A leader is an individual who has the ability to inspire and stimulate a group with the aim of accomplishing a common goal. Leadership is thus the ability to motivate or inspire confidence and facilitate the achievement of meaningful objectives. Leadership skills dictate how smoothly the group will maneuver to accomplish a task. It is for this reason that numerous books and articles have been written about leaders and leadership skills. This paper seeks to analyze leadership based on my experience in a high school rugby team.
When I was in high school, my love for rugby contributed to my trying out for the school team. Luckily, I had the right combination of talent and skills and was shortlisted for training. Over time, my talent was molded into skills, and I rose through the ranks to become the team captain. Among the duties that I was charged with, there was ensuring that everyone attended training sessions. It was my duty to assist with routine workout especially in the absence of either the coach or assistant. In addition, I had to ensure that the players behaved well in locker room and that all uniforms were collected after matches. This was the first time when I was in charge of someone other than me; soon it turned to be an uphill task.
To start with, I hoped that it would be the best captaincy ever. I began to come to practice fifteen minutes earlier than usual. I would begin working out right off the bat so that whoever came at the usual time would find me panting. I did this with the hope that I would inspire my teammates to follow my example. Being physically fit and talented, I managed to do workouts better and with more ease than everyone in the team did. At times, I would outdo myself trying to demonstrate how possible a routine was, but only the coach acknowledged it. My efforts only caught my teammates’ eyes as trying to impress. I also became annoying to the coach since I was panting more heavily than the rest considering the fact that he had no idea that I was exercising longer than any of them. My initiative only managed to make my relationship with the rest of the team sour and in the end frustrating.
The coach was doing a great job maintaining discipline and performance of each of the players. I envied this, which led me to copying his tactics. The most important behavior that I picked up was being authoritative but friendly at the same time. The friendly part was not a task since most of the members were my classmates and friends. It was easy to control the younger players and those who were not my friends. Asserting my authority on the issues pertaining attendance, behavior, and participation fell well with this group. However, the transition from an equal teammate to a captain did not settle well, especially with those members who were my friends. I had a rough time asserting authority to older teammates and my friends as they were impervious to my word. Conflict would arise whenever I tried to get this group to do something that seemed demeaning, for example, frog jumping when they were in fault. Without the coaches’ intervention, this meant an overall laxity within the team, which left my leadership in question. Frustrations resulting from inability to lead the team made me more and more reluctant in my duties and in the long run; my captaincy was left with holes having nothing to admire. Unsurprisingly, I was demoted as a captain before the end of that year.
To my horror, a younger player was appointed as my replacement. Initially, I expected him to follow the same path as I had but this was not the case. With time, attendance began to improve, and the team became more vibrant. This caught my curiosity since I had not seen any tangible difference in the captaincy. I decided to track down my successor’s activities to learn from him. The first thing I noted was that he had drawn a clear line between the pitch and the rest of the world. Off the pitch, he was humble, friendly type easy to talk to. He would follow up on every player despite his so-called talent and made personal contact with every one. On the pitch, he would use the friendship to earn respect enabling him to assert authority without disparity. Those whom I considered impervious to the authority turned out to be the best followers of orders. During workout, he managed to make the routine more a team thing as opposed to the competition that I had turned it into. In half the time, with fewer efforts, he was able to achieve what I had only dreamed of.
From my experience, I learnt a lot pertaining leaders and leadership skills. As opposed to management, leadership only dwells on the interpersonal relationship between the leader and the group members leaving out the administrative aspect. A good leader should be able to balance his/her authority with participation in order to exert individual performance of group members. Despite the fact that leading pertains giving direction by example instead of giving orders, it is necessary to assert due authority. This is necessary to enable the leader to have control of the group and ultimately achieve the set goals. It is necessary to take part in group activities especially those that are seemingly hard or demeaning to encourage others. As much as the leader aims at demystifying an activity, it is vital that the leader does not over-exert himself to avoid over-shadowing the group. He should slide into the group’s shoe without making members feel inferior to him.
It is common sense that a driver knows at least how a vehicle operates to be able to drive it and maintain its performance. When leading a group, it is important to know all the members personally to be able to understand them. Ultimately, the leader is charged with ensuring accomplishment of a goal with as little conflict as possible. It is, therefore, wise to make time bonding with the members off the group sessions to have a better understanding of their personalities. Asserting authority is more about respect than command. Friendship should hence be seen as an asset in leadership rather than a liability. Being friends with the members of the group earns you respect both within and outside the group.
Group activities must involve everyone within the group. Activities must be done in such a manner that they exalt strengths instead of exposing the weaknesses of the members. The aim of leadership is achievement of goals by incorporating member strengths and not competing. The leader is just the engine of the group implying that he/she needs fuel, wheels, and other parts all with the same vision to move as one and in one direction.
Leadership, however, entails much more than the above. A leader is required to be able to think on his feet to act in desperate and unforeseen circumstances. He should have contingency plans in case the group plans fail. In addition, a leader must be innovative and creative enough to come up with new and more effective ways of accomplishing goals. Conflict is a common feature in all social groups; a leader must therefore be well-equipped with communication and conflict resolution skills. A leader is as strong as his character and leadership skills. Improving leadership skills is crucial for anyone who hopes to successfully accomplish goals as a leader.