on board” (Goffee & Jones 81). Trust comes from giving yourself up to vulnerability, that is when people see you can open up and show who you are, what you’re made of, and what your intentions are. Beyond building trust in relationships with your followers or team, communication increases and creates more working relationships. Communicating weaknesses can help build a solid foundation between your followers or team.

When approaching the time of sharing a weakness, leaders must know what to share and what not to share that could cost them something vital to their mission. “The golden rule is never to expose a weakness that will be seen as a fatal flaw” (Goffee & Jones 83). Sharing information and weaknesses that can benefit your team and not cause consequences. This is what I find so fascinating about this excerpt, no one ever thinks about sharing weaknesses or becoming vulnerable, because it seems weak, not strong, or like a bad leadership quality; however, it is just the opposite.

Becoming a sensor with the ability to collect and interpret observations, information, and facts, as well as actively determine what is going on without someone telling you the exact issue. Effective leaders that have this quality know when the time is right to reveal a weakness, share differences, and make a change or make a decision that could risk their overall goal. This is a significant quality under the four qualities effective leaders have, because it shows that leaders rely on their own gut to make decisions in a split second that could change everything. For example, Franz Humer, CEO of Roche, is a remarkable sensor. While he was a tour guide, he got no salary, just tips; with this being said, he began to read and use intuition within the groups he led and began to determine how much he’d make that day. It is remarkable what effective leaders can accomplish with such a characteristic of gauging others expressions, feelings, and opinions on something (Goffee & Jones 86).

However, there is danger with becoming a sensor. “When a person ‘projects,’ his thoughts may interfere with the truth” (Goffee & Jones 87). Sensing something means you are projecting something to happen, and while doing this can lead to your thoughts interfering with what you’re telling people, when sensing, it must be a reality and not what you vision. This is where I began to have interest in this excerpt; it stuck out to me.

Practicing tough empathy—when leaders show they care about their followers and team by being fierce and showing it intensely; giving people not what they want, but what they need to become the best they can (Goffee & Jones 82). When a leader practices tough empathy it means they are trying to help you succeed best but in a fashion where they are pushing you to go harder. Real leaders have this in their brain already, non-effective leaders need training for this which then leads to failure. An example of tough empathy is Alain Levy, CEO of Polygram. Alain practices tough empathy by keeping the distance between himself and his followers, using his voice as a way of communicating ideas back and forth with power, and an intense tone to provide emphasis on what needs to be done. Another great example would be the Marine Corps giving recruits what they need and how to grow into better people as well as better Marines (Goffee & Jones 88).

Although tough empathy can appear too much, cruel, or ruthless, it has to be. It has the benefit of forcing leaders to take risks, and without taking risks, there is more room for failure. Which leads to the next lesson within Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones, the fourth and final lesson: daring to be different.

Daring to be different, in my opinion, is the most beneficial lesson that anyone can have in life which dates back to the authenticity reading by Bill George. According to Goffee and Jones, being different is using your uniqueness and capitalizing on it, as well as separating yourself from others and being in your own lane (Goffee & Jones 82/91). The most effective leaders share their differences and are not afraid to express it to create social distance. Authenticity is huge, being yourself and having your own style are crucial. If you do what everyone else is doing then you’re wasting your time and your followers’ or team’s time as well. Success comes from uniqueness, not following exactly what everyone is doing unless you’re leading a group of mathematicians on one mission. Effective leaders use this to draw themselves out of the attention and then attack when the time is right. They also inspire others through the separateness of others.

Ultimately, the four lessons spoken about by Goffee and Jones in Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? are extraordinary and I believe everyone who aspires to be a leader one day must abide by these four lessons and adopt them. Revealing your weaknesses to others involves courage and creates a foundation of trust and increases communication within the team. Becoming a sensor proves your intuition to be right and gauging your decisions to make sure they are the best one to make. Practicing tough empathy to ensure you’re giving your followers or team what they need, not what they want. Finally, daring to be different, separating yourself from the norm and doing it is that you do to be successful in your own unique way. This reading was remarkable and its overall lesson of how to ask yourself a simple question can dive so deep and reveal what great, effective leaders all have in common.

Lastly, a presentation by Professor Caddie Putnam Rankin on moral courage and what it means to be morally courageous, as well as how to define moral courage and to explain why it is in the Washington College motto. My definition of moral courage is one in which someone has a huge decision which could result in some sort of consequence but challenges their morals—taking action with courage that relates to your morals and life styles.

First, I would like to mention her presentation on moral courage and the examples she gave to prove her definition. She explains moral courage as someone doing something that is courageous through morals, taking actions that are believed to be morally right even if it causes you risk, and involves careful thought and risk-taking. With moral courage takes moral risks, which can be seen as ambiguity, exposure, and loss. Professor Caddie Putnam Rankin gave us examples to analyze of moral courage, “A man watched another officer plant evidence on a criminal and morally should expose or make the situation right even if it means others turn against him.” This example shows moral courage because it involves a risk of one officer ultimately telling on another officer for committing a crime and falsely incriminating a man. The risk involved is his colleagues turning against him even though it is morally right to tell the truth.

Second, when getting to the heart of her presentation, she began to mention historical people and events such as Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. This is significant to leadership and moral courage, because of the actions they took and what they went through to do what they did; it took courage and definitely challenged their morals which resulted in morally courageous acts. Harriet Tubman showed moral courage by doing what was right and freeing slaves via the Underground Railroad after escaping slavery herself. This was a risk, because she could have been killed for the actions she took in showing her moral courage. It was morally right and caused risks she was willing to take which showed her moral courage and what she was willing to do. Rosa Parks sat in the front of a segregated bus and was arrested. This took moral courage, because it involved her being arrested, hazed, scrutinized, and even abused. This courageous act took her morals and provided her with actions to take no matter the risk.

Finally, at the end of her presentation Rankin began to talk a little bit about the morally courageous people in present time before she was cut short of time. She mentioned Greta Thunberg, a sixteen-year-old girl who wrote a speech and spoke in front of the United Nations on global warming and climate control. This showed moral courage because it took courage to be criticized, and even challenges her life. Morally she took risks of not being accepted or being put down by people of authority around the world.

Overall, these five key lessons had a vital role in shaping me as the leader I am today; this class has shaped, molded, and formed me into someone I was not when I first came to Washington College and that is a remarkable thing. I have gained and learned how to be authentic, how to figure out and understand myself, why emotional intelligence is important, why people should be led by me, and about moral courage and its impacts. My personal key lesson was Leadership Is Authenticity, Not Style by Bill George, because I relate to this so much and being different than everyone else. That is how I live, I strive to be like no one else, like there is no one like me and I am myself. In conclusion, these were the five key elements that I thought related to an effective leader, how it helps leaders, and what makes a great leader so effective.


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