The relationship between self-awareness and the development of leadership traits within students.

At school level there are students who openly display “natural” leadership traits. These students are confident, charismatic, willing to follow rules and not afraid to speak out. Whilst “easy to see” traits can assist schools to select good leaders, the early stand out leaders are not the only ones who could excel at a leadership role at student level.

Let me explain. Going all the way back to very early times (around 430 BC ), Hippocrates identified 4 different “types” of people in terms of their observable behaviour. Many different personality theories have been built on this premise and they suggest that our personality wiring is something we are born with – but we are seldom introduced formally to this unseen yet crucial element of who we are whilst still at school.

In our work at EnQPractice we call the 4 types of behavioural styles – the Circles of Empowerment (COE) Interaction Styles.

Here is a brief description of each of our 4 COE styles, you might recognise yours.

Pioneers – Pioneers are most likely to step forward and speak out in a group setting and will reason through situations and challenges by focusing on the facts at hand. Traits that describe Pioneers include assertive, decisive, bold, independent, bottom line focused and outspoken.

Inspirations – Inspirations are also likely to step forward and speak up in a group setting and they will reason through situations and challenges by focusing on the feelings at hand – mostly their own feelings. The traits that describe Inspirations include friendly, energetic, persuasive, optimistic, high spirited and charismatic.

Excellences – Excellences are likely to stand back and observe in a group setting and will reason through situations and challenges by focusing on the facts at hand. Traits that describe excellences include diligent, analytical, logical, quiet, factual and systematic.

Insights –Insights are also likely to stand back and observe in a group setting and will reason through situations and challenges by focusing on the feelings at hand– theirs and those of others. Traits that describe insights include accommodating, obliging, loyal, patient, tactful, caring and diplomatic.

In a school setting the Pioneers and the Inspirations, due to their tendency to step forward quickly and engage are often noticed first as potential leaders. Excellences and Insights can be overlooked at this crucial developmental phase due to their tendency to stand back and observe, whilst taking longer to offer their opinion on things.

In my view, the former styles do not necessarily indicate a more effective leadership style, they merely indicate a more apparent one. Whilst there are undoubtedly great leadership strengths in the two outspoken styles, there are also tremendously valuable leadership strengths in the more thoughtful and analytical styles.

It is very helpful to students to be taught about their personality style and the strengths of these styles. In my experience of working with students, especially those in their high school years, the less outspoken styles often withdraw and lose confidence when struggling to keep up with the pace and overtly enthusiastic level of the more outspoken styles. Whilst in a discussion with a very quiet Excellence student leader during a workshop earlier this year, I said to him, “Being an Excellence can lead to being….” I was going to end my sentence with “overlooked”. He interjected with “lonely”.

When we teach these quieter styles about their wiring and the value of this wiring, they literally grow in front of our eyes. All styles benefit from learning more about who they are at student level- it’s an amazing transformation that starts internally with the recognition of their unique value and shifts quickly to observable behaviour in their environment.

I hope these definitions provide some food for thought about how to identify potential leaders at school level.