My leadership style is flamboyant.

“My leadership style is flamboyant.  My leadership style is attention-getting.  My leadership style is emotional and gyrating and energizing.  Its also burning out and being destroyed.  Some parts of me have been destroyed by my leadership style.  So wouldn’t it be better to lay that brick wall, one brick at a time, at the pace you can go?   Or is it better to take a bulldozer and hike up a big wall?  Which wall is sturdier?  One brick at a time, or a bulldozer full of brick?  What’s going to stand?  I want something that will stand forever.  You know, there has to be a me in leadership.  There has to be a me.  There also has to be a place where people can incubate and grow.  And I think people like me allow that space.”

–Maxine Waller (aka Mack), interview with Mary Ann Hinsdale, December 1, 1990 (Hinsdale, Lewis, & Waller, 1995)

Maxine is the founder and president of the Ivanhoe Civic League.  We’ll visit with her during our service experience there and hear her account of citizen leadership at work.  As you begin to think about your personal leadership style, reflect on Mack’s thoughts.  One brick at a time, or a bulldozer full?  

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38 Responses to My leadership style is flamboyant.

  1. Dixon Holland says:

    Becoming a leader definitely does not happen overnight. It takes quite some time in order to build up ones reputation, so that people will actually want to follow them and listen to them. Just as a brick wall cannot be built in a matter of minutes, neither can a leader. For just as a brick wall needs to be tenderly built one brick at a time, so too does building up the abilities and characterisitcs that a person must possess and attain to become a leader. No one ever said that becoming an effective leader would be easy, but it definitely can be done.

    • Suzanne Berry says:

      I agree with the original post, that it takes a long time to build leadership skills until they are proficient enough to stand on their own, and I mostly agree with what you said. The only part that I disagree with is that you said that you build up your reputation in order for people to want to follow you. I do not think that you build your leadership skills just to build up your reputation. I think that you build your leadership skills for your own good, and the more people you can pick up on the way to follow you, the better.

      • Ryan Jenvey says:

        I agree with you both in that it takes time in order to learn to become an effective leader. I think you both have good points pertaining to reputation however I see it as sort of in between the two. I think that in order for people to follow a person, they must trust him and his abilities to lead well. Of course, this means that one must be reputable enough to be trusted. One’s friends and family may stand behind him but no stranger is going to want to follow unless he knows the leader has a reputation for being one of value. The system feeds into itself: the more followers one has, the better the reputation and the better the reputation, the more followers tend to follow.

      • Jasmine Porter says:

        I agree with Suzanne, I believe its not about building up your reputation but its about making your reasoning known. In order to have followers it is essential that they know you purpose of what you are doing.

  2. Jake Brown says:

    I like this. I think he’s showing in a personal way how his leadership developed/is developing and how the development of leadership is a process. Makes me think where I am in my process to become a leader. The brick wall is a great example of building a strong foundational leadership to create a more permanent structure. The more solid you look and act as a leader the more people will feel confident in following you.

  3. James Comstock says:

    I think that leadership is built one brick at a time! This example shows that leadership is an arduous labor that once built will stand forever if built forever. Maxine knows what type of leadership she possesses and how to effectively demonstrate it. Obviously Maxine has various experiences throughout her lifetime and her style of leadership was not created overnight.

    • Catherine (Cate) Beach says:

      I completely agree. If you were to just throw a whole bunch of bricks into a pile at one time, the wall would not stand very long, and it would soon crumble. Leadership is the foundation of who you are and how you will approach certain tasks. If you have a strong foundation that is laid brick by brick, the house will stand for centuries. If you build upon your leadership brick by brick, you will in return become a stronger person and will be congruent in your values and leadership techniques. Also, each brick represents a new skill in which you have learned, making you a stronger leader with each brick. The higher the wall, the more skills and traits you will have obtained, making the wall strong and able to withstand the fiercest storms. And as a person, you will be able to overcome and accomplish much more with your stronger wall internally and with your many skills found in each brick.

  4. Rachel E says:

    Personally I think that its takes time to be a leader, you cannot just snap your fingers and call yourself a leader. One can be a leader but as a person continues to lead, they learn new techniques that work better in certain situations. At this point, the leaders will end up adjusting their leadership style. As one continues to lead their “bag of tricks” continues to grow making them an even more effective leader. If a leader is unwilling to change his/her style, then they will never grow. Leadership is a growth process, and growing does not happen overnight.

  5. kelsey edmonds says:

    I agree with the brick wall approach. To become a leader, you learn from experience and your mistakes. If you take your time and build the wall brick by brick, it will stand much sturdier in the end compared to going in all at once. No one is perfect at the start; instead, they need to take small steps at a time to be successful. Like Maxine Waller stated, his leadership style is “burning out and being destroyed”. People must grow and change in order to become the leader they want to be. By being stable, followers will trust and commit themselves more to achieving the final goal.

