Reflective Account - Leadership and Motivational Skill Areas


In your paper, determine and discuss the 2 Leadership and Motivational skill areas you are currently best at, and support with examples how they will help you in the future. Then choose 2 skills that you have identified in this course that you would like to improve and work on especially to survive in this economic turmoil that you feel will be essential to your success.

For each of the 4 skill areas you choose, discuss and tie them together into a cohesive paper with an introduction, conclusion and appropriate transitions. Back up your observations, experiences, current articles, thoughts, and /or analysis with some of the theory you learned in the text when appropriate.

End your paper with a page, by discussing your career goals and what leadership skills will you need to develop to go beyond your current skill set and station in life after you graduate….continuing education and learning will be a big part of your life.

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The Roman orator Cicero once said that “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” It is a virtue that can be pretty hard to come by in today’s word, especially among my generation. The recent survey that we covered in lesson 10 showed that the entitlement generation has no room for gratitude in their brave new world. Perhaps the reason is simply that their role models are not the same great leaders who used to inspire youth. One of my favorite stories of an American hero is the example set by Baseball legend Lou Gehrig in the last years of his life. Gehrig personified all that was good about America’s pastime; not only by the indomitable drive and determination on the field that made him a great player, but also by the unassuming virtue that made him a great man.

In 1937, Lou was on the top of the world. He led the league in both batting average and home runs, and was the most popular man in America. But the beginning of the 1938 season had a slow start, and only got worse. He finished the season below .300 for the first time in 13 years, and it was clear that something was very wrong. Gehrig played the first eight games of the 1939 season, but he managed only four hits. On a ball hit to the pitcher, Gehrig had trouble getting to first in time for the throw. When he returned to the dugout, his teammates complimented him on the "good play." Gehrig knew when his fellow Yankees had to congratulate him for stumbling into an average catch it was time to leave. He took himself out of the game. On May 2, 1939, as Yankee captain, he took the lineup card to the umpires, as usual. But his name was not on the roster. The game announcer intoned, "Ladies and gentlemen, Lou Gehrig's consecutive streak of 2,130 games played has ended."

Doctors diagnosed Gehrig with a very rare form of degenerative disease: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is now called Lou Gehrig's disease. There was no chance he would ever play baseball again.Such a revelation would have caused ordinary men to curse their fate and fall into despair. What kind of justice was there in a world that one day made a man wealthy and popular, only to take him away at the height of his success? But what may have brought out the worst in a common man only served to reaffirm the magnanimity of Lou Gehrig. Two weeks after his illness was made public, he delivered before 62,000 fans not a eulogy recounting his great accomplishments, nor a piteous speech about his “bad break,” but a humble thanks to all who made his life worth living. His tears were not those of self-pity at what he had lost, but of gratitude for all he had received. It was one of the most poignant and emotional moments in the history of American sports, and there was not a dry eye in all of Yankee Stadium.

Lou Gehrig was no politician. He was a baseball player. How is it then, that a man with little education and less skill could command such power in his speech? Firstly, he carried a gravitas built over his many years on the greatest team in the greatest sport in the greatest country on earth. His sincerity had been proven through his selfless play and tireless dedication, earning him the nickname “The Iron Horse.” His humility could be seen in the way he constantly deferred to his equally famous teammates (once when historian Fred Lieb asked Gehrig about playing in Babe Ruth's shadow, Gehrig's answer was true to form: "It's a pretty big shadow. It gives me lots of room to spread myself."). When he spoke, everyone knew it was the truth. Secondly, the situation surrounding his farewell address was the stuff of legends. The most beloved man in America says goodbye to his sport, his friends, and his life, and all he can do is give humble thanks for all that contributed to making him “The luckiest man on the face of the earth.” That’s the kind of gratitude that makes a man great. If I can emulate Gehrig in even small ways each day, I know there will always be some hope for me.

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Speaking Out

Since my earliest memories, I have always been quiet and a little shy. I would prefer someone else start a conversation, and do most of the talking in it as well. I may have recognized these things, but I never really thought about them until I took the MBTI personality test during my first year at PSULV.

