In this paper I will look at the core characteristics of being a good role model and effective leader and reflect upon how these compare to my characteristics and traits in the role I perform in my work as a supervisor. I will also discuss how I can develop as a better leader, how I manage my responsibilities in the workplace and my professional development. A good role model isn’t necessarily a leader, from my experience some of the good role models I have seen haven’t made a good leader even though they were very good in their previous role. Even if you are a leader doesn’t mean that you are a good role model and I have seen plenty of those too. A good role model in the workplace has credibility, leads by example, has the respect of their colleagues and is often imitated by them.
If you search for “what makes a good role model?” on the internet you will find hundreds upon hundreds of sites which give you a number of identical characteristics depending on the number (most sites say between 5 and 10.) You will also find that characteristics of being a good role model extend and apply beyond the workplace. It is also important that the good traits, attitudes and behaviours are consistent to become a good role model. I believe that one of the most important characteristic of being a good role model is setting a good example. Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville: Role Models – Defining Positive Role Models, list the following characteristics of a good role model:- A sense of duty to work for the common good
Can work through challenges
Capacity to achieve goals
Possess high standards and Values
Courage and Strength
Admits when they are wrong
Understands the whole situation
Not mentioned in this list directly is being knowledgeable and well-rounded and good communication (although these are mentioned regularly in other lists found). To be a good role model in the workplace for the employees I supervise I need to lead by example. I need to be aware of the characteristic and traits of a good role model and develop the characteristics I don’t possess or need to be developed. To be a good role model for the employees I supervise basically need to lead by example and possess the majority of the characteristics above.
For example I use my excellent communications skills I have developed from almost 9 years in policing to not only communicate with the employees I supervise but actively listen to them. Only recently I was conducting a safety interaction with an employee and after talking about safety issues, he trusted me enough to talk to me about some of his personal issues and sought my advice on matter. I am also very good at working through challenges and use my knowledge and ability to think outside the box to solve issues that arise. This is a daily occurrence in my role as I am in control of an entire rail yard and its operations which are very fluid and ever changing. I am very committed to my role and this is shown by my capacity to assist others that require assistance. Recently we were short staffed and I helped out an employee in shunting operations that allowed us to complete the task and achieve the goals of departing all trains on time.
I use honest self-reflection after my shift to determine whether or not I was a good role model that day and look for ways to improve on my performance. Feedback from staff and even watching them work during my shift using my ideas or practices also show that I am being a good role model. Finally performance reviews with my manager also reflect on whether I am a good role model.
The traits of an effective leader adopt those of a good role model, to be an effective leader you need to be a good role model. Leadership Getting it done (Rex Campbell, 1997) states the two most important traits of an effective leader is motivation and communication skills. It then goes onto describe fourteen other traits that an effective leader is likely to possess, but states that not many leaders will possess all of them well developed but most leaders will have most of them developed. The fourteen traits are: Personality (including interpersonal skills)
Persuasive (communication skills)
Probity (Honest and Trustworthy)
7 Traits of Highly Effective Leaders ( Inc.com, Peter Economy, Aug 23 2013), streamlines the above traits down to the ability to inspire action, optimistic, integrity, supporting and facilitating your team, confidence, communication, and decisive. After studying the traits listed I disagree with the trait of being optimistic and believe being realistic is more important. I also believe that being creative, level headed, being able to manage conflict and a committed worker are also very important traits.
I believe that I possess all the traits mentioned of an effective leader in some capacity with some being more developed than others. I have excellent interpersonal and communication skills that I have developed over nine years of policing that allow me to talk to people. These include active listening, asking questions and giving clear tasks. For example, even though it’s part of their job and I still ask people to perform tasks as it is polite and makes them feel like they are choosing to the task and feel motivated. I am knowledgeable and know where to find the answer if I don’t know it off hand. I am one of only three supervisors in my management team that have had the experience in all roles of the employees that we supervise, this allows me to help when people require assistance or have problems.
I’m often asked to assist and only offer my help and don’t barge in or takeover because they aren’t doing it the way I think. I am not one of those supervisors that sit back when times are tough, instead I am there at the frontline working through the challenge. At the end of every shift I supervise I say thank you the employees I supervise especially if it’s been a challenging shift. To be good and my job role requires me to be decisive, creative, level headed and realistic due to the, I allow my employees to think of solutions and give them feedback and other ideas. I tend not to tell them what to do and micro-manage instead I choose to step in when they are stuck or there is some conflict of dynamic and ever changing work situation. Logistical problems will often arise and need to be solved expeditiously ideas.
