The Psychological Basis for Leadership

If we really think about it, we rely way too much on the results of personality tests. Whether we take the Myers-Briggs test to find our MBTI results or look to BuzzFeed to see what The Office character we are based on what food we’re in the mood for, we take results from our leisure time and apply them to real life. C’mon now, who hasn’t scrolled through Instagram bios only to see a jumble of letters people have defined themselves with? (sidebar: I took the MBTI test just for this paper and it turns out I am an ENFJ-T, so… take that as you will.)

When we look at personality tests, they always have an undertone of “who are you?” and cueing the existential crisis, we can compartmentalize and determine our personalities into two broad categories: leader vs. follower.

We all probably define leadership in different ways, but we also all probably have similar criteria in defining what a leader is… but of course, none of that matters! Leadership is broadly put for good reason, the skills and behaviors one exhibits differ from person to person. No, what matters is effectiveness… but there are plenty of papers on what makes an effective leader.

Case in point: just look up “what makes an effective leader?” and plenty of results will emerge.

The question that has not been answered; however, is the why?

Why do leaders emerge? Not to discredit human nature, but why do we see a person, or even a group, take control of a scenario?

 As such, we must explore why a leader emerges: is one born a leader or does the right time and place bring out the leader in any of us? 

Leadership has been part of us since the beginning of time… in the most literal sense.  As stated by experts at Regent University, “Leadership, and the study of it, has roots in the beginning of civilization. Egyptian rulers, Greek heroes, and biblical patriarchs all have one thing in common–leadership,” (Stone and Patterson, 2005). In this, we can state the obvious, if a situation calls for it, a leader will emerge.

“Leadership, and the study of it, has roots in the beginning of civilization. Egyptian rulers, Greek heroes, and biblical patriarchs all have one thing in common–leadership”

 Leadership is an effort of influence; it is more than a power dynamic–it is being able to induce compliance. People; however, are always growing–always evolving–specifically through formative years.

In a culture where success is the ultimate goal, it is as if “leader” is synonymous with “success.” This is a formative period where many leave to understand themselves, to open their world view to accept other perspectives and gain insight on what it means to grow: college. College has always been portrayed as “the time to find [ones]self.” With a simple click on a search engine, the words “leadership” and “college” open up a myriad of results. “Tips to Develop Leadership Skills in College,” “Opportunities for Leadership in College,” etc., are all hits that we can view when we decide to search.

We begin to explore our passions and understand where we want to follow our social paths. Just by having an idea of what we want to do in life is enough to be a leader in understanding that we form our own decisions–that we can deviate from the paths that have been set for us. There are plenty of opportunities on and off-campus in considering what it means to be a leader. Here at UD, we have programs such as Peer Mentoring, Peer Tutoring, BHLP, RAILE, etc.

Statistically, everyone has the opportunity to be a leader on some level. Whether it is in the aforementioned educational setting, a research-based setting, a job setting, it all makes sense that we have the choice to lead. The issue at hand is then, why do we not see certain leaders all the time?

Politically, we see leaders such as George Washington, JFK, and Andrew Jackson… but each are synonymous with different terms. George Washington and JFK fall in with positive connotations, whereas Andrew Jackson is treated with complete abhorrence (and rightfully so).

All three had bold visions for the nation, yet execution and vitality of leadership determine the image we create when encountering their names. 

Simply because of our democratic system, we perceive those in political science to be poster children for leadership. As we know, in all areas of life, leaders emerge. Beyond presidents and political leaders, we have teachers, managers, surgeons, coaches–everyone can be considered a leader in one aspect of their life or another. According to King’s College, “everyone, at some point in their life, will be asked to be a leader,” in which leadership is a resource that we need only tap into. (King’s College, 2017).

Opening up to new perspectives, going beyond historical, patriarchal norms, establishes so much more effectiveness in leadership. Diversity is the face of leadership, bringing new people brings upon brand new perspectives and fresh ideas.

