DEVICES OF LEADERSHIP
Design to encourage public involvement and understanding of democracy and the rule of law.
Devices of Leadership is a portable tool kit which encourages groups to physically take on positions of leadership. To discover what kind of leaders they are, and train skills associated with other leadership styles. This tool kit is aimed at professional situations and educational programmes related to leadership.
*Client collaboration with
an organisation tasked with educating citizens, on their Democracy. This project was aimed towards Prodemos’ global 18+ programme ‘Political Actief’ whose goal is to train and encourage citizens to be active in their government.
Although democracy is about leading for the people by the people, we still have specific leaders in government. The idea of leadership and what makes a good leader became a key research question in reaction to the brief and the current climate of worldwide political leadership.
There are many assumptions about leadership. Such as leaders being born leaders, male, authoritarian figures or educated at Oxford. Are those assumed stereotypes still relevant today?
First I always try to gain an understanding of my topic through reading books and articles. Then I go out and talk to people or get 'evidence' of my assumptions. Making sure to analyse my results as I go to help re-position my research questions.
Quiet, by Susan Cain, was an important book in my research. Susan highlights the stereotypical view that leaders should be extroverts. When in fact historically most recent, successful or positively impactful leaders, have been introverts.
Asking the questions What should a leader look like? and What makes a leader?
I distributed these forms to different age groups and cultural backgrounds. Over 50 terms were mentioned as leadership qualities.
There are many qualities connected to leadership and there are also multiple forms or styles of leadership.
How do people become leaders?
How do people find out what kind of leaders they are?
Sample of research forms.
people didn’t refer to
themselves as leaders
They asked others opinions or looked up what leadership means. But, they always drew their leader with the same gender orientation.
Try to empower people with more knowledge of what leadership can be.
Officially, the only
requirement for leadership is that you are over 18
and eligible to vote in the country. (For the Netherlands)
Show that everyone can be a leader!
The analysis also includes further research into the topics highlighted and the formulation of clear goals. To set up a direction for the ideation phase.
Authoritarian is the most recognised leadership style
but there are at least 4 different identifiable styles.
Authoritarian, Transformational, Delegate and Democratic each being valuable in different scenarios.
These styles can be linked to the 4 human temperaments. Choleric, Melancholic, Phlegmatic and Sanguine. Because the way in which you lead is a direct reflection of your personality or temperament. The goal is to be in balance with the four temperaments. Similarly to be able to lead with a balance between the different styles is very valuable.
Educate on the diversity of leadership.
Existing leadership tests can be accurate but
the information given
is flat and wordy.
Another downfall of these tests, like the Myers-Briggs type indicator, is that they leave a lot of room for wishful rather than true to life answers. With multiple-choice questionnaires which ask you to imagine your reactions to actions or life scenarios, in order to connect you to a category.
Find a way to present information about peoples personal leadership in a way relevant to workplace action.
As I moved into the products ideation phase I compiled my 4 goals in reaction to the research analysis into a new question to help steer my process.
How can I improve current practice for testing or revealing leadership styles? Alongside highlighting the diversity of leadership in order to celebrate the idea that everyone can be a leader?
Taking this idea of a leadership test I wanted to make it a more tangible and useful action. Using physical objects to symbolise leadership styles and to help bridge the gap between words, thoughts and actions. e.g. A lightbulb for the Delegate who initiates the ideas.
I dove into gathering objects, creating models and workshops to test different tools and systems for bringing out your own leadership. Using colours to symbolise the different human temperaments. e.g. Yellow for Sanguine, the happy and social personality.
The product took on many different forms as a reflection of developing a system that can work for both introverted and extroverted participants. From board games, objects, costumes to physical positions, many methods were explored. The final outcome became drastically different from the first ideations as a result of all these test sessions.
In the 1st test, I explore having
a simple conversation while using different objects and colours to symbolise and embody characteristics of leadership, to help users find out what is comfortable for them.
At the end of each workshop, feedback was given to help develop and tweak the product further.