The personality test taught me a few things. First of all, I had never known that other people felt just as I did after socializing for a while: exhausted. I found this interesting, for while I have progressed in my interactive skills over the years, I still become tired. I used to think maybe I was just anti-social. Now I know why. This was just my nature, which could not really change. This was the missing piece of the puzzle for me, and helped me to understand the opposite side as well. Previously I had thought that the more “sanguine” people just were out for attention and popularity. I understand now that they just like interaction, just as I often crave a little peace and quiet.

I also learned more about my learning style. I had sometimes noticed people’s different ways of studying, but just thought it was the way they had been taught. Now that I can look at things from the perspective of personality, I realize that was what must have worked best for them personally. I can also identify my own favorite style, which happens to be note-taking, and try to tailor this to my own academic endeavors. This way I can improve my grades, do well in school, and start on my path towards a successful career. For a Corporate Communications major, I definitely have some weaknesses of the communications front. Writing is not as much a problem as it used to be, although my handwriting is still terrible and typing skills woefully undeveloped. My Achilles heel is the face to face interaction, especially in important situations. Despite total preparation, hours of research and countless rehearsals, I walk out of every job interview with that awful “blew it again” feeling.

Fortunately, something like this is best overcome through simple practice. My first interview was the worst, but the next wasn’t quite as bad. By my third I almost enjoyed myself. The same goes for public speaking, which I also used to struggle terribly with. Stammering, blushing and a choking sensation in my throat are my main memories of that first Speech class. But now they are just that: memories. Practice is the best way to make up for these deficiencies.

But practice can be hard sometimes, especially when it means embarrassing yourself and enduring public humiliation. Perseverance (with a healthy dose of humility) is the only way to get through and improve. Eventually, you learn not to care so much about your self-image and instead become engaged in what the other person has to say. I have found that by focusing on the “other person,” whether it is an audience or an interviewer, I forget to feel embarrassed and tongue-tied.

The meaning of word demagogue was always a little vague to me growing up; I think I was always confusing it with demigod (not that I knew what that meant either). But when I had to analyze an aspect of public speaking, the role of the demagogue was the first to enter my mind. I found it fascinating that so often these days an effective public speaker is seldom an ethical public speaker, since persuasion is placed before truth.

I may have the meaning of the word, but definitions only go so far. To find the connections between public speaking and great leadership, it can be helpful to look at the actions of great leaders. As a relevant example, look at Mark Anthony’s famous monologue from Julius Caesar. It is a very illustrative selection, as it demonstrates the true nature of demagoguery, which lies not in inflammatory tirades (necessarily) but rather in the emphasis that is placed on ethos as a means of persuasion. Mark Anthony’s words do not appear intended to provoke, but it is not what he says, but rather how it is said. There is no attempt at persuasive argument; no attempt at argument at all, in fact. But by calling attention to Brutus’s shortcomings and Caesars’s greatness, he allows the crowd to seemingly decide for itself, while all along carefully guiding his listeners by the leash of their passions. Even if anyone had stopped to rationalize, there still wouldn’t have been holes in Anthony’s argument, for there was never any argument at all. This is demagoguery at its best; when the passions rule the crowd and reason is left in the dust.

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If you think nobody could possibly be this gullible in reality, prepare to be disappointed. Demagogues have manipulated audiences since Cleon of Athens, and continue to do so today. The greatest demagogue of our time can be none other than Adolf Hitler, who managed to convince an entire nation to follow him to war and ultimate destruction. He began speaking in beer halls, then town halls; growing in popularity until he had reached the heights of power through the support of the people. His rapid rise would only be matched by his fall, as his power was built on passion which passes and is gone. Demagoguery may be an effective means of persuasion, but the cost of ignoring reason comes at a high price that none can afford.

Flouting logic is not something limited to Nazi Germany, however, as demagoguery is encountered everywhere in our own country as well. Presidential elections provide ample opportunities for watching demagogues in action, as the next six months will show. Speakers still find this means of persuasion just as effective as it was six thousand years ago, because human nature has not changed. As listeners, however, it is our duty to not be taken in by false arguments and base appeals to our lower nature, but rather to analyze information and seek always after the truth, or as the Bard would say it: “Always to thine own self be true.”

We have to live with our personalities for the rest of our lives. I think it a good idea to try to understand them as best we can, so that we can use them better. Not only that, but we will understand others as well. Many of the problems in this world are a result on misunderstandings. If we can understand each other better, we can work together better.