To achieve Step 7, individuals will show that they are aware of their strengths and weaknesses as a leader.
In earlier steps, the focus has been on how to manage groups to achieve tasks – thinking about how tasks are shared out, resources and time managed, and how to manage discussions and disagreements. The focus of the next steps is thinking about leadership more broadly, starting with thinking about their strengths and weaknesses as a leader.
The building blocks of this step are learning:
The most important thing to remember is that there is no perfect leader – there are leaders who are better or worse in different situations. In the Skills Builder Framework, Leadership is defined as supporting, encouraging and developing others to achieve a shared goal.
We think about there being four different elements to being an effective leader:
For a long time, a lot of academic focus on Leadership was about trying to find those character strengths that explained why some people were much better leaders than others. These traits included:
Many of the traits identified appeared to be contradictions. For example, the needs to be decisive and to reach consensus.
The thinking now is much more focused on the situations in which different traits are more or less useful. For example, a leader like Winston Churchill was built for wartime conflict but was less effective during peacetime.
Lots of character strengths have a negative side if they are too extreme. For example, endurance might lead to bloody-mindedness, the desire to complete something at any cost. Or decisiveness might lead to arrogance or an inability to listen.
For this reason, it is not that helpful to think about a list of traits as being the absolute goal in becoming an effective leader.
All of this means that thinking about your strengths and weaknesses is difficult, but there are some important questions that can help to guide you:
It is also useful to ask other people – what do they see as your strengths and weaknesses? Sometimes other people have a much clearer view than you because they are not in your head. You might ask people who you have led, and those who are experienced leaders who can give you a different perspective.
We can use these insights in a few different ways:
The key thing is that everyone, however much or little they have been a leader in the past, has areas of strength and areas of weakness. We can all get better.
One way to improve further as a leader is to practise the skill at each step of the Framework. In education, there can be limited opportunities to take on a leadership role and have an opportunity to practise. When opportunities are limited, the leadership role is often allocated to someone who is already experienced and perceived to have the skills. This tendency makes the learning at this step even more important.
To be able to articulate your own strengths and weaknesses will allow you to provide reasons why you may be best placed to take on a leadership role in a particular situation. This opportunity to practise will enhance your skill even further.
In the workplace, you are likely to work with people from in and outside your own department as well as people in or outside your own organisation. On the occasions when you have to work with people less familiar to yourself it is particularly important that you are able to articulate your own strengths so that you can put yourself forward for a leadership role when the situation would benefit from your particular strengths. For example, if one of your strengths is relationships and working well with people, you may well have an important part to play in a group which is made up of individuals who do not usually work together.
In the wider world, we often work with others to achieve a shared goal which maybe as simple as agreeing a time or place to meet or the booking of a social activity. Even simple decisions can require us to support and encourage others,or to be decisive and confident when a critical or dangerous situation has arisen or even humble and understanding when others are upset and in need of support. Being aware of our strengths and weaknesses as a leader will enable us to take an active part in leading a group when the situation demands our particular strengths.
To best practise this step of Leadership, apply what you have learnt to a real-life situation. Choose one or more of the activities below, remind yourself of the key points and strategies in the step, and have a go!
To teach this step:
This skill is less likely to be regularly built in the classroom setting. However, the big opportunity is that whenever learners do have the chance to take a leadership role – whether in the classroom, co-curricular activities or their wider lives – they are encouraged to reflect on how it went, and what they can learn from it to become better leaders.
This step is best assessed by encouraging learners to complete a self-reflection and action plan, and using this as a way of exploring whether learners can think about their strengths and weaknesses as leaders. This can be extended through conversation or discussion.
This step is relevant to individuals who want to make a significant contribution to the team goal, and take on a leadership role.
To build this step in the work environment, managers could:
There are plenty of opportunities for building this skill in the workplace:
For those already employed, this step is best assessed through reflection.
During the recruitment process, this step could be assessed for by:
We work with a wide range of organisations, who use the Skills Builder approach in lots of different settings – from youth clubs, to STEM organisations, to careers and employability providers.
We have a lot of materials available to support you to use the Skills Builder Universal Framework with the individuals you work with, including:
We also do a lot of work with organisations who join the Skills Builder Partnership to build the Universal Framework into their work and impact measurement systems. You can find out a lot more using the links below.
At home, you can easily support your child to build their essential skills. The good news is that there
are lots of ways that you can have a big impact, including: