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Luke Cheng

BMS 4210H

Connecting the Dots in Leadership Development Theory:


An Action Plan

Made by
Luke Cheng

Reading and learning about leadership this semester has been one of the most
introspectively rewarding parts of my college experience. Reasoning through my own views on
leadership and how they fit into different leadership schemes has tested my logical reasoning in a
way different than any class before it. Even though I intensely enjoyed the experience, I found it
frustrating how disconnected the theories seemed to be. They were just that, theories no plan
on how to develop the traits, skills, or characteristics they spoke of. That is why I will try to
tackle the challenge of sifting through each of these theories to develop an interconnected action
plan. In keeping with the theme of authenticity, I will add my own reflection using the action

Luke Cheng
BMS 4210H
plan I have presented. I promise nothing but my own honest logical sense and a dedication to
find a sense of truth.
What is Leadership?
Before we even begin to talk about this complex topic of leadership, we need to define it.
A simple, overarching definition of leadership begins with "a process of social influence in
which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.
(Chemers) This definition does not provide a moral connotation, or an unnecessary complexity
to it. This definition also matches that of Golemans most positive leadership style, authoritative
(Goleman). The authoritative style, much like the definition of leadership, consists of a come
with me attitude that mobilizes people towards a vision. The beauty of this definition is that it
is presented as an action, not a set of characteristics or an unexplainable it that we seem to
gravitate towards when trying to explain leadership. With the definition of leadership as an
action, the door is open to practicing that action just as we practice a basketball shot or tennis
serve. Learning the theory behind how to execute that action well provides the foundation, while
an action plan allows us to practice the specific parts to master the entire action just like a fluid
Michael Jordan game winning shot.
Combining three theories
When leadership was first studied with scientific protocols, the general consensus was
that leadership consisted of a number of immutable traits that could not be developed (Galton).
Though we have come a long way since then, many still believe that leadership is based on a
number of traits. I would like to combine three specific theories (trait theory, emotional
intelligence, and authenticity) to provide a more synthesized way of looking at the research that

Luke Cheng
BMS 4210H
has been done on leadership. Though it is a combination of 3 theories (and I claim no ownership
of any of them), I will call this the actionable leadership theory for simplicity sake.
The crux of the actionable leadership theory rests upon authenticity in all actions
throughout the leadership process. In this way, the hopeful leader will develop skills specified
by the emotional intelligence theory of Dan Goleman which results in the development of
leadership traits that correlate with success as a leader. The foundation to leadership in this
theory is learning and exhibiting authenticity, while the specific skills developed through
authentic action are that of emotional intelligence. On top of the leadership pyramid lays traits,
originally tied to EI, but certainly ones that have been tied to leadership before. Authenticity and
its pieces serve to create not only the traits and characteristics of leadership, but help develop the
most integral parts of emotional intelligence or EI. Emotional intelligence brings awareness by
delving into the details of what authentic leadership provides. It can also serve to help leaders in
specific situations. By combining these prominent theories (Authenticity and EI), leadership is
simplified into cohesive actions founded upon principles rather than separate traits.
Defining authentic leadership:
Authentic leadership is acting with vulnerable honesty in your actions towards the
common goal. It means directing your own leadership style from an understood self-identity.
Because of their own self-knowledge, those with authentic leadership are able to keep consistent
with their own values while changing leadership behaviors to meet the context at hand. The
main actions of authentic leadership are getting to know self, getting (and relating) to know
others, and connecting to the organizational (or situation) context.

Luke Cheng
BMS 4210H
Authentic leadership, even those who use it, can be misunderstood. Basic authenticity has
two parts. First of all, authentic leaders must ensure his words and vision are consistent with his
own action. For example, if a cultural change needs to occur within the organization, the leader
must be the first to follow his or her plan. If this does not occur, followers will never be
convinced of any authenticity. Indeed, its not an exaggeration to say that a great leader is
obsessive about embodying his beliefs.
Second, authentic leaders must find common ground with those around him. This
requires showing different parts of a leaders authentic self. A leader must read the context of
the situation quickly or even put in much work beforehand to know which parts of his authentic
self to channel. However, putting on an act will only further distance a leader from followers.
If a leader is playing a role that isnt a true expression of his authentic self, followers will
sooner or later feel like theyve been tricked.
Two of the biggest mistakes to being authentic are not realizing that authentic leadership
is relational as well as contextual (Goffee and Jones). No leader can look into a mirror and say,
I am authentic. A person cannot be authentic on his or her own. There must be another for
them to be an authentic leader. This idea links to the Be Yourself article by Rob Goffee and
Gareth Jones. Also, a leader must read the situation using parts of emotional intelligence (EI),
which will be talked about later, to adapt which parts of their authentic self they wish to show.
This may seem paradoxical but remember; at the core of leadership is leading towards a common
goal. As long as it is realized that the leader must remain to his true self and not act out of self,
they can show parts of their authentic self without violating the principle.