I have good conflict management skills and have settled a number of disputes that have occurred between employees. A short while ago I had two employees who were arguing outside my office quit loudly and before I had an opportunity to see what was happening one of the employees came rushing into the office very flustered and upset stating that he needed to go home. I spoke to both employees separately and together to resolve the issue and the upset employee confided in me that he had some other personal issues that may have affected his reaction. There was still grounds for his complaint so the other employee was dealt with. I gave the upset employee ten minutes to calm down and gather himself and after that time he thanked me and stated that he was ready to resume work. I believe that this outcome was possible because I of my conflict management skills which included my integrity, my communication skills and the employees feeling comfortable enough to confide in me.
As I have mentioned before I am believe I have the traits and that I am an effective leader however I am not perfect and there is always room for improvement. Knowing what makes and effective leader is the first step to developing the skills. As I have read in some of the articles some of the traits come naturally, some are easily developed and some will require hard work to develop. If possible I think it’s important to have a good leadership role model as I do. This would help you set the standard and with some personal reflection or feedback from others allow you to identify the traits that require development. In my organisation supervisors and managers are given leadership workshops to provide this “training” and help triggers self-reflection and development of the traits of an effective leader. During this workshop I demonstrated my traits as a leader and was able to develop those which require improvement.
My organisations plans and goals are reflected in the mission, vision and values with safety being the main core value. By working safely, ensuring other employees work safely and ensuring the mission, vision and values are followed or worked towards would ensure that my work goals and plan reflect this. I have a yearly Personal Performance Review (PPR) with periodic meetings through the year, that ensures my work goals and plan reflects that of my organisations. There is weekly management meetings that I attend (shifts permitting) where we are updated with any changes or updates the organisations plans or goals. Most recently my company is trying to reduce operating costs and we have been asked to be wary of costs and find ways to reduce cost. This is supplemented by regular emails and correspondence from colleagues about our organisations goals and plans.
To ensure I meet my Job responsibilities I need to know and understand what my job responsibilities are. As a supervisor at Aurizon I have responsibilities that are common to all supervisors, managers and sometimes all employees, as well as a number of responsibilities that are unique to my job role. At the time of applying for my position I was supplied Position Description which identified the key responsibilities of my role and this was followed up by a meeting with my manager upon being successful. There is also a handbook created by previous supervisors that lists the daily responsibilities of my role (although this is mainly used for use by those acting in the role.) I have a diary that I record my daily actions that I not only use as evidence for my PPR, but also to ensure I have met some of my daily/monthly responsibilities. I also create daily lists to ensure that not only my regular daily responsibilities are carried out but also any additional requirements that arise are met.
As previously mentioned I have a PPR to measure my personal performance on an annual basis with periodic meetings to assess my progress. To assist with evidencing this and maintaining this I have a diary that I record targets and responsibilities I perform. I also keep any emails of praise from my manager, other colleagues in my organisation, and external parties. Regular conversations and feedback from my colleagues and mangers also provide measure of my performance. I maintain my performance by ensuring I meet my monthly targets or key performance indicators and analysing it on a regular basis to ensure it’s at the appropriate level or higher. If I believe that my performance is not to standard or if I was informed that it was to the expected standard I would look at ways to improve my performance. In my organisation and for my role my in particular my work revolves around timetables for trains and is very time based. In my office we have a whiteboard with the timetable for my shift and the next train after which becomes one of our main priorities for the shift.
To organise and prioritise my work I write a list at the start for the shift which would include my daily responsibilities such as meetings and checks. I then add tasks specific to that day that regularly occur or have been prearranged for the day, new tasks are added to the list as they come up. All the tasks will have a specific time frame of completion whether it is to be completed by the end of my shift, during my shift or in some cases over a period of days, weeks or months. To help me organise my work I use technology to help organise and manage my work. I mainly use my outlook calendar with reminders of regular daily tasks and use it to set reminders for future tasks that extend beyond my shift. We also receive daily emails from colleagues regarding our priorities or tasks for the day. Due to the nature of my work and my sometimes limited time in front of my computer I prefer to not use technology, as it changes regularly and isn’t necessarily the most efficient way to manage my work.
I am able to maintain my work/life balance quite easily due to my role and the number of people in my team. I am one of five supervisors that perform my role and we work a 24hr roster, so there is always one of us (or in some case an acting supervisor.) This means that I almost never take work home and when I leave, I leave my work at the gate and most of time work my set roster. This allows for a regular amount of “life “time which is important with a young family. I have a good relationship with my manager and I am pretty lucky that he is very pro-family and out of work activities. I also have a number of activities outside of work and more importantly away from work people which include volunteer fire and rescue, regular exercise and socialising with friends. During work time I also look to have a least half an hour away from my desk/work duties for my lunch break to take time out. I have number of skills and knowledge that I am required to remain competent in to maintain both legal and organisational qualifications and knowledge.
