Leadership Development Characteristics

Several characteristics can influence a leader’s effectiveness: self-regulation, goal orientation, self-efficacy, self-awareness, and implementation intention.

Self-regulation is one of the most essential skills a leader can have. Being able to control behavior, emotions, and cognitive processes allows leaders to adapt their behavior to specific situations and interactions. Self-regulation is similar to willpower, as both act like a muscle, meaning that leader can exercise it to make it stronger. For example, a leader can practice not to be the first one to speak even though it might be their automatic behavior. Learning how to control behavior in insignificant situations will build up the ability to control them when it is critical. Increasing a leader’s willpower and self-regulatory processes will increase a leader’s situational effectiveness as it helps a leader maintain consistency and focus to deal with challenges that arise.

A leader’s goal orientation plays a significant role in their approach to learning, which, in turn, increases leadership effectiveness. Leaders with a learning goal orientation focus on developing their competence through developing new skills. Such an orientation increases a leaders’ efforts and persistence when facing challenges, which, in turn, improves the chance of a successful outcome. Goal-orientation, therefore, indicates the current and future potential of a leader.

Internal beliefs about how well one can complete a task or handle a challenge is referred to as self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is important in leadership development because it forms the attitude towards development, which guides if a leader will participate in developmental opportunities. In other words, if a leader has a self-efficacy view that they are able to communicate effectively in all situations, this leader is unlikely to participate in opportunities to further increase their communication skills.

Self-awareness is related to self-efficacy as it revolves around the understanding of a leader’s own strengths and development areas. Self-awareness essential to leadership effectiveness because leaders need to be aware of how others respond to their communication, behavior, and leadership styles. Understanding other people’s reactions through their self-awareness, leaders can adapt their behavior to the needs of each situation and person.

Implementation intention relates both to goal orientation and self-regulation. One of the challenges of leadership is starting a task or finishing one. Implementation intention strategies can help leaders with this challenge by establishing certain behaviors that lead to goal completion. Whereas goal intention is focused on reaching a specific outcome, implementation intention revolves around performing a particular behavior when encountering a certain situation. For example, a leader’s goal intention might be to stop procrastinating on answering challenging emails, while their implementation intention might be to write a draft immediately after reading a challenging email and rereading and sending the answer an hour later. Implementation orientation guides leaders towards behavioral actions that are easy to understand and act upon. Such an orientation will guide leaders to adapt their behaviors to be more effective and will allow them to fulfill their goals proactively.

When looking at this list of leadership development characteristics, which could you further develop in order to increase your leadership potential and effectiveness?

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.

History of Generations: Millennials

Of all the generations, it is my personal experience that this generation has received the most pushback regarding their work style, work ethics, and its influence. However, this generation is absolutely essential in today’s work environments. They bring a different perspective to work because they care about self-expression and having a purpose.

Millennials are typically born between 1981 and1999.. Their parents are Baby Boomers or Gen Xers. This is the first generation that has never known work without computer, even though not every household had (and has) one. Schools started to invest in computer labs and computer training and it started to become mandatory in the Western World to submit homework that was typed instead of handwritten. This generation was young, or sometimes not even born yet, when the internet connected the world and information became was readily and widely available. One of the characteristics of Millennials is valuing instant gratification, because they are used to having the world at their fingertips. Another is self-expression, due in large part to the widespread use of cell phones and social media.

Because of the internet and globalization, this is the most diverse generation. This is another great benefit they bring to organizations, because they create a diverse work force with people from different ethnical, educational, and socio-economic backgrounds.

This generation was told that they could achieve anything they wanted, so they are creative, optimistic, and focused. They experienced tremendous academic pressures and school shootings, which caused many students to feel unsafe in school. This led many millennials to live by the notion “You Only Live Once” (YOLO), which is also embedded in their professional lives through a focus on purpose and professional development opportunities.

