What have you learned about leadership?

BEFORE the week at Stanford’s d.school…

I often saw teams being lead by one or two people, and the leaders often didn’t change. Sometimes one person was the leader for multiple projects, taking that role because no one else stepped up to lead. 

I often heard people complain about the “bossy” leaders because they felt they didn’t get a say in the decisions, or their opinion was ignored by the leader. These leaders often told people what to do, sometimes without asking what the person wanted to do. Compromise also wasn’t always the end goal, and sometimes there wasn’t even a balance between whose ideas were chosen. 

I often felt annoyance myself in groups where either no leader emerged and a big group was left wandering and arguing all the time, or one person (who is always the leader) becomes the leader and doesn’t ask for the opinions of others very often. These situations are difficult for me because I want to give other people the chance to lead, but I become frustrated when decisions making takes a long time.

DURING the week at Stanford’s d.school…

We did an STOKE activity where a group of four were in a diamond shape and as we danced to the music, we changed who the leader was. Sometimes the leader changed quickly, and other times they stayed the same for a while, but they always changed eventually. Sometimes it changed because we wanted to push each other past our comfort zones, and sometimes it changed because the leader ran out of ideas and things to do. 

We were also in smaller groups at Stanford for the project we were working on, and at least for my group that meant while one person might be the leader, she always asked the opinions of the other two people and made sure we were heading in the right direction. 

AFTER the week at Stanford’s d.school…

I came back to work in a large group of 10 again and we started having arguments about what we should be doing and weren’t being productive with our very limited time. We finally decided to break off into smaller groups, each with a task, so we could focus on checking off the to-do list for our final pitch rather than fussing over details as a large group where not everyone’s voice is heard and people can become frustrated.

I’m hopeful that in the future, we will work in teams that make it easier for everyone to lead at some point in the process. I’m also hopeful we will learn each other’s skills so well that we will know exactly who to turn to when a new situation or problem comes up and we can take care of it quickly and keep moving forward.


One thought on “What have you learned about leadership?

  1. Emmy,
    Thanks for sharing your reflection about leadership perceptions before, during and after the d.School week. I think that a shift in thinking about leadership as a specific person to thinking about leadership as a momentary decision to act is an important shift. I wonder how the diamond dance activity can continue to help our entire group continue to learn about the necessary shifts and pivots in awareness, sacrifice and cooperation that are essential to team dynamics when working on complex tasks.

    Mr. A

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