The narrative seems to be set on the fact that there is a natural talent in people that pushes them to be leaders. From a narrative standpoint, this claim is not necessarily applicable. We all go through our formative years awkwardly, yet that presents us with challenges and ideas that push us towards who we will evolve into. Who you were in kindergarten is not who you were in high school is not who you will be in adulthood.

“Who you were in kindergarten is not who you were in high school is not who you will be in adulthood. “

Even in modern media, we have personality traits that seem to determine our role as a leader or follower. Going back to the MBTI assessments or BuzzFeed quizzes we take, the results that emerge may satisfy our want to be defined, yet we are not simple checkmarks ticked off on a list. 

 The media may want us to be perceived as such as it is easier to relate to someone who has specific traits presented to us. (Michael from The Office is totally an ENFJ-T leader, change my mind.) Influencers on social media, although not traditional leaders are leaders, nonetheless. Although many of them may not be people we would want to interact with in real life, it is clear that influencers such as the Kardashians, Youtubers, Actors, etc. hold a level of command. Despite screams of “use code [xyz] for 15% off!” it may seem like we have our choices in finding what we want out of this virtual relationship, yet there is a definite power dynamic. We blindly follow a person we have never met before, jumping at the chance to become more connected to them–to become them.

Leadership is not black and white. This is stated many times, yet we still have it in our minds that leadership is ingrained within us, holding a legacy within our prestige, and just something that cannot be learned. Leadership; however, takes on many forms and emerges from plenty of places. It is rather a bell curve full of experiences that shape us. Just look at fight, flight, or freeze? Who is to say how we will act until we are called into action?

We assume that people come into this world with a natural capacity to lead and that due to this we can never do anything more about it. To many, we assume it is the luck of the draw. Looking around us; however, and even in reflecting upon ourselves, we see that everyone will be offered the opportunity to lead. In this, we get our bell curve. Yes, there will be natural-born leaders, and yes there will be people who, no matter how hard they try, are simply not cut out to lead. Yet there is the majority of humanity, people who can be leaders can be made.

Unlike many other versions of the American Dream, leadership is attainable. It may not be on the scale we have always dreamed, yet opportunities will arise each day to allow us to choose our paths. We are not the people we were as children; we have evolved into minds capable of changing the rules and social dynamics. Leadership is never going to be just holding power over someone, but it will always be a chance to explore ourselves and our abilities. With this in mind, the cynical view that leaders are born must go away… after all, it very well may be your name, my name, their name ranked among the leaders of tomorrow.       


P2 – Proposal Topics

The topics I would like to consider revolve around psychology within group/ social dynamics:

The first topic revolves around the role gender has on psychological perspective; I would like to look into if there is a gender based foundation to behavior and psychology that is removed from cultural consideration. Going with this topic would research to what extent gender dictates our collective and individual thought process.

The second topic I would like to consider investigates group dynamics. I would like to research how psychological processes in groups lead to the emergence of leaders. Moreover, how does the emergence of leaders lead to the compliance of others?

Another topic I was thinking about deals with what “normal” is. To what extent is psychology reliant on culture to define normalcy?

Transhumanism – Mankind’s Most Dangerous Idea?

Of all ideas mankind has ever deigned to fathom, which would be the most dangerous to bring to life? The answer lies in a topic only ever brought to life within stories told by authors such as Margaret Atwood and characters from the X-men. Transhumanism is defined as a “philosophical movement that advocates for the transformation of the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellect and physiology,” which essentially pushes the human body beyond disease and disability by developing technology that is accessible by most, if not all. Although the idea of transhumanism appears to be a good idea on the surface, the improbability and unethical aspects presents transhumanism as a concept that can escalate and turn dangerous.

Everywhere we look, there appears to be new, almost radical, technology being created and available–albeit to a very niche crowd. Cochlear implants allow the deaf to hear, Tesla’s autopilot will eradicate the need for drivers. There is; however, a risk to each of these technologies. Despite being able to improve the quality of living and having positive impacts, there is a line that must be drawn.