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


 

When the Millennial generation is discussed, most sources agree they share these common traits:

  • live in a world of technology, have never known a world without computers, and get most information from the internet
  • Are rewarded for participation, not achievement, yet are achievement and career oriented
  • Experience enormous academic pressure
  • Want to make a difference in this world and find a career with a purpose

I was thinking about writing this post as I went to the gym for a personal training session.  As I was stretching and lifting weights, I noticed all the millennials in the fitness center!  It occurred to me that instead of relying on what researchers say are important to them, I could do my own small survey. I decided to use the KISS Principle.  In other words, “Keep It Simple Stakenas!”  I focused on one question with three parts, “What are the three most important things to you in your life as a millennial?

When I was done with my workout, I began to walk up to people who looked like they could be millennials.  Of course I made a few errors, and fortunately, they were Gen Xers and received my first question as a compliment.

Those that I interviewed who chose to elaborate all seemed to center on one shared opinion.  They sought a cause greater than themselves and a strong desire for meaningful experiences, such as learning about different cultures, people, and travel.  One stated, “I want to be the best citizen of the world that I can be.”

The first response in the first interview took me by surprise.  When asked what the most important things to her were, she said, “wifi.” The second person I interviewed immediately said, the “phone,” then finished with Family and Friends. Five of the 12 interviewed stated that their career was important and work-life balance.

As I grouped the interview answers in topics of importance, I found a common thread. I learned that 11 of the 12 people I interviewed shared what I have called “The 4 F’s,” Family, Friends, Fitness and/or Faith.

Millennials will always be there if you need a “charge!”  They understand that “wifi and cell phones” carry with them opportunities for friendships, family connections, careers, education, and even access to ways of worship regardless of your faith.

God Bless Our Millennials!

 

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-Catherine Stakenas, MA, is the Senior Director of Organizational Leadership and Development and Performance Management at ASCP. She is certified in the use and interpretation of 28 self-assessment instruments and has designed and taught masters and doctoral level students.  

Stress: When to Use It and When to Reduce It

To be honest, the word “stress” makes me feel stressed. As soon as this little six-letter words pops up in my head, my heart rate increases, my blood pressure increases, and I lose focus. Even the good type of stress, called eustress, does not sound good in my ear. It evokes thoughts of panic, of too much to do and too little time, and of shutting down.  I want to turn off all the lights and hide underneath my bed so that the stress-goblins can’t find me.

There many types of stress, including acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress. Acute stress is short, but it can be frequent. It happens for example when you make a mistake at work or when you are about to give a presentation. Acute stress is not necessarily detrimental to your well-being, but it can become harmful is you experience it a lot. Episodic acute stress is when this type of stress occurs often. It makes people irritable, short-tempered, and aggressive because they live in a constant feeling of running behind, as if they can never catch up with life. Chronic stress is when you experience stress over long periods of time. It has a significant impact on a person’s mental, emotional, and physical health and it can lead to burnout. Burnout is the physical and/or mental collapse caused by prolonged or chronic stress. It can take weeks or even months to fully recover from it, during which a person is typically not able to work. Needless to say, it is critical to avoid burnout at any cost.

Knowing how to recognize and reduce symptoms of stress has become a critical part of today’s professional life. The constant pressure to be reachable can create or increase stress, so what we really need to learn is how to create a balance between work and taking time to rejuvenate so that we are more productive during the hours we need to focus.

People develop coping resources to handle stress throughout their personal and professional lives. When you experience stress, keep track of what work best for you so that you end up with a personal coping resource list. For example, when I am stressed, exercise helps me feel better. I also know that I at times I need to check my email first thing when I wake up to get a sense of any urgent issues, and sometimes I need to delete my work email off my phone in order to cope with my stress levels. Knowing what works for YOU is the key, so trying new things and exploring different options is a great way to keep your stress levels at bay.

Work is never done. However, knowing when and how to take a break to clear and refresh your mind needs to be part of everyone’s long-term professional goal. Life and work is a marathon, so developing coping skills to handle both acute and chronic stress is essential to make sure we all make it across the finish line.

Note: Stay tuned for the upcoming release of our ASCP Leadership Institute course called Stress Analysis and Coping Resources!

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.

History of Generations: Gen X

Generation X stands out from other generations in a few ways. This generation is an integral part of the current work force, but both the previous generation (Baby Boomers) and the next generation (Generation Y) are significantly larger. Because they are sandwiched between these two, Generation X will never be the largest generation at work, but they still have a significant influence.