  6. Courtney H says:

    I think in some cases, the brick wall approach to leadership can be the best. For instance, the RLC is a great environment to build up your leadership abilities and enhance your skills as a leader for when you will need to lead in some aspect of life. But this brick-by-brick approach cannot work in some cases. Sometimes a person is called to be a leader overnight, such as in an emergency situation. That person does not have time to tone their leadership qualities or slowly bring into practice what they have been taught brick by brick. He or she is required to take charge right away and change the circumstances, starting with a bulldozer full.

    • Grace Ellis says:

      I completely agree with Courtney. I, too, think that the RLC is a good example of the “brick-by-brick” approach working to help individuals use the strengths they already have and learn new skills in order to bolster their leadership abilities. I also agree that some emergency situations require people to step up and be leaders and make immediate changes. I like the metaphor of starting with the bulldozer “full”, in these cases.

  7. Thomas Nave says:

    I love this article because it has a great, attention grabbing description of how leadership is defined. I like the elaboration on how leadership is compared to bricks and how it takes a collective effort. Not to mention how it compared the strength of the wall once it (leadership) is built.

  8. TC Cobb says:

    I believe leadership should be built one brick at a time. As time goes on and as you take your time gainig your leadership strength, I believe you would gain more knowledge and skill. I think you would learn from you mistakes better as well. You should never rush anything and always take your time so you can get as much knowledge and experience as you can.

  9. John Jones says:

    Like many of my colleagues I agree that leadership should be established brick by brick. Most people cannot simply become an amazing leader overnight, it takes time. Like the famous saying that Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither should your leadership. How can one become an extraordinary leader with little or no experience? The answer is not easily. Through mistakes and experiences a person can gradually acquire their own personal style of leadership and learn what it takes to truly be a leader along the way.

    • Andrew says:

      Bones I agree with you man, leaders are not born they are products of their surroundings and that is something that happens over a relatively long period of time. In order to perfect your leadership you must make mistakes and learn from them!

  10. Esther Jeong says:

    What caught my attention the most was how as a leader, you make space for other to incubate and grow. It’s such an interesting analogy! As we have read in our strengths finder, it’s important to focus on our strengths; avoid being pessimistic and loitering around our weaknesses; however, because it is our natural societal nature to be negative, a leader becomes a necessity for people to realize or utilize their strengths and actually grow rather than being stagnant or increasingly become less effective.

  11. Abby says:

    Leadership is something that must be developed over time. You want a brick wall to be sturdy; you want to make sure that each brick lays neatly and well stacked with the others. In leadership, you have to make sure that each skill and trait you develop is true to what you believe is right and is something you are comfortable with. To make sure that your leadership style is true to who you are, you have to spend time being in leadership situations. With more leadership experience, you can understand what type of leadership you are truly comfortable. It’s no longer about the hypothetical situations that we’d like to think we’d act on; it’s about how we are actually comfortable in leading.

  12. Cat Hauser says:

    This was an interesting post. I enjoyed it because it made me think. I agree with the brick by brick approach. It reminds me of thinking before speaking. If I think before I speak, I have a better chance of not saying something dumb; if I lay brick by brick of leadership style, I have a better chance of becoming a more effective leader and gaining more experience as I go. The bricks are placed carefully and thoughtfully so that full potential is reached. If a wall is built up at one time, it could be totally wrong and have to be broken down. But if it is placed one by one, the wall has a better chance of being sturdy and it is easier to change one brick than the whole wall.

  13. Macy Kinder says:

    I believe that like a wall, a leader can not be built over night. Becoming a leader requires patience and concentration just like building a brick wall. If a leader tries to rush change then that leader and his or her followers will be disappointed when the change does not turn out the way it was expected or “pictured”. In order for there to be effective change everything must be dealt with one at a time. This way if a “brick” is out of place it is easier to fix than the whole wall. If a whole wall is put up at one time and something is wrong then the whole wall must come down in order to fix it. The brick by brick approach is the smarter approach for being an effective leader.

  14. emmahdouglas says:

    This post really grabs my attention. I completely agree with the one brick at a time approach; it is impossible to become a strong and effective leader overnight. Leadership, like a brick wall, is built piece by piece until a strong base is formed. It takes time for an individual to acquire and develop the skills and characteristics necessary to be a great leader. If the wall is built slowly and carefully, it will be stronger in the long run.

  15. Allyson True says:

    I think leadership should be built one brick at a time. When a mason is building a wall, he takes the time to lay each brick with care so that brick will do its part well in holding up the wall. When someone is developing their leadership style, they should take equal care in forming their skills so that they will be a stronger leader in the long run. Becoming an effective leader does not happen overnight and one should be patient and careful when developing their skills.

  16. Libby Howe says:

    I think (and my Strengths Finder 2.0 results reaffirm these thoughts) a wall I built brick by brick would stand much sturdier than a hodge podge of bricks piled haphazardly albeit by a powerful bulldozer. I am strong in deliberation and discipline. I believe in methodology, deadlines, organization, hard work and that stable foundations take time to establish. My leadership style is much more reserved and strategic than simply launching my strengths and ideas in the general direction of those that could benefit from them and watching them all land.

