MLDP Recap: What Makes a Good Leader? with Professor Betsy Winslow '83

Read a student's account of our most recent session in our Management Leadership and Development program below. For more information, about MLDP, click

 Professor Elizabeth Winslow '83 presents "What Makes a Good Leader?"

Tonight we learned about Leadership from Professor Elizabeth Winslow. Our own George Philipose introduced Professor Winslow and her many accomplishments. As an Adjunct Professor on Leadership at Tuck, we were fortunate to have her share her expertise with us.

She told us to remember—if nothing else—three things: first, that everyone can be a leader and that it is an actual field of study; second, that it is all about understanding the situation and being able to adjust to it, third; that we must all be self reflective in order to improve. The session began with a brainstorm of leadership traits. Our list included; passionate, empathetic, self-aware, diligent, proactive, confident, trustworthy, inspiring and a good communicator. Next we generated a list of good and effective leaders, including; Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Junior, Thomas Jefferson, FDR, Abraham Lincoln, Sandra Day O’Connor and Tiny Fey.

Professor Winslow had us break into our small groups and relate an anecdote of a personal leadership scenario and then describe our peers’ experiences to the class. She stopped with her presentation momentarily for a “psychology break” to explain the “Ladder of Influence.” This figurative ladder extends from a pool of data, with each rung representing one inferential step away from the facts. She taught us that by making assumptions, one moves up the ladder, but by asking questions, we get closer to the truth of the situation. This was meant to illustrate what many of us had experienced in our leadership scenarios—that merely by asking questions and helping others see through to the aspects of a situation that can be agreed upon, we can resolve group struggle or conflict.

Professor Winslow identified Four Components of Leadership: Personal Excellence, Situational Mastery, Managing Developing People and Achieving Outcomes. Before arriving at this framework, scholars had tried on the Trait Theory, the Skill Theory, and the Style Theory. In reality, these are all components of an excellent leader and remind us to identify our useful traits, the skills we can utilize the traits through and the two goals that the skills can be used to achieve.

The next historical addition to the scholarship on leadership was the Situational and Contingency theory, which identified that different situations require different approaches. Whether the leader situationally determines a directive or supportive approach, they need to be able to understand their co-workers and be able to prioritize goals and maintain relationships. In order to use this framework we need to assess the situation, the people, ourselves and then decide on a course of action and whether to be engage in supportive or directive behavior. We used our Leadership Abacuses to determine which style of behavior we used in our personal leadership scenarios.

Ms. Winslow went on to discuss the Path-Goal Leadership as clearing the path so followers can accomplish what you need, and identifying 4 types of leadership: Directive, Supportive, Participative, and Achievement-Oriented. We also learned about the Leader Member Exchange (LMX) which focuses on both the group as a whole and the individuals in it, seeking to avoid in-group/out-group mentality and maximize productivity. When leading we should seek to produce a measurable outcome, develop the talent of the group, move the organization forward and accomplish a “transaction and a transformation,” all while contributing to society.

At the closing she reminded us to take a complete the self-assessment of our leadership styles, and to keep in mind that good leadership boils down to personal excellence, understanding the situation, managing relations and focusing on outcomes.

-By Hannah Williams '14