Generation X is the first generation in which their parents either both worked outside of the home in large numbers or were raised in single-parent households. This had a lot to do with the fact that divorce was becoming more common in the Western world and more women started to work outside the home. These children thus grew up a lot more independent and are known in the United States as “latch-key kids” because they would come home from school to an empty house. They started their school years without computers, but many finished their schooling with computers so they were raised in the transition phase from the information to the digital age.

This generation also grew up during significant events that shaped our world today. Some examples are the Cold War, the Challenger disaster, Chernobyl, the Berlin Wall, the release of Nelson Mandela.

Generation X is known for being very entrepreneurial, partly because of their cynical attitude towards large companies who failed their parents, and partly because of their independence, adaptability, and flexibility. Their desires are focused on the smaller scale; for example, they want to save their neighborhood, not the world. Typically, Generation X marry later in life, sometimes after cohabitating, and are quicker to divorce. They see values as a relative concept but they have a strong belief that people should be open-minded and tolerate everyone.

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


 

Hello everyone.  It’s your baby-boomer, Catherine, again.  I’d like to share with you my experience of what it’s like to be the parent of children from the Gen X generation, and working with a Gen Xer.

As with most of our generations, there are varying dates of when the generation started and when it ended, so let’s make it simple and go with the mid 1960’s as the start of the Gen Xer’s, ending in the early 1980’s.

Parenting Gen Xers 

I’m the proud parent of two Gen Xers. My son Mitch is 45 years old, and my daughter Katie is 42. Just because they are sandwiched between two of the largest generations, don’t underestimate the Gen X generation!  As I researched generations and was writing a course on generations, (“DeCoding American Generations”), it became clear that my children shared in the experiences of this richly gifted generation.

This generation is often referred to as the “latchkey generation.”  My children, Mitch and Katie, were the typical grammar school Gen Xers because I was one of those divorce statistics.  As a single mom, they came home from school every day with their house key in hand.  They learned responsibilities, became very independent, and became street smart.

The Gen Xers were the first to introduce the other generations to the concept of work-life balance. Both Mitch and Katie place a high value on quality of life.  Over the years, both of them have moved from higher paying jobs to lesser paying jobs in order to improve the quality of their family life.

What I’ve learned working with Gen Xers

As a “Boomer,” my greatest learning from the Gen Xers is the importance of work-life balance. In my current position at ASCP, I’ve had the privilege of working with people of this gifted generation.  They not only walk the talk of work life balance; they encourage others to do the same. I’ve listened to their stories and they’re not afraid to change jobs or careers, which is so different from their Baby Boomer parents.  It is often written that they acquired a cynical attitude toward corporate America because of the diminished employee loyalty their parents experienced. However, the Gen Xer took the high road and overcame the fear of changing jobs.  They took what they learned through their childhood and developed courage, the kind of courage that it takes to receive feedback and be the forever continual learner.  I’ll always be grateful to co-workers like Carroll, who would walk by my office at 5:30 at night “tapping her watch.”  She sent the Gen X message that life is about more than just work.

 

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-Catherine Stakenas, MA, is the Senior Director of Organizational Leadership and Development and Performance Management at ASCP. She is certified in the use and interpretation of 28 self-assessment instruments and has designed and taught masters and doctoral level students.  

Leading in a VUCA World

Leading people can be a challenging task regardless of the industry or size of an organization. Adding volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment into the mix and the leadership challenge increases. Today’s organizations are increasingly complex, ambiguous, uncertain, and volatile because change is accelerating and intensifying. How can leaders equip themselves to manage a VUCA workplace? The first step is understanding what each terms means.

Volatile Situations describe circumstances that change constantly and unexpectedly, and a certain level of instability of a task or challenge is present. However, the best leadership approach is to use available information, be proactive, and have multiple plans and strategies in place. An example of a volatile circumstance is a natural disaster. In such a circumstance not only is the natural disaster a volatile situation, but also the constantly changing nature of the aftermath; which emergency agencies are coming and when, where are people stuck, etc. There are a lot of changes occurring in a volatile situation.   Being proactive and prepared in volatile circumstances can be expensive, but that preparation is necessary to handle these situations.