  17. Lindsay DeMers says:

    I think either approach, the one-brick-at-a-time or the bulldozer approach, could be effective methods of developing good leadership skills; I think it just depends on the type of person you are and the situation you’re in. However, lots of people have argued that one-brick-at-a-time is better, but because bulldozing is self-destructive in the beginning, it requires people to learn from their mistakes, strategize how to overcome obstacles, deal with problems, and build themselves back up again. So by jumping into something and taking risks, we learn how to pick ourselves up and keep trying. Time and time again I’ve been told we learn more from making mistakes, so be bold.
    “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” ~Robert Kennedy

  18. Anna Lehman says:

    I think that Mack says the perfect analogy. Good leadership is built over time, not all at once. We try different styles, visions, tasks, or communication styles, and choose which one best fits our style of leadership. Each piece of our own leadership philosophy is a brick, and together all of the bricks make a wall. A strong wall of leadership that can achieve any task successfully.

  19. Patrick Lawrence says:

    Bones you talked earlier about the fact that leaders are not born they are products of their surroundings. That is definitely a true statement. It is definitely something that happens over a relatively long period of time. Leaders fail many times and they must learn from these mistakes. I had a coach once that said you learn more from a loss than you do a win. This is very true in terms of leading.

  20. Mariana Sa says:

    I believe leadership to be a process, and so it sounds congruent to me to agree that one step at a time makes more sense on building leaders. I also think we all have characteristics that can be further developed and used on a leadership scene, but not all of us are interested or have the will to do so. I believe if we are to train people on becoming leaders – although I have my concerns on that – we should take it slow and make sure each concept is introduced, practiced, reinforced and then move on to something else. Even if not on a training program, like we are, if someone decides to invest on their leadership behavior, or traits, I think it works better to go through this process of discovering who you are as a leader, and this takes quite some time.

  21. Kyle Rushton says:

    I think that leadership should be built with the “one brick at a time” method. As we have learned throughout the semester, leadership requires many different factors in order to be successful. These components take time to develop and to determine which ones are best for the particular leader. I think this semester has allowed me to build these components and lay down the bricks one by one in order to be a successful leader in the future.

  22. Maggie D says:

    Leadership will have a stronger foundation if it is built “brick by brick”. Leadership is definitely a long term process because you learn and grow from mistakes made. I feel that leadership can be learned if the right techniques are practiced to enhance our own personal strengths.

  23. Kristina Gallagher says:

    In order for a leader to be successful, he/she needs to have an understanding of who they are, their strengths and weakness, and what they stand for. This consciousness of self does not come overnight but is essential to leadership.

  24. Zack Snow says:

    I think that it depends on the person and on the situation. Obviously some people will lead to either a flamboyant or more relaxed leadership style depending on their personality. I, personally, would lean toward a more relaxed leadership style, letting my followers be more independent. However, a good leader has to know their audience and be able adapt to the situation to get the most out of their followers.

  25. Victoria Gray says:

    I absolutely love Maxine and meeting her! She is full of life and hope for her town and she has the greatest appreciation for life. My favorite statement in her interview was that in leadership there has to be a me and a place for people to incubate and grow. I think that is so true! Leadership is about relationships and growing as a community and individuals. It should not always be about a task or goal.

  26. Hoo In Won says:

    Leadership is not about accomplishing something fast. I believe change has to take time so that people can get used to it. Many of the bulldozer style changes, such as French Revolution, caused great amount of chaos and disorders. By changing and building one brick by one brick, the change/outcome will be greater and steadier than bulldozer style changes.

    • Miles Rachner says:

      I agree with Whoon that effective change can not be done very quickly. It must have time to grow and take up roots which in turn can grow and have change that will stay. Effective change must also have a firm and strong base which is hard to establish quickly, so that is why time must be giving to something that is important. If you want something done right you better take the time that is needed, because no matter what, if you do it quickly and do it wrong, it takes a far longer time to fix than if you just did it right the first time.

  27. Haley Ward says:

    I absolutely love and agree with what Bones and Andrew said above, about leaders not being born, but products of their surroundings and also the analogy between leaders and Rome, so true! The forming of leaders takes time and effort, this is not something that comes together in a matter of days. Being a leaders is all about knowing who you are and your personality, in order to determine your own personal philosophy of leadership.

  28. Kyla Mauro says:

    I agree with what most people have said, leaders take time to develop. Leaders learn what works and what does not through experience and exposure to different situations. The most important instincts that a leader needs to have, they are not born with. Although I do believe that some skills of a leaders some people are born with, but not all. A leader has to figure themselves out before they can begin to figure out how to handle others.

  29. Crista Watson says:

    Some people are born leaders but I think that in actuality they are born with the motivation to reach for something big and that in turn is what makes them such a great leader. They have charisma, energy, motivation and passion. Leaders take time to develop because everyone learns from their mistakes and learn from their experiences.

    • Taylor McClain says:

      I think this is true. Not everyone seems to possess the motivation to make changes and be a good leader. People can learn to be good leaders, but there are certain qualities that simply cannot be taught.

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