Luke Cheng
BMS 4210H
Developing your authentic self:
As leadership is reliant upon
awareness of self, awareness of others, and
the common goal, these three sections filled
with actionable items to developing your
authentic leadership naturally match up with
both EI and the definition of Leadership.
These three fundamentals provide an easy
roadmap to leadership exhibited to the right.
These actionable items below are from an HBR article (Goffee and Jones)

Get to know yourself and your origins better by:


Exploring your autobiography. Familiarize yourself with your identity anchorsthe
people, places, and events that shaped you. Share these discoveries with others who have had
similar experiences.
Returning to your roots. Take a holiday with old friends. Spend time away from the normal
trappings of the office.
Avoiding comfort zones. Step out of your routines, seek new adventures, and take some
risks.
Getting honest feedback. Ask for 360-degree feedback from close colleagues, friends,
family, and so on.

Get to know others better by:


Building a rich picture of your environment. Dont view others as one-dimensional; find
out about peoples backgrounds, biographies, families, and obsessions.
Removing barriers between yourself and others. Selectively show a weakness or
vulnerability that reveals your approachability to your direct reports, assistants, secretaries,
and so on.
Empathizing passionately with your people. Care deeply about the work your people do.
Letting others know whats unique (and authentic) about them. Give people feedback
that acknowledges and validates their origins.

Luke Cheng
BMS 4210H

Connect to the organizational context better by:


Getting the distance right. Be wary of creating the wrong first impressions. Use both your
sense of self and your understanding of your origins to connect with, or to separate yourself
from, others.
Sharpening your social antennae. Seek out foreign assignments and other experiences to
help you detect the subtle social clues that may spell the difference between your success and
failure in attracting followers.
Honoring deeply held values and social mores. You are unlikely to make connections by
riding roughshod over other cultures strongly held beliefs.
Developing your resilience. You will inevitably experience setbacks when you expose
yourself to new contexts and cultures. Prepare yourself by learning about and understanding
your own values.
Getting to know yourself breeds awareness of self in a leadership context. In addition,
actions that allow you to get to know others better breeds awareness of others. By combining
these two with an organizational context, true authentic leadership is exhibited.

What is emotional intelligence?


Emotional intelligence is a leadership theory developed by Daniel Goleman. It is
primarily based on skills related to ones ability to process emotions (both their own and others)
in order to guide behavior (Goleman). The difference between self-awareness as a skill and
authenticity is that authenticity is guided by finding and understanding trigger experiences which
specifically form values. In addition, it is more focused upon finding these common experiences
or values in others to create common ground. As a whole, authenticity is an attitude towards
leadership without artifice while emotional intelligence is a set of skills and traits combined.

Luke Cheng
BMS 4210H

How does it and trait theory relate?


At the top of the pyramid, we can see that trait theory is at the top. Most of the traits
immutable to leadership are seen as traits within emotional intelligence. It is important to note
that these traits arise naturally through authentic leadership. Instead of creating an inauthentic
artifice, traits are created inherently through action and eventually learned skills.
Conclusion
This theory does not seek to reject most theories, but synthesize them together for
heightened insight. In addition, this definition plays into the difference between managers and
leaders; leaders are there to push towards a challenging vision while managers cope with the
complexity involved (what leaders really do). Overall, using authenticity as a foundation and
emotional intelligence as the parts, leadership can be simplified down to its core elements.
Know thyself. This mantra has been repeated throughout history for a reason. Just
like leadership, we know authenticity when we see it. Authenticity has been explored throughout
history just as leadership has. Leadership arises from authenticity because of a common bond.
To reiterate, leadership relies on being able to enlist the aid and support of others in the

Luke Cheng
BMS 4210H
accomplishment of a common task. Breaking this down, fundamentally, the foundation is a
social awareness of self and others to lead towards a common goal. Without these two, no leader
can lead for long. Authenticity is heavily reliant on social awareness of self as well as others
with added organizational context. In this way, leadership and authenticity are inexplicably
linked.