Uncertain Situations are situations known for a lack of information, so on some level they are the opposite of volatile situations. In uncertain circumstances there is no reliable information about cause and effect and it is not known if change will happen, can happen, or have a positive effect if it does happen. The best approach in these circumstances is to find more information, more data, and more analytics. Once leaders have access to more data, they need to make sure the data is analyzed and implemented into new strategies and change processes. An example of an uncertain situation is when a competitor suddenly emerges that takes direct aim at your company by undercutting prices. In this case, it is important to collect as much data and information as possible to respond to the situation appropriately through new strategies.

Complex Situations have several interconnected and interdependent aspects which have a clear relationship. In these situations, there is partial information available but because everything is interlinked, it is a challenge to process the information in a way that reliably predicts the future. The approach is to reduce the number of linkages, or at least to make them clearer, so the complexity of the situation or task is easily understood and managed. An example of a complex situation is when implementing a process change affects all departments in an organization. In such a circumstance, everything is interconnected and it can be hard to predict how this change will impact everyone and to prepare for it. The key here is to make the change as simple as possible and to assess the impact it makes on every aspect of the organization before implementing the change.

Ambiguous Situations are situations which have relationships that are completely unknown and ambiguous; there appears to be no rhyme or reason. The phrase that comes to mind in these situations is “you don’t know what you don’t know.” In such ambiguity, leaders need to learn from mistakes, hypotheses, and test rounds so it is important to experiment in order to gain information. An example of an ambiguous situation is when you are launching a new product or starting a new business. There are a lot of unknowns in these circumstances so making hypotheses and learning from mistakes is essential for leaders’ success.

In order to lead in a VUCA world, leaders need to analyze these four situation types to confirm which one they are currently leading in. Next is to find the right approach in order to lead people, a department, or an organization through the volatile, uncertain, complex, or ambiguous situation. Knowing is half the answer, so the next time you find yourself in a VUCA situation, start by not only analyzing the situation and possible solutions, but also by analyzing your own reaction to each of the four situations. Being able to understand and control your own reaction will increase your leadership skills in all VUCA and non-VUCA worlds.

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.

History of Generations: Baby Boomers

One of most well-known names of generations, besides perhaps Millennials, are the Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomers generation is currently the largest generation. Of all the generations, they cover the largest span of time (those born from 1946 to 1964). In large parts of the world, there was a big surge in births after the Second World War. That war had a significant influence on their values, perceptions, attitude, and approach to work.

One of the major aspects that make Baby Boomers stand out from previous generations is that this was really the first generation in which women started to work outside the home in large numbers, at least in the Western Hemisphere. This has a major influence on the home and work environment. In the United States, the children of Baby Boomers often had a latchkey around their neck so that they could go home after school without their parents being there.

Baby Boomers played a large role in shaping today’s society; they used music as a political tool, they increased focus environmental conservation, they were involved with the civil rights and women’s rights movements, and they are politically informed and outspoken. It is also the first generation in which both divorce and homosexuality became accepted. Overall, this generation is known for optimism, adaptability, having a strong work ethic, and being team-oriented.

Even though technology did not become part of daily life until Generation X, Baby Boomers witnessed enormous technological milestones, such as the first orbit around earth, landing a man on the moon, and the creation of the first nuclear power plant. All these events set the stage for later advances, and Baby Boomers are typically interested in learning how to use technology, although it does not come as natural to them as future generations. They also have tend to work longer and retire later in age, mainly because they link their self-worth to their job. In other words, their work ethic becomes their “worth ethic.” Knowing this when working with them is important, as they appreciate recognition in forms of awards, title changes, and public acknowledgement for their contributions.

Because this generation spans such a long time (and because some Boomers had children later in life due to second and third marriages), Baby Boomers are parents to both Generation X and Generation Y.  There is a lot to learn from this generation, so next time you work with one ask for some of their insights and understanding. This generation makes great mentors, especially because they are likely to have children of mentee age.

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.

