Is there an instrument to help you be a better leader?

Michigan State University Extension can administer tools to help groups or individuals lead more effectively.

There are several tools that can be used for teambuilding or for individuals to help improve leadership, communication and teaching skills.  Four of these tools – assessments or inventories – are described here.  By helping people understand the varying styles of perceiving, processing, communicating and reacting to information, these inventories may assist in breaking down communication barriers and aid in collaboration to facilitate favorable outcomes.

One tool, The Learning Styles Inventory, can assess the preferred style in which individuals learn. There are seven styles, which include visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social and solitary. The assessment is free and can be used easily with groups or to learn your own preferred learning style.  Research shows us that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. By involving more of the brain during learning, we remember more of what we learn. Researchers using brain-imaging technologies have been able to find out the key areas of the brain responsible for each learning style.

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) was developed as a research tool by Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann in the early 1970s.  The TKI has been used for more than 35 years and is the leading measure of conflict-handling behavior.  The TKI measures preferences for five different styles of handling conflict called “conflict modes:” competing, collaborating,compromising, accommodating and avoiding. The five modes are described along two dimensions—assertiveness, or the extent to which one tries to satisfy his or her own concerns, and cooperativeness, or the extent to which one tries to satisfy the concerns of another person. Understanding conflict modes can also improve organizational productivity by helping people gain insight into their own and others’ behavior, which in turn helps them make better choices about outcomes.

A tool that can work in conjunction with the TKI is the Myers Briggs Type Inventory.  The purpose of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality inventory is to make the theory of psychological types described by C. G. Jung understandable and useful in people’s lives. The essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.

Type can be introduced into an organization to support many different functions and situations including managing others, developing leadership skills, organizing tasks, creating and managing teams, training for management and staff, conflict resolution, motivation, executive coaching, diversity, recognition and rewards, and change management.

A final tool, the Real Colors or True Colors model of personality identification is easy to understand, remember and apply. With the colors of blue, gold, green and orange, they distill the elaborate concepts of personality theory into a user-friendly, practical tool used to foster healthy productive relationships.  These tools help people learn to recognize, accept and value the differences in others while improving understanding, empathy and communication in themselves. These color tools are simple and can even be used with youth audiences.

MSU Extension’s Community Engagement and Leadership Development team and Organizational Development can administer these educational programming tools for community groups upon request.

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