Example Action Plan and Reflection:


Get to know yourself and your origins better
Exploring your autobiography:
-Coming from a family of immigrants from China has had a big influence on my identity. My
parents have stressed taking the safe route due to the Cultural Revolution in China stripping my
parents and extended family of their education and property. This has impacted the way I look at
most decisions and has caused heightened anxiety or indecision in my life.
-Living in China until 5 years of age and coming to America without any English had a big effect
on my social awareness and aptitude. It wasnt until I arrived at college determined to become
more extroverted that I became comfortable communicating and building relationships with my
peers.
-Throwing myself into OSU socially has both its positives and negatives. I was able to develop
my extroverted self at a surface level becoming leaders in many different organizations and
developing many relationships. However, these many interactions have forced me to interact at a
surface level with many people, hindering the formation of close friendships.

Luke Cheng
BMS 4210H
-Growing up for 6 years in a less affluent neighborhood has made me much more aware of how
the lower and lower middle class lives. This has given me an appreciation for what I have as
well as a humble tolerance for those that were not born into the same type of family.
-Others: Studying abroad in China, running track in high school
Returning to your roots:
-Having connected to friends in the past, I am told that they can immediately tell the difference
in my authenticity and self-knowledge. My development is far from over but it is good to know
Avoid comfort zones:
-My comfort zone is filling my time with some type of productive activity whether it is work
or self-improvement. Taking a 6 week trip to South East Asia and potentially working at a
startup in Singapore or New York City before starting my career instead of studying for the
GMAT all summer is getting out of my comfort zone. To me, this is a big risk because it means
not going the safe route but going with what could potentially make me extremely happy.
-Reaching out to my network at OSU and beyond to speak with successful alumni has been nerve
wracking for me. One of my big fears is presenting myself poorly or communicating poorly to
those who I perceive as much more successful so this is me jumping out of my comfort zone.
-Academics has been a huge part of my life so seeking out hobbies (such as hip hop dance or
producing electronic music) or development opportunities in communication in the future will
take me out of my comfort zone.
Get honest feedback:
(Though I have not done a 360 degree assessment, my close BMS friends and I have talk about
our blind spots)

Luke Cheng
BMS 4210H
-One of the biggest pieces of feedback I have gotten from my friends is that I need to be
confident in my ability to decide on my own life decisions. I frequently panic and talk for
hours about a decision, when I dont even have all of the information to make that decision.
-Related to the above is my own self confidence. There are times where my friends notice I feel
up to any challenge, and other times where I have no confidence at all. I need to either find a
balance of the two, aimed more at the extreme confidence.
-One piece of positive feedback is that although I may not articulate myself perfectly all of the
time, I seem at ease when communicating in terms of tone and body language.
My own question: when are you best as a leader?
-When I have a genuine energy and enthusiasm. When I am having passionate experiences in
my life (in work or socially), that passion spreads to all of my other interactions.
-When I am authentic in my contributions to a team and allow myself to lead without guilt, I am
at my best.
Challenge to self: In each of your interactions throughout the week, try to read the context of the
situation. After reading the situation, be vulnerable and authentic in your speech. Take notice of
how people respond to your genuine self and reflect.
Get to know others better:
-I frequently view others as one-dimensional. This has come from my shallow interactions with
people.
Connect to the organizational context better by:
-For me, sharpening my own social antennae is where I need to start first. Though I am very
aware in situations of importance, I become lackadaisical in everyday settings. This will come
from more varied experiences and more opportunities to read context.

Luke Cheng
BMS 4210H
Works Cited
Chemers, Martin M. An Integrative Theory of Leadership. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates, 1997. Print.
Galton, Francis. Hereditary Genius: An Inquiry into Its Laws and Consequences. London: J.
Friedmann, 1978. Print.
Gardner, William L., Bruce J. Avolio, Fred Luthans, Douglas R. May, and Fred Walumbwa.
"Can You See the Real Me? A Self-based Model of Authentic Leader and Follower
Development." The Leadership Quarterly 16.3 (2005): 343-72. Web.
Goffee, Rob, and Gareth Jones. "Managing Authenticity: The Paradox of Great Leadership."
Harvard Business Review (2005): n. pag. Web.
Goleman, Daniel. "Leadership That Gets Results." Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business
Review, 1 Mar. 2000. Web. 05 May 2015.