To ensure that these standards of competency I have regular refreshers and assessments dependent on the qualification or competency required. The majority of these are monitored by the training department in my organisation and other employees. I also have a computer based program with my training profile and due dates, these are mainly revolved around computer based training. A number of my competencies or qualifications are skill based and requires periodic assessment, so I regularly make time to practice and use these skills in the workplace as I don’t regularly use them as part of my role. In addition to my requalifications and refreshers, I ensure my knowledge is maintained I regularly re-read rule books and workbooks from course. My PPR process allows my manager and me to identify developmental needs and so far I have completed and Excel course, leadership course and drug and alcohol sampling course, with a number of other development opportunities already identified.
I even suggested this course which I saw as beneficial to my development. Once again self-reflection and identifying gaps, weaknesses and room for improvement help me identify my developmental needs. When looking at my developmental needs I also need to take into account my personal learning style. There are numerous theories and models on learning styles, some of which pigeon hole your learning style while other identify you tendency towards that style. According to work adapted from Barbe, Swassing and Milone; Learning styles consist of three types, Visual (seeing and reading), Auditory (hearing and speaking), and Kinaesthetic (touching and doing.) After reading the traits for each style I would most likely identify myself as having a visual learning style followed by an Auditory.
Honey and Mumford (based on work by Kolb) identified four learning styles as Activist, Reflector, Theorist, and Pragmatists. Activists tend to enjoy team/group activities and learning; Reflectors tend to enjoy self-paced learning, scenarios, observations and meetings; Theorists tend to enjoy reading, experiment based activities, classroom and laboratory/workshop training, conferences and discussion; Pragmatists tend to enjoy on job training, coaching and work based projects. After conducting the test based on this model I show low preference to having an Activist learning style and moderate preference to the reflector, theorist and pragmatist learning styles. I also conducted another test on the internet based on the Gardner model which is an expansion on the three types of learning styles of visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic. Gardner’s model expands the different styles to seven, consisting of visual, social, physical, aural, verbal, solitary, and logical.
After taking this test I showed that I rarely use/prefer visual and physical learning styles, and have a moderate preference towards all the other learning styles. Based on the various results and self-reflection of my personal learning style it is quite clear that I have a moderate preference towards a number of learning styles. My personal learning style is that I like to read and take notes on the theory of the knowledge/skill to be learnt, question the material and ask what-if questions (especially if its knowledge of rules,) followed by on job mentoring. My past two main qualifications/skill that I have gained in train operations was following this process. I know from previous courses and employments that I don’t like role-play scenarios and prefer on job experience.
To ensure that I took advantage of learning opportunities I would if possible adapt/suggest the learning style to suit my own. However I am more than capable of still learning in a different style than my preferred styles and wouldn’t pass up an opportunity for learning. As previous mentioned during this paper my main source of feedback is from my PPR process with my direct line manager. I also receive some feedback from my peers, direct reports and internal and external customers usually via my line manager. My company also has a development program for managers with confidential surveys of your line manager, reports and peers. Any feedback I receive, whether it is good or bad, I will analyse for anyways to improve my performance or competency. This could be to learn new skills, development programs, courses to expand on a current knowledge/skill base or to observe/shadow a colleague.
I have a number of networks both personal and work related that are of assistance to me in my current role. Due to the size of the town I live and work in, I have a number of personal relationships that have assisted in these networks. I am a volunteer firefighter and have a network of other volunteers I encounter both through the brigade and through other agencies. Having a variety of people has not only allowed the sharing of knowledge regarding emergencies, but has also assisted in the foundation of other networks. This has been beneficial to me as I have been able to use my extensive knowledge of emergency situations in my role and increase my work related networks. A network that I use to increase my knowledge on a regular basis is with the mechanical department.
I have a good relationship with the supervisors and direct reports and receive a lot of technical information that is of great benefit to me. In general by having good relationships/networks you can gain knowledge by asking questions and shadow/observe best practice. Maintaining a competitive edge in the work place is a very important in today’s age, if you don’t then you’ll be left behind. An important outlook is to know that you don’t know everything and that you need to keep learning and acquiring knowledge and skills. Currently in my workplace I have a competitive edge over my peers, as I am motivated, have more qualifications and skills than the majority of them, better communication skills, better computer skills, my willingness to learn new things and most importantly that I strive to do my job to the best of my ability.
To ensure that I acquired new skills I would seek learning opportunities both in and out of the work place. I would identify these learning opportunities through my PPR process, feedback and self-reflection. In conclusion to manage my work priorities and professional development I use self-reflection, my personal performance review, and feedback to identify development needs and opportunities. By being aware of the many traits that make a good role model and an effective leader, I can use self-assessment and other forms of feedback to improve and develop my skills. Also by being aware of the traits I can identify a role model of my own to help in becoming a better leader.