Robots, software, AI, etc. will soon advance far more than it already has. Within a few decades, the hundreds of thousands of people who die unnecessary deaths will have technology that exists to help them. The basic aim, of course, appears to be to improve to human condition. However, we do have to consider the fact that transhumanism doesn’t extrapolate from current technology and trends, it fulfills the wants of human desires. People have always looked into immortality, of super strength, etc. but technology can only go wrong from that concept–we have seen this from almost every sci-fi movie ever. Anyone would love to cure blindness, Alzheimers, dementia, but gaining research opportunities and resources is only getting more difficult. There is nothing to point out that death or aging can ever get abolished.

To begin with, it is getting harder for the feasibility of these cures to be developed. Socially, it is unacceptable to have these concepts brought to life. If we look at genetic engineering, many places have different ideologies and acceptance levels than others. We inherently pass judgement on things, we do not want to see things as wholly acceptable. Discourse is always a thing; it is especially prevalent in our society.

What constitutes as improvement anyways? Culture in a set community of people is already a thing–it makes sense for everyone to want to be completely healthy–but what constitutes a “perfect” or “ideal” person? It is all up to perspective. What may be considered a negative trait to one person may be construed as a positive one to someone else. How do we know these technologies will even be dispersed fairly–even at all? How will we know that new technologies will lead to abundance for everyone, rather than leading to more polarization between those with money and power and those without? Equality and equity does not exist in this state, when people have the opportunity to have power, they take it.

People already have their own ideas of who they are as people, what it means to have a community and what it means to have their own ways of going through life. Many ideas of transhumanism are improbable–in creation and distributing, the technology is unreliable and cannot be expected to end up even existing, and is damaging to the way we consider technology.

Analysis: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Photojournalism

  1. Thesis:
    • While photojournalism may be exploitive, this exploitation is not always unethical and sometimes even necessary in creating an image that is both beautiful and impactful (Smolen, 2018).
      1. The location of this thesis concludes the intro, leads into the rest of the essayProvides a clear, specific argument from which the reader can understand the:
        • Purpose of the essayStructure of the essay
  2. Target Audience:
    • Average viewers of news mediaGeneral public
      1. The general public views news media as a source of informationModern news has an impact on the public in shaping its worldview
  3. Logos
    • “According…(“Code of Ethics”).”
      1. Cites NPPA for the primary goal; supports argument with facts
      2. Reasoning for argument
      3. Consistent with citations from NPPA
    • Sebastião Salgado
      1. Pulls figures in photojournalism, establishes a basis for examples
    • Paolo Pellegrin
  1. Ethos
    • “According…(“Code of Ethics”).”
      1. Cites NPPA for reputation
      2. Establishes base for what is true in the field of photojournalism
    • David Finkelstein
    • Michael Kimmelman
      1. Cites “experts” for facts
  2. Pathos
    • “While people…he captures”
      1. Speaks to exploitation
      2. Speaks about controversy
      3. Elicits anger or defense
    • Speaks about targeting readers
      1. Trauma/ PTSD
        • Suffering
      2. Starting conversations
      3. Keeping goals and truth in mind David FinkelsteinEthos
    • “According…(“Code of Ethics”).”
      1. Cites NPPA for reputation
      2. Establishes base for what is true in the field of photojournalism
    • David Finkelstein
  3. Pathos
    • “While people…he captures”
      1. Speaks to exploitation
      2. Speaks about controversy
      3. Elicits anger or defense
    • Speaks about targeting readers
      1. Trauma/ PTSD
        • Suffering
      2. Starting conversations
      3. Keeping goals and truth in mind

How I Know Soulmates Exist

There have been precisely three times where I have recognized the concept of “soulmates” to be true–only one of which has been romantic on my part. Soulmates are defined in media as romantic. The technical definition; however, encompasses much more than the shallow glimpse of happily ever after. As stated by Webster’s Dictionary, a soulmate is quite simply “a person who is perfectly suited to another in temperament.” Due to the previous experiences and interactions in my life, I know that soulmates do more than impact you–they shape who you are.

