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Some people are born leaders and some people become leaders by learning to lead. Learning to lead helps you to understand leadership, develop leadership ability and grow as a leader (Adair J, 1988.).
This report describes my personal and professional leadership development. First section focuses on critical review of the article to become a Total Leader. Second section reflects on my 360-degree feedback and third section summarises what experiments I undertook to develop my understanding of leadership and career related competencies during October ’09 to March ’10.
1. LITERATURE REVIEW
“Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life” – Article by Stewart D. Friedman
Stewart Friedman is a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He runs a programme called “Total Leadership” at the Wharton Business School, at companies and workshops around the word.
Essence of “Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life” article revolves around his idea of Total Leadership. It is all about being a good leader by developing the power to understand and manage yourself better. Friedman emphasises that integrating work, home, community and self, will make you a whole person and a better leader.
The article begins by presenting a case behind the total leadership concept. The author states that his research and experience over the past two decades has found that many executives feel unfulfilled because they are focusing more on work aspect and less on other aspects of their lives. Friedman emphasises that it is possible to achieve excellent performance in all four domains of life – work, home, community and self, and refuses to believe that we need to trade off one domain of life for the betterment of other, which is the main idea behind his Total Leadership programme.
The article then starts building upon how people can improve their performance in multiple domains of their lives through simple but thought-provoking experiments. Friedman then tries to convince the readers by presenting the strong evidence of his study of more than 300 business professionals over the period of four months. His evidence shows that, the total leadership approach has increased the satisfaction of professionals in their work lives, home lives and in their community lives. In addition, the most significant satisfaction for the professionals comes in the area of themselves – their physical and emotional health and their intellectual and spiritual growth.
The author explains that authenticity, integrity and creativity are the three main attributes of the Total Leadership process. The process starts by indentifying our own core values, vision and important people in our life. Once we have a complete picture of what we want to achieve in our life, we begin to see new ways of achieving our goals.
Friedman asks professionals to think about various possibilities/combination of various components through nine types of Total Leadership experiments. He encourages readers to design and test experiments that will create meaningful and sustainable change that benefits themselves and important people around them. He urges the reader to take the notion of innovation through experimentation beyond the work role to other aspects of their life. He encourages leader to start small experiments and emphasises that small steps lead to a big win.
Friedman also gives examples of measuring progress of various experiments. He points out importance of setting practical ways to measure outcomes. The experiments and follow-up reflections help readers learn to focus more on the things that matter to them and the people around them.
He concludes that total leadership approach helps people to generate more support and feel more connected to the important people in their life. It helps people to become more resilient in response to the impulse of our turbulent world. It gives readers a blueprint of how to be real, be whole, and be innovative as a leader in all four parts of their life.
As per Venables J. and my personal experience, in the UK, working late is a sign of dedication to the job and normal corporate culture. I have also seen my father worked extremely hard throughout his life to achieve his goals. Therefore, I was particularly drawn to this article and the subject of being successful leader while maintaining your personal life.
The article takes a positive approach towards becoming a successful leader. The author’s central concept is about identifying our inner values and using those values to improve our leadership in four areas. Author’s key remark is, to be a leader one must be whole and balance in all aspects of life – work, home, community and self.
The concept of whole person as good leader in this article is similar to the view of Bartolome F. add Evans P. in the Harvard business review book “Executive success”, that executives who are able to maintain balance in their private and professional life are able to do things better than the other executives, but different to the point of view of John Adair’s situational leadership.
This article gives importance to the key stakeholders in work as well as all aspects of leader’s life. This is very different to the view of article “Leadership Lessons from India” (Cappelli, P., et al., 2010), where the article mentions working with employees and focusing on their issues within the company and giving them importance rather than giving importance to the company shareholders only.
The articles main strength is that it is very easy to follow and understand. It is a structured approach to produce measurable changes in our life. It takes readers through, various simple experiments and practical examples on how to be a successful leader in all domains of life. The examples and experiment suggested by the article are so simple that anyone can try them without being a subject expert.
