Becoming a Better Leader


Although I have worked on many teams throughout my life, I have never received any formal training/education on how to be a strong team leader, or member for that matter. As an extroverted, organized, and ambitious person, I have naturally fallen into a leadership role multiple times. I have been a project manager many times but have not been a manager of people directly reporting to me yet. One of my personal and professional development goals is to become a stronger leader: one that is persuasive, inclusive and motivating to others.

The following links are resources that I’ve found useful in my leadership journey. Rather than an abbreviated list, I’ve chosen to provide notes for each entry on why I chose the link, and what especially resonated with me.


Websites/Online Articles

  • 6 Steps to Build a Strong Team, Cynthia Johnson, Easy steps for prioritizing team values. I enjoyed her suggestion that you get to know your teammates. The best jobs I’ve ever had were those that I became friends with my team members. We spend so much time together (more than with our actual family) that it’s a shame when people don’t want to take the time to get to know each other at work.
  • Building A Strong Team: The Secrets Of A Successful Leader by Taunya Williams, “As a leader, do you exhibit competence? Are you kind? Do you exemplify work-life balance? The behaviors leaders portray directly affect employee behavior. If a leader doesn’t have a life outside of the office, it suggests their employees shouldn’t either. If a leader is incompetent, insincere or leads by fear, employees will check out immediately. Kindness is a lost art in corporate America.”
  • 6 Ways Successful Teams Are Built To Last by Glenn Llopis, I like the sections on knowing your own management style, and being clear with the goals and responsibilities.
  • Leadership by Persuasion – Four Steps to Success, This article seems like an overview of Resonate by Nancy Duarte (love that book).


  • Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge Part 1. Notes: Find your domain, what you are in charge of, and make it as great as possible. That demonstrates ownership, and will show managers you can handle being in charge. Leading yourself is your first major challenge. Don’t wait for the perfect situation/manager/opportunity. Set your own goals for yourself, and bring a high level of positive energy to work. It’s important to be honest with yourself: why don’t I want to go to that meeting? Why do I feel the way I do? Nothing proves to management your ability to lead more than leading yourself well.
  • Coaching for Leaders Podcast by Dave Stachowiak. Since discovering this resource, I’ve been consuming as many of their podcasts as I have time for. One that was especially applicable was Episode 334: How to Be a Happier Person. They discuss the major problems with the concept of retirement, how to find your “Ikigai” or purpose in life, the concept of embracing a positive demotion as you age and reducing that stigma. The guest suggests that our brains are programmed for three things: 1) look for problem, 2) find problem, 3) solve problem. Rather than making happiness the end goal, make it the starting place.


  • Leadership and Managements Skills for Non-managers & Aspiring Leaders. I took this 3-day course in May of 2017 at DOIU. It’s geared towards training federal employees who are interested in one day becoming a supervisor. One of the most interesting group projects was to build a sculpture out of Lego’s, and then design an instruction sheet for your partner to recreate the shape. It highlighted the value of providing clear instruction. My solution included a contents list with drawings of each Lego’s shape and color, a numbered list of how to assemble, and a completed sketch of the end product with callouts to each Lego on it. There was a very short section devoted to typing your conflict approach. I was evenly spread among all 4 types, so it was inconclusive. One positive suggestion was that if you can address both needs/wants and fears/concerns in an employee, then you can have greater influence on their behavior.
    • The following image is a graphic representation of the notes I made from the Influencing section of the course.

aspects of influence

Personality Tests

Personality tests are a heated topic these days. In fact, I was just listening to NPR’s The Hidden Brain, and there was an episode discussing their merits and downfalls. Unfortunately, some people have been discriminated at work due to the outcome of tests such as these. They have missed out on opportunities because, “that’s just not your personality” reactions to assigning work. I do find value in introspection though, and suggest their use as a personal development tool. For example, the Myers Briggs test (MBTI) is one that describes me very well. The other two popular tests listed below were inconclusive when I took them.

  • The Myers Briggs Personality Type. I know there are a lot of folks out there that don’t buy into this (or personality tests in general), but this one resonates with me. I love the book Please Understand Me II. If you don’t have any familiarity with Myers Briggs, and are just curious, there are a lot of free sites out there to choose from. 16 Personalities, Psych Central, etc. I’m very much an ENFJ. But it’s not always conclusive for others.
  • One that was recently suggested to me was the 4 leadership personalities. There’s a link there to the Insights Discovery website, where you can take a test. Interestingly, it’s also based on Carl Jung’s theory. I didn’t pay for the full test, but the quick freebie says I’m a “Motivator.” I don’t take much stock in the free test though, since I was drawn to all of the 4 choices.
  • DISC personality test. My husband is fond of this approach, as the MBTI didn’t type him. I struggled with this test, as many of the choices were difficult to make. I scored high on Dominance and Influence.


Much of my findings revolved around the power of being positive and mindful. I had expected to learn a plethora of specific approaches to “rally the troops,” but instead there were many more suggestions on not only modeling the kind of behavior that you want your team to display, but also extending empathy, recognition, and trust as a powerful motivational tool. One of the quotes that most resonated with me is the opening quote for the Coaching for Leaders Podcast, “Great leaders are not born, they are made.” Having had quite a bit of leadership and teamwork practice on a wide variety of projects, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and about the power of great teamwork. I’m looking forward to one day becoming a manager/team leader in an organization with direct reports.

Resources Recap

Bolton, R. (1979). People skills: How to assert yourself, listen to others, and resolve conflicts. Simon & Schuster, New York, New York.

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Penguin Random House, New York, New York.

Duarte, N. (2010). Resonate: Present visual stories that transform audiences. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.

Katzenbach, J. R., & Smith, D. K. (1993). The wisdom of teams: Creating the high-performance organization. Boston, Mass. Harvard Business School Press.

Kiewra, K. (2012). Idea Paper #51: Using graphic organizers to improve teaching and learning., Manhattan, KS. Retrieved from:

Keirsey, D. (1998). Please understand me II: Temperament, character, intelligence. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis.

Komisar, R. (2001). The monk and the riddle: The art of creating a life while making a living. Randy Komisar, US.

Lombardo, M. M, & Eichinger, R. W. (2009). FYI: For your improvement : a guide for development and coaching. 5th ed. Minneapolis, MN: Lominger Ltd.

Stachowiak, D. (2018). Coaching for Leaders Podcast: Episode 334: How to be a happier person. Retrieved from:

Stanley, A. (2017) Leadership Podcast: How to lead when you’re not in charge, Part 1. Retrieved from:


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