The Characters We Play

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Thursday, April 13th, 2023

When it comes to Next Level Leadership, we must be willing to be critical of ourselves and the roles that we play within our organizations and communities.  

What Character Will You Play? 

Our life is episodic in a way. I think most people can describe these episodes as phases, seasons, life stages, etc. What I’ve personally noticed is how my character has changed dramatically depending on the season and context around the season. Compare the character you played in high school and to who you are now. What fostered a change? Was it simply the fact that we got older? Yes, but not just because we got older, but because as we get older, our context changes. I’m not a moody teenager anymore (well, most times), partially because I’ve got a career to grow and bills to pay. I simply don’t have the opportunity to play that character anymore, even if I wanted to. Regardless, what I’m trying to demonstrate is that as leaders our character can, will, and must change depending on our context.  

Let’s put this into a work perspective. Imagine that you’re an agriscience educator in a high school classroom. In front of the students, you are in a position of leadership which surely influences the role that you play in other people's lives and how others perceive your character. Nevertheless, even if you play a role of authority in front of students, there is an implied assumption that you must play the role of a subordinate when speaking with the School District Superintendent. Why did your character have to change in those two situations? Because of your context!  

So, does this mean that we are a leader in some contexts but not all? Yes, but only when we consider postions of authority and the idea of "place". Furthermore, I would argue that we have the capacity to be leaders, regardless of the situation. The reality is that leadership can supersede levels of positions and the common phenomenon of “place”. This goes back to understanding that we are responsible for our actions, because our actions influence others, and effective leaders are aware of the influence they have. Which means that you can lead others without being their "boss" becuase we know that our actions can translate into influence, which will indirectly or directly lead others. 

Going back to the example of a high school agriscience educator. They may not be the Superintendent’s “boss” but that teacher can influence the Superintendent to support purchasing a new greenhouse. Would you agree that the teacher in a way, led the Superintendent by influencing them in a certain direction? And this influence, I would argue, is best achieved by being critical and authentic about yourself, and the character that you can play, depending on the context.  

So, to wrap things up, I want to review a few main points: 

  • You have influence, even without a leadership position 

  • Your influence is strengthened by understanding the context of the character you play 

  • The character we play will change depending on our context 

  • The best character to play is "YOU"

 

Questions for reflection: 

What character(s) do you currently play in the organizations and communities that you are a part of?  

Is that the character you want to play?  

Why may some people be more likely to play the role of a positional leader than others? 

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Thu, 04/13/2023 - 10:30am -- kurtz.416@osu.edu

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