This article emphasis on developing leadership qualities based on authors holistic perspective. The only criticism I have about this article is in its approach. It provides broad sets of simple experiments to create a positive change around you. But in reality, situations are more complex. The article does not take account of any organisational factors. If it is that simple and easy to develop skills as suggested by the author, then everyone will be a good leader.
Author’s arguments have great deal to do with our understanding of leadership and careers because self concept is essential in understanding the leadership. As per one of the greatest leaders, Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change that you want to see in the world”. In other words, if you want to see change, you start with yourself. If you cannot do it, then how can you expect others to want the change? To lead others we must learn to lead ourselves and leadership starts from within. Power to see yourself brings with it a new depth of motivation and a sharper sense of direction.
This article is really helpful for those who are trying to learn about becoming a better leader and interested in initiating a self-dialogue about professional and personal values. It shows simple experiments about how to be a great leader not just at workplace but also at home, in the community and above all being yourself and become a whole human. Total Leadership is a sensible and practical approach about finding out what makes you a great leader. I favour author’s notation that an effective human being is a better leader.
Inspired by this, I designed an experiment of doing yoga every morning with my wife to improve home and self aspects of my life. The results of the experiment were great and I noticed that I was feeling more energetic and happier in personal life, but I have not seen any changes in my leadership style at work and in community. As a result of this, I am encouraged to design some more experiments to improve my performance in work and community domains.
There are no rules for leadership, but there are certain skills that every good leader should have. It is important to see different authors approach to develop your leadership skills and this article definitely gives different perspective to it.
2. CRITICAL REFLECTION ON MY 360-DEGREE FEEDBACK
2.1 Competing Value Framework
From my Competing Value Framework feedback in October 2009 I learnt that, out of 12 managerial and leadership competences my scored average on 5 competences, good on 2 competences and very good 5 competences as shown in Appendix iii.
I learnt that I need to develop my following leadership/managerial skills:
- Emphasizing speed,
- Initiating significant change at my work place
- Controlling my projects well
- Inspiring people and
- Clarifying policies
I started focusing my efforts to develop my leadership skills in the areas mentioned above and by January 2010, I could see that perception of my leadership quality was improved as a result of my efforts.
I always encourage my colleagues to develop their career by supporting them in their daily activities. I learnt that not all people share my view of working in a team, improves performance. I felt that some people in the team would like to work on their own, as they had their own views and ideas. I was willing to leave them in peace as far as they are doing the right thing for them and for the company. Therefore I decided to take a step back and not to interfere, but always checked the quality of work they produced.
Over the past few months I have trained myself hard to work faster through various technical trainings. And I can now produce good quality work with greater speed than I was expecting before four months. I still think that there is no alternative to hard work. All this views are reflected in my 2010 feedback.
I am now making sure that everyone who is involved with the task is fully aware of formal guidelines and what they are doing and have a clear understanding of company procedures and policies. I now do regular team meetings and try to keep close eye on how the project is going and keep them under control. I have also suggested new ways of doing traditional things by introducing latest software which will enhance employees performance and will also benefit the project by faster outcomes and achieving the deadline more promptly. I also attend client meetings with my seniors and try to understand what they expect from us at the end of the project and what we need to do emphasis more on to win the future projects. I have made some small changes in my team and group which will enhance the performance and quality of the outcome.
According to my Competing Values Framework Feedback report in Appendix iii, my peers and colleagues also have similar views about myself in areas of Control, Performance and Creativity. Their views differ from my views to some extent in the category of Collaborativenes.
They think I am not encouraging people to have work- life balance, but expect from everyone to work hard to create quality work. They feel that I am not making sure that everyone has a career development plan and not handling their career issues.
I was really surprised that my leaders thought of me as a less collaborative person. Because I have always given importance to the work-life balance and have tried to understand other people’s need.
From my competing values framework, I learnt that my peers think of me as a less collaborative person then I perceive myself to be. Therefore, I should try to make more efforts to improve my skills towards developing other people, encouraging them in active participation and acknowledging their needs.
2.2 Cultural Intelligence
As we enter the twenