Leader Interview: Dave Breen of AZ Greyhounds

Author(s): Brandy Perkl, PhD & Josiah Sovern, M.Ed.

Originally posted: March 22, 2015

In Psychology of Leadership (PSYV471) the final assignment is to complete a leader interview and then write a paper summarizing it. This assignment has many goals, but the main one is that students have the opportunity to demonstrate to me their ability to analyze a leader and that leader's situation based on all the things we've covered during the semester.

This post is here to provide both current and future students with an example of this assignment. In Fall 2014 Josiah Sovern, a military professional in Sierra Vista (AZ) interviewed Dave Breen, the self-styled Lord of the Hounds for AZGreyhounds. AZGreyhounds, Inc. Is a non-profit dedicated to saving retired racing dogs from euthanasia by helping them to be fostered and adopted.

The Assignment

A detailed description of what I ask students to complete is located here, BUT I tweak my assignments a little every semester, so it may not be exactly the same now as it was when this interview and paper were completed.

When this assignment was completed I was evaluating the paper based on the following sections:

  1. Introduction (20 Pts.): Introduce your subject. Explain why you picked this person. Specifically, in what sense is this person a leader? What did he/she lead, what are his/her accomplishments, and why is he/she important to his/her field? Briefly describe the process you used to research your interview subject and prepare for the interview.

  2. Leader Background & Development (20 Pts.): Provide a brief review of your subject’s leadership experiences. What education and prior leadership experience was influential in his/her development?

  3. Leadership Skills (40 Pts.): Draw some conclusions about what makes this person an effective leader. In your paper you should make your best prediction as to the leader’s communication style, conflict style, and personality type; provide evidence to support your assertions, based on the theories you have learned about in this course. What is the source of the leader’s power? What does he or she have to say about followers and organizational contexts?

  4. Summary and Conclusion (20 Pts.): Based on the above, what makes this leader effective?

  5. Appendix, Mechanics, & Requirements: You can only lose points for these– this is actually in your best interest and will cost you less points than if I took off for them in every section.

    1. Do you have all the citations you should? If not, – 8 pts.

    2. Are your citations accurate (APA format)? If not, – 8 pts.

    3. Is paper 5-7 pages? Has headings? If not, – 8 pts.

    4. Did you include an interview transcript/recording/notes? If not, immediate E grade.

Reminder to Current Students: These may have changed, be sure to use whatever guidelines I provide you in our class! Not these! I'm providing these here so you can see how I graded Josiah's interview.

Post Leader for Approval

Josiah posted the following to D2L to request my approval for his choice of leader to interview:

I have volunteered for Dave as a foster home for several months, and have listened to him talk about the decades in which he has been involved in the greyhound rescue community. Since his group is a 'splinter group' from a previously large and successful group, I believe interviewing him will yield many interesting details about how to lead and motivate followers within a nonprofit organization consisting of volunteers while simultaneously working as a liaison with several racing tracks (both the one in Tucson and others in surrounding states, some as far away as Florida), securing veterinary care locally, and following state and national requirements for a nonprofit.

My reply was clearly to approve! He made a good case for why this person was a true leader (not just a manager) and he and I had previously communicated about the difficulty of getting someone in his main field (military) to interview, so he decided to interview a leader in another area of his life that he is also dedicated to. Though I do think he found that Dave deals a bit less with his followers on a regular basis once he actually conducted the interview itself, he still had a good interview that gave him enough material to write his paper and receive a high grade on it. (Note: Sometimes students shoot too low and make a poor choice of a person to interview and then don't have enough material to analyze for their paper, don't let that be you!)

The Interview

Josiah recorded the nearly hour-long interview with Dave Breen, the self-styled Lord of the Hounds for AZGreyhounds, and shared it with me using his UA Google Drive.

The Paper

You can download and review Josiah's paper here in an unedited and uncommented state. Remember, this was for an assignment so he was writing this to show he had assimilated certain topics from our course, not as something intended to be shared or published (in other words it was not created to bring awareness to this wonderful organization - though maybe this little post can help do that).

Note to Current Students: If you're reading this because you want to be sure your own assignment is graded highly, I encourage you to copy the list above and then check off the things I've asked for in each section as you go. Then see what you think is missing from Jo's paper before you review my feedback on it. In other words, grade his paper yourself and see if you agree with me.

My Feedback

This assignment is typically my last chance to 'talk' to my students in this class. So I like to provide audio feedback and often will comment on the course as a whole if I have time. I had gotten to know Jo well (for a professor-student relationship) and you will hear that type of communication in this message to him, which also comments on the weakness of his assignment.

Leader Interview Paper feedback summary:

  • Intro.: 20/20

  • Background & Development: 20/20

  • Skills inc. General notes, Comm. Style, Conflict Style, Personality & Evidence: 30/40

  • Summary & Conclusion focused on effectiveness: 20/20

  • Transcript/Copy of Interview: ✔ +10 for video!

  • Citations and Formatting: ✔

  • Total: 90 + 10 = 100!*

    • * Note that without my giving extra credit for turning in videos of the interview Jo would not have received a 100 on this assignment. His analysis of Skills etc. was lacking. Lucky for him I needed this example!

Donation Links + Thanks

I'd like to extend a huge thanks to Jo for being willing to share his work publicly, to Dave Breen for the same courtesy, and to the ASPCA for the wonderful image from the Adopt a Greyhound Campaign by Matthew Umphlett.

If you'd like to donate or help out with AZGreyhounds please go visit them, there are tons of ways to support their wonderful efforts to help these animals - even by just by doing your normal shopping on Amazon using Amazon Smile!

Dave & Jo - from my house (+ yard) full of rescues, I salute you both! - Dr. B