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Leadership Attributes

Leadership is a term that is commonplace in a co-curricular reference and the notions of an‘effective’ leader and a ‘successful’ leader are often used interchangeably. When looking at leadership within a school such as ours, it is important that we establish the elements of both ‘effective’ and ‘successful’ leadership for the benefit of our students, as well identify the types of leaders that they should aspire to be. In a co-curricular context, one may consider the following traits as being crucial to any leadership position:

• Ambition
• Vision
• Experience
• Empathy
• Motivation

With these traits as the inherent foundations of leadership, our students can then enhance their own understanding of what it is to be a leader under the guidance of their coach, manager, and parents.
It is always interesting to see what type of leader our students engage with and whether that leader is task-oriented, such as on the Football field, or team-oriented, such as in the Performing Arts. The building of the relationships with students and participants under their command is a crucial element in the formation of what it is to be an ‘effective’ leader and being ‘team-oriented’ or ‘task-oriented’ should not be mutually exclusive.

In his study of relationships between schoolchildren and the elements underpinning an ‘effective’ leader, psychologist Kurt Lewin found that leaders will inevitably model their behaviour in one of three ways:

1. Autocratic
2. Democratic
3. Laissez Faire

It is interesting to note these styles of leadership in our TGS students and it could be argued that many Sport and Activities leaders display elements from all three leadership styles that cross both task-oriented and team-oriented perspectives.

Autocratic leaders are typically authoritarian in nature and are motivated to find success as quickly and efficiently as possible. They are reluctant to take into account the perspectives of their cohort and will rarely delegate responsibility to other members. From a sports perspective, this style of leadership is effective in a ‘hostile’ environment where decisions are needed quickly and with confidence. The option to take a penalty kick for goal during a Rugby match to secure a draw,
or attack the line to secure a win for example. The autocratic leader needs to determine what outcome is best for the team, in the midst of circumstances like fatigue, field position, opposition defensive structures and the like. The outcome of this decision will rest with the leader; a win, a loss, a draw and the acceptance of the outcome by the team is indicative of the leader’s traits of ambition, vision, and experience.

In contrast to the authoritarian model, democratic leaders focus on shared responsibility and the development of interpersonal relationships within their member group. By providing members with
a ‘shared vision’ democratic leaders ground their style in communal decision-making, promoting unity and a cohesive approach to all problems. This is most evident in our Clubs and Activities whereby decisions such as the type of choreography in musicals, tactics in a Chess fixture, and problem-solving in Adventure Club will all be tabled within the group, discussion will occur, and a decision or variety of decisions will be secured for a common goal. This style of leadership is considered the most effective and the strength of the School’s Performing Arts sphere is in direct correlation with the ‘effective’ and ‘successful’ leadership by the students.

The last model of leadership is based on a delegated or laissez-faire model whereby the leader will allow the members to make independent decisions with no shared goal. This type of leader provides little to no guidance for the group and although useful in the company of highly qualified experts, at a school level, this style will inevitably lead to a loss of confidence and increasingly aggressive behaviour among members as blame is assigned and self-promotion becomes apparent. Of the three models, this is one that is evident in the younger age groups and so it is important that the adult present (coach, manager, teacher) helps guide the leader in terms of interpersonal relationship building and the imparting of knowledge in order to provide the common goal for the group and move from the laissez-faire style to the democratic model.

Coach education in relation to how we form leaders within our co-curricular sphere is at the forefront of our professional development model and it is important to note that many of our co-curricular leaders are also leaders in the School’s academic and pastoral realm. Evidence of the powerful persuasion leaders have on their cohort can be seen in the various Leader Addresses that we host during School Assemblies. From the outline of the School’s Football and Tennis programs, to the synopsis of the School’s Eisteddfod program, our cocurriculum leaders are visible, their intrinsic motivation is constantly evolving, and the School community continues to encourage them in their leadership administration both overtly and covertly. It is this encouragement that our younger students thrive on and one that promotes all members within their respective areas to find elemental ambition and look to be leaders in their own right. They do not need a ‘C’ next to their name on a match-day program or a badge on their blazer to be a leader, but instead they should focus on the intrinsic motivation to contribute towards a shared vision and goal and take ownership of the development of traits attributed to being a leader.

The notions of a ‘successful’ and ‘effective’ leader are grounded in the belief that all members are motivated to perform, all members are exuding confidence, assertiveness, and mutual respect, and all members are united towards a common goal. The success of a leader can only be ascertained through the success of the group in which they govern and the effectiveness of their leadership style needs to be assessed beyond just results, beyond winning and losing, and move more towards assessing how motivated the members are in their personal participation. A Football team can lose all its matches within a season, but the Captain of that side can be an outstanding leader who provided a democratic environment of decision-making and enabled the members to take ownership and responsibility for their actions. This is the type of leader we at Toowoomba Grammar School are trying to develop: an intrinsic motivator who promotes others around himself all the while adhering to the School vision of ‘creating young men of character’. I believe we as a School achieve this across all of our co-curricular domains and I would encourage the wider community to look for these traits in our young men and help foster their development in the quest to reinforce the ideal attributes of an ‘effective’ and ‘successful’ leader.

To our young men, I commend each and every one of you for the displays of leadership evident in the co-curricular environment of this School and encourage you to reflect on my appeal for you to become ‘self-transcendent’. Extend yourself throughout this term by embracing the traits of an effective leader, exude confidence in your decision-making, and be united in our shared vision as a School.

– Wesley Dunne
Director of Sport and Activities