Objects became too symbolic and sometimes vague.
People just held the objects and hid behind them. They rarely did the associated actions because they felt silly.
It was hard to read all the different rules and have a conversation.
Holding a hammer doesn't help to ‘hammer’ in your own opinion.
First test with the leadership objects.
In reaction to the feedback, this prototype moves away from objects
and instead focuses on giving simple instructions, such as sit or stand.
I also added individual goals to the
conversation, like listen, ask and decide.
Physical actions were helpful for embodying leadership styles, like standing above everyone else or turning away from the group.
The table is still something people can hide behind.
People struggled to come up with topics for discussion as they were all from different backgrounds and interests, finding common ground was tricky.
Gamifying the exercise helped to tackle the often serious subject of leadership. People felt more at ease doing roleplay then being told "use this object to lead with".
Test 2 with a mix of new and old testers. Previous participants had difficulty remembering the written instructions so I created
an animated introduction video for a visual explanation.
Here I took the positions a step further by creating a floor map making the exercise more immersive and physical. I also selected the questions for discussion beforehand rather than leaving it up to the users.
This group worked as tour guides for Prodemos. But, since they did not know each other well, It became awkward for some of the more introverted members to open up and roleplay.
It became clear that, since I was using testers who knew about the project, process and client, we started to go around in circles.
I formed a new test group comprised of an existing workplace team so that the testers better fit the scenario of this product in use.
The new introduction video and physical positioning of the leadership styles were instantly understandable.
Familiarity with the topic of conversation made discussion flow easier and allowed people to embody the styles more freely.
While the exercise was immersive they still wanted a physical result to the leave the test with as a reminder.*
* To solve this issue I added a moment of reflection at the end of a conversation round, scoring users performance in each role from 1 to 10. I also removed any mention of the leadership styles (since the names such as authoritarian/democratic come with existing negative or positive assumptions) and simply referred to the positions by their shape and colour to avoid wishful scoring.
Fresh testers, this group knew each other well as they were an existing project team. I adjusted the topic of conversation to relevant themes for their current project rather than political or leadership questions like I had used with the Prodemos team.
After the last testing session, the floor map took on some final cosmetic changes to give a more professional appearance.
For ease of portability, I made the positions into stepping stones rather than large floor pieces. Still keeping the essence of the shapes but breaking them up into
a loose puzzle. As for the colours, which made the exercise feel childish, I simply reduced the use of colour and moved it on to the users by making simple badges.
Making the toolkit portable for use within companies or schools was important, so I created a neat suitcase to pack everything inside. Users set up the exercise by unboxing the pieces and arranging them on the floor.
Phases of cosmetic changes.
Using personal experience.
Being in leadership positions, being introverted and using the style of learning by doing helped me to give this project more value than a standard leadership test. It won't be possible to personally relate
to every project but to have some empathy around the subject by informing myself
or gaining experience is a very useful step.
Being selective when using
I tried to please everyone and implement every comment which led to me not making
the original project deadline because I was spending too much time on tiny details. So for my next project, I will trust myself more and make quicker decisions.
Letting people fail.
I wanted every conversation to go smoothly and people to develop their leadership right away! But through testing,
I realised that the goal of the exercise was not so much to have a perfect role play since the exercise only worked ‘smoothly’ when people were
in roles which suited them.
This exercise should be used repeatedly to help people
develop their leadership.
Part of the Introduction video, shown to users when they first do the exercise.
Goal 1 & 3:
This exercise is empowering people with knowledge of what leadership can be like.
Everyone can relate to one of these positions of leadership since they are based upon basic personality types showing that everyone can be a leader!
While I have found a way to make leadership testing more fitting to workplace action, by incorporating work teams and using work-relevant topics, I still finish the exercise with
a wordy explanation of what the style means to summarise what they have learnt in the exercise.
With the set comes a research book, explaining details about the exercise and different leadership styles. Users also receive a leadership badge at the end of the exercise, explaining how they can use their leadership and suggesting other styles they can practice to help them become stronger leaders.