LEADERSHIP CASE STUDY & C Student Becomes Successful CSI Detective: A True Story

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/21/15.

My leadership students study Northouse’s 5-elements of leadership.  If you would like to know more click on this article: LEADERSHIP & The 5 Recurring Elements in Leadership (according to Northouse.)

As a result of studying Northouse’s classic model of leadership inputs, my students sometimes remark that by looking at their traits, abilities, skills, behaviors, relationships and influence processes they have discovered their leadership is wonderfully more complex that it seemed at the onset.  One of my previous students got a smile out of me when he noticed this 😉

And so, I thought I would pass it along to you his comment and attach a short story about my childhood friend.  If you are one of my students reading this, there is need to respond in the discussion forum (unless you want to).  This is just my way to help sum up this week’s very good investigation into conceptualizing leadership.

The student said,

“When I skimmed this chapter I actually thought the trait approach was going to be explained differently. It lists certain traits that leaders have, and it describes these traits as innate. I think the idea of a ‘born’ or ‘natural’ leader came from this approach.”

The student was right, trait leadership explains inherited qualities that help us lead.  But as this student was noticing, people who say “she is a natural-born leader,” are really over simplifying the complexity of leadership.

In addition, many times people have traits that others do not recognize as leadership traits, when actually almost all traits can become leadership traits.  Since my students shared with me their traits, I thought I would share a short story about my leadership traits, and the opposite traits of one of my childhood friends.

I was born with a high energy level due to excessive blood sugar cycles. This makes me very productive, but also I have to be careful I don’t deplete these sugars.  Therefore, I have long periods of intense concentration (one is going on right now 🙂 but I also have to be careful to have an energy bar nearby or else I can become fatigued an hour or two before meals or bedtime.

My best friend growing up had a more constant level of blood sugar and thus often operated at a slow, yet dogged, pace to get things done.  He rarely made a deadline.  I was sometimes asked in school to help him get his assignments completed on time. But, it never worked out for he just operated at a slower (and for him natural) pace.  As an adult, I became a professor, where my energy could keep a class interested during three or four hours of lecture.

But he became a CSI investigator working for the federal government.  He is a successful crime investigator, heading a team that slowly analyzes the many pieces of the crime-scene puzzle.  I guess we both discovered jobs that worked well with our “natural-born” leadership traits.

Thanks Northouse for reminding us of this.
 Northouse, P. G. (2012). Introduction to leadership: Concepts and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.