In this week’s assignment, one of the things my team needed to do was research leaders and select one in which to use as a subject for our studies on content learned thus far. We decided on Mark Zuckerberg, the Creator and CEO of FaceBook. We were required to select a theory or leadership approach to apply to the selected leader. We chose the skills approach developed by M.D. Mumford and colleagues, which focuses on the “Three Components of the Skills Model” (Northouse, 2013, p.48).
The three components are as follows: (Northouse, 2013, p. 48)
- General Cognitive Ability
- Crystalized Cognitive Ability
- Social Judgment Skills
- Effective Problem-Solving
Because each one of our team members was to focus on different aspects of this leadership approach, I decided to focus on competencies of problem-solving and social judgment skills. Problem-solving almost seems to be a given for any study on leadership. Any good leader must have problem-solving skills and know how to use them effectively. But according to leadership scholars, “effective leadership performance also requires social judgement skills” (Northouse, 2013, p. 49). Specifically, some say: “In essence, leaders are able to ascertain the demands, requirements, and affordances in organizational problem scenarios and tailor their responses accordingly” (Zaccaro, Mumford, Connelly, Marks & Gilbert, 2000, p. 170).
Social perceptiveness and behavioral flexibility are two aspects of social judgment skills that I found to be interesting and quite fitting for this particular project on Mark Zuckerberg because his problem-solving requires social perceptiveness and behavioral flexibility in order to respond to and keep in his good graces, the general public.
A leader who exhibits social perceptiveness gives thought to what is important to others and how they react to change (Northouse, 2013). Most times Zuckerberg envisioned and implemented a new user application for FaceBook, it was met with some disapproval by FaceBook members. Newsfeeds in particular were a hot topic when they were added to FaceBook. Many people felt their privacy was being invaded and started a FaceBook rally to have Zuckerberg remedy the issue. Zuckerberg responded by creating a way for FaceBook users to select levels of privacy for their accounts so that only certain people could see their news feeds. He responded. And, so did the users. Ultimately, they were appreciative of his immediate attention to their concerns and the issue was resolved quickly and adequately. This is a great example of social perceptiveness.
Behavioral flexibility is closely related to social perceptiveness. It “is the capacity to change and adapt one’s behavior in light of an understanding of others’ perspectives in the organization” (Northouse, 2013, p. 50). In this case, “the organization” is much the same as FaceBook users, for they are the people he must keep happy and adapt his behaviors for.
Lest we think high profile leaders are the only ones whose skills are applicable and worthy of study, I can offer one good example of a leader I once worked with during my employment as a college admissions representative. The Director of Admissions worked directly with a team of diverse individuals for the purpose of fulfilling the college’s admissions quotas. Her job was to keep the admissions team motivated and on task to meet monthly goals for phone calls, interviews, applications, enrollments, starts and graduations. The team consisted of a newly retired U.S. Marine, two single mothers, and a recent college graduate with a major in business. At times the Director of Admissions needed to meet with us as a team and other times, as individuals. How she conducted team meetings was very different than how she conducted her individual meetings with each of us. As a team she lead us with a very motivational, “there’s no I in team” approach, getting us excited about making our goals as a team for the college. As individuals she needed to speak with us each on a more personal level and adapt and adjust her mannerisms to be effective with us on individual levels. With the U.S. Marine admissions rep, she a used direct and goal-oriented approach. With the two single mothers, she related to their more personal needs, and targeted their desire to earn incomes and keep their jobs for the well-being of their single-income households. I personally always left her office feeling motivated and empowered. For the recent college graduate, she used futuristic language, exciting the new grad about future prospects with the company, provided he performed and continued to impress the “higher ups”.
This Director of Admissions understood her own leadership capacities and executed them effectively, so as to develop and maintain a high-performing admissions team. Not only was she a pleasure to work for, she was a great example for those seeking to fill her shoes down the road!
Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership Theory and Practice (Sixth Edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Zaccaro, S.J., Gilbert, J., Thor, K.K., & Mumford, M.D. (1991). Leadership and social intelligence: Linking social perceptiveness and behavioral flexibility to leader effectiveness. Leadership Quarterly, 2, 317-331).