“Progress is the activity of today and the assurance of tomorrow.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

A sullen and downtrodden David entered Powers 136 last Wednesday.  For a multitude of reasons, I had to choke down my attitude in order to enjoy class.  We were going over Kousez and Posner’s  Leadership Practices Inventory, something with which I was already somewhat familiar, because of MASC MAHS Leadership Camp.  The entire class period, our professor held the results over our heads, waiting until the last minutes to distribute them.  Already in a state of self-doubt, I couldn’t help but wonder about how my results would turn out.  I knew I picked 11 people who would be honest in their answering, including past supervisors, teachers, mentors, and a handful of my peers.  I feared what the packet would tell me about my leadership abilities.

Kousez and Posner’s Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) is a tool designed for anyone who wants to receive feedback about their leadership capabilities. The two named scholars based this tool off of extensive research and observation of exemplary leaders in the professional world.  First, you evaluate yourself; the evaluation consists of thirty questions related to behaviors of effective leaders.  You rate yourself anywhere from 1-5, 1 being weak, and 5 being awesome, for each behavior.  Afterwards, you send the same evaluation to several outside observers; these should be people you have directly worked with for some sufficient period of time.  It is also suggested that you stray from having family members evaluate you, because their responses can come out as biased (I ended up asking my old and current work supervisors, a couple of my high school teachers, my cross country coach, two of my camp counselors from a high school leadership camp I attended, and a handful of my L.A.S peers).  The thirty behaviors correlate with five practices:

  1. Model the Way
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision
  3. Challenge the Process
  4. Enable Others to Act
  5. Encourage the Heart

Eventually, the T.A of our class came around and handed me my report.  Initially, I felt humbled.  I kept flipping through the pages, in a sort of disbelief.  In comparison, I scored myself significantly lower than my observers did in four out of the five categories (the fifth, “Challenge The Process,” I still scored myself lower than my observers, but by an insignificant decimal-value that makes it about equal, in comparison). Looking at my 360 results, I couldn’t help but think about:

a.) how incredibly low my self-esteem is/was when taking my initial evaluation.

b.) how grateful I am to have people who admire me in ways that I admire them.


I sat in a state of appreciative disbelief as I looked over my results.  By this point in my life, you’d think I have wrapped my head around the fact that I do show leadership potential.  Counting the positions I’ve held, accomplishments I’ve made, and the fact that I am a recipient of CMU’s Leadership Advancement Scholarship program should have been proof enough that I am capable of effectively leading; however, it’s only actually begun to strike me over the past two weeks.  To be honest, I’ve never considered myself a leader. I have role models in my life who I consider leaders, and I could never hold myself in comparison to them.  Looking over the results of my LPI, though, I am more inspired than ever to internalize my potential and work towards bettering myself in each practice.

The LPI presents the challenges of accepting this feedback and working towards bettering myself every day.  I consider myself pretty receptive; I value criticism from others, as it is the best way to understand how others perceive your leadership style. I won’t struggle with accepting what my observers pinned as my weaknesses and strengths.  To better myself, especially in my five least frequent behaviors, I made a calendar for the next month of small tasks I can do to get in the habit of these practices.

I am grateful for the LPI, as it is one of the more intensive tools for personal feedback I have ever utilized.  Maybe over time, with applied efforts to better myself, I will finally grade myself with confidence.  The LPI presents a tangible way to recognize that progress is possible. My results are encouragement to become an even more effective leader in the world of engineering.

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