I was three years old when I first recognized the concept of soulmates–not so much in that term, but as a presence in my life. Of course, you may see the number “three” and immediately be skeptical–but do not fret, I recognized soulmates in two of the most consistent people in my life: my parents. My father called my mother “Tweety-bird,” a play off her real name, Thuy, so much that by pre-school I was still not completely sure what my mother’s real name was.

The catalyst for realizing that my parents were destined for one another came from one of the most awful things a child can experience–seeing their mother cry. As I took a step into the room, I witnessed it for the first time: my father being able to make everything alright. I remember my father walking out of his closet and seeing her, the tie he was holding in his hand making its way towards the ground as he sat down across from her. His voice low, I recall him telling her that he loved her unconditionally, that he would always be there for her. That night he came home from work with three dozen roses and a Tweety Bird stuffed doll the size of three-year-old me. More so than just adorning her with gifts, my father always understood what needs to be said in the moment. It, of course, has always been a two-way street for them; every action is reciprocated. 

Soulmates, as I have alluded to, can also be in platonic relationships. The second time I realized soulmates existed, but the first time I ever considered the fact that may have a soulmate was in my best friend: Anastasya Pavlosky. She has been my go-to for everything over the past years, the first person I speak to about any issue, partner, life event, anything at all. I realized Anya was my soulmate upon our biggest fight–the one that should have destroyed the very idea of her being in my life. In destroying my other relationships in order to become wholly dependent on her, I hurt us both. This fight took up half a year, and plenty more time in rebuilding our relationship. Where my parents were masters at communication, I was despondent in it, but forgiveness is not cheap. Long story short, Anya and I reconciled and focused on becoming better at communication, realizing independence whilst still being together in mind and soul. I realized she was my true soulmate not in the fact that she forgave me after everything I had done, but rather because she understood what it meant to grow and mature with me. 

The final time I realized soulmates existed was also the time I realized that we all grow in relationships… and not necessarily at the same pace. From the ages of 12 to 16, I was in what can only be considered as serious a relationship as young teenagers can enter. Hopelessly devoted to this boy, I can only imagine you rolling your eyes. Do not worry, this does not end in happily ever after. 

For years, my boyfriend was who I consider Anya to be to me now, who my parents are to one another–my soulmate. In retrospect, he is the complete opposite of what a soulmate should be, but in the moment, I do not think I ever thought of him as anything but. He adorned me with gifts, he told me he loved me every day, he made me feel happy–sound familiar? 

He; however, did not support anything I did, did not make me feel secure. Every moment with him, although exciting, was also unpredictable and scary. We may have been in love, but it was not the right time nor place for that type of intensity. He may not be my true soulmate, but he came into my life to challenge me and help me grow. He served his purpose: he gave me romantic interaction, helped me realize who I was as a person and who I need to be in order to grow up, and he did not need to stay. He made me happy for the time being–and that is enough. 

Plato once included the concept of soulmates in his dialogue The Symposium that states that we each have one perfect half who completes us; however, I do not believe there is just one person for everyone. Soulmates come in all different forms, at different times for different periods of time. They are magical and wonderful, but their purpose is to make us grow. 

Introducing Me :)

Hi, my name is Angela Tran and I am a double major in Psychology and Neuroscience, but I hope to add English as a minor soon! I am from right here in Delaware in a small, but growing, town called Middletown. I love reading, especially literature from the literary canon, but also enjoy writing. I love satire, so obviously I love shows such as The Office and Parks and Rec! Honestly, I try to be funny but I’m probably not. I am quite friendly and usually am smiling or laughing, but am also incredibly blunt and loud (which can get obnoxious). I am so excited for college and my time at UD and pursuing a path to reach my goal of becoming a Neuropsychologist.

I am so excited to read all about you guys and see your future posts!