 


 

Here is an interesting fact: there are two sub-sets of Baby Boomers. The first ones are the “Save-The-World Revolutionaries” of the ’60s and ’70s. The second set of Boomers are the career climbers, the yuppies, of the ’70s/’80s. The most profound characteristic of a Baby Boomer is their work ethic. They identify with their job, profession, or their career. So much so, that this generation has remained in the workforce beyond the age of 70.

In a lot of ways, I’m the typical Baby Boomer woman. I married the first time just before I was 20 years old. Divorced in my early 30’s and moved forward in my career because that’s what the “Boomer Women” did. They worked inside and outside of the home.

As a laboratory professional that left the bench many decades ago, and now working in the field of Organizational Leadership and Development, I am approaching the age of 70. I’m starting to realize my retirement day is closer than I’d like.    Like others of my generation, this concerns me because I am defined by my career! The thought of not working left me searching for my identity so much that I started seeing a therapist last year. I was, and am fortunate to work for an incredible organization that doesn’t judge one by their age. They look at the skills and competencies one brings to the table. I’m consciously working on succession planning so that my institutional knowledge remains with the organization and its people. It also helps to have two gifted professionals who wanted to learn from me and grow. Then it takes a manager like mine who supports me through this often painful process. I am blessed with that kind of support. Sometimes the work ethic equals “worth ethic” in the body, mind, and spirit of a Baby Boomer, which is something to keep in mind when working with this generation.

 

 

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-Catherine Stakenas, MA, is the Senior Director of Organizational Leadership and Development and Performance Management at ASCP. She is certified in the use and interpretation of 28 self-assessment instruments and has designed and taught masters and doctoral level students.  

Learning Organizations and Systems Thinking

For organizations to grow and sustain themselves, it is essential that they take a learning stance. What is a “learning stance,” you ask? Well, learning organizations: encourage new ways of thinking and doing business, focus on employee learning, and build the organizational capacity. These companies focus on learning about the organizational systems within a business, such as interconnected actions and patterns of behavior. However, only understanding the systems themselves are not enough. Systems thinking requires the creation of a shared vision within and between teams, because teams are the core learning units in organizations. Leaders cannot lead and learn without a deep understanding of these systems and the interconnectedness of them.

Therefore, it’s important to understand the concept of systems, as people are influenced by their environment. Open systems have a continuous outflow and inflow and maintain a steady state (not to be confused with a state of equilibrium) as long as the system is alive. Closed systems only interact with themselves; there is no outside influence and all information is only shared within the system. An example of a closed system in an organization is intranet; this system is only accessible to employees and the information is not shared outside of the intranet system. An example of an open system is an HR department, which is constantly influenced by governmental policies, organizational changes, personal issues, and internal ideas and suggestions. Another example of an open system is the medical laboratory, where samples are moved between multiple people and specialties within a system. A chemistry analyzer that tests cholesterol levels might be a closed system in and of itself, but in order for it to be effective (namely, diagnosing a patient) it needs to be open because a phlebotomist collects the specimen, a laboratory professional inspects the specimen and releases the results to the clinician, who then communicates the results to the patient, who then makes adjustments to their diet (which creates a whole additional open system). It is clear from this example how intricate open systems are and how they are all connected to other aspects and possibly other systems.

In order to create an effective organizational culture, leaders need to see people and events as systems. There are twelve key systems, namely: role description, selection to role, task review, performance planning and review, performance evaluation, salary admin, career assessment, career development, succession planning, discipline, and fair treatment. When implementing a new process, structure, or project it is important to consider the impact on all these systems to check if you need to take them into account. A change in one of these key systems can have a tremendous impact. For example, having the wrong job title can not only be demotivating it can also be detrimental to productivity and outside communication.

It is also important to note that small changes in systems can become catastrophic, especially over a longer period of time. Errors and conflicts that seem inconsequential can indeed be the reason why companies fail. Such critical points often become clear in hindsight, because the impact of these points was overlooked. However, using a systems thinking approach can bring these critical points to the surface before the results are catastrophic. Systems thinking allows organizations to locate these seemingly random events, because it focuses on the underlying structures and actions that create the conditions for certain events. These events have impacts in the long-term and it allows leaders to understand and prepare for them before their negative impact occurs.

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.