What we learned from our survey results
As our understanding of leadership, both personally and theoretically, has grown throughout the semester, we have come to realize that one's perspective on leadership can change drastically throughout their lifetime. We became interested specifically in how this changes as one progresses through their career or through the life course. Our survey strives to capture the variety of attitudes toward the different aspects of leadership across a variety of demographics in order to better understand how teams from diverse backgrounds can learn to come together and work efficiently and successfully.
We surveyed ninety-eight people, ranging from age eighteen to seventy, with most responses gathered from 18-22 year olds. Of these individuals, 60% were female, 36% were male, and 4% identified as non-binary. The primary ethnicity of those surveyed were White (60%), followed by Asian (17%), Hispanic (14%), and the remaining 9% of respondents were individuals self-identified as Black, Native american, Middle Eastern, or Pacific Islander. The four main areas of study among the survey participants were, in order, Engineering, Economics, Medicine, and Business. Of the ninety-eight responses, 67% had 0-5 years of work experience, and the remaining 33% had more than 5 years.
We asked our survey participants questions regarding the different factors that can lead to dysfunctions in teams when not addressed: trust, conflict, commitment, and accountability. Of the responses, we found some common trends that help shed light on people’s perceptions of working on teams.
Of the questions on the survey regarding trust, respondents demonstrated high levels of trust between themselves and their team members. Of the responses, the majority of individuals trust their coworkers/peers and believe their coworkers and peers trust them as well. Likewise, most respondents felt comfortable speaking up in meetings and believe their coworkers/peers feel comfortable speaking up in meetings. The trust between team members of the survey participants is due largely in part to accepting vulnerability. In fact, nearly all participants stated that they are willing to admit to their mistakes and own up to their weaknesses. Here, we see how being vulnerable and open can build trust within teams.
Because people tend to have different conflict resolution styles, it was no surprise that the survey responses on the topic were less polarized than the responses related to trust. 70% of participants agreed that engaging in conflict makes a team stronger, and the same amount believed that it is better to address conflict than avoid it. Conflict is necessary to communicate effectively in teams and the presence or absence of it is largely a result of the amount of trust present within the team. Despite this, 80% agreed that the way conflict is handled on a team depends on the culture the leader has instilled. While 50% of respondents said their conflict
resolution style is collaborating, 31% responded compromising, 8% responded accommodating, 6% responded avoiding, and 5% responded competing. Even with the differing conflict resolution styles that can be found in members of a team, conflict should be a productive and respectful way of pushing teams to improve.
While there were differing opinions from the survey results as to whether or not conflict is necessary for commitment, commitment is a crucial factor in ensuring the success of a team. 60% of respondents believe that being recognized for their efforts is not an influencing factor on their commitment to a team. This approach is the most beneficial for commitment, as it allows individuals to prioritize the team’s success rather than their own. Additionally, responses showed that servant leadership and leading by example are effective ways for leaders to inspire commitment. Ensuring that members of a team are committed to working towards the team’s goals above anything else is crucial, as commitment leads to results.
All of the respondents agreed that clear goals and standards are needed in order to hold people accountable, and 97% of respondents both hold their peers accountable and feel that they are held accountable by their peers. Because of the pressure inherent in important team projects, 90% said they hold others more accountable when there is more at risk. When asked where accountability starts, 65% of respondents believe it starts with the leader, while 35% believe that it starts with peers. In reality, both peers and leaders can promote accountability within their teams by leading by example and holding others accountable, and a common measure of accountability participants provided was the use of deadlines. Building off trust, conflict, and commitment, accountability ensures that each member of a team carries their weight in order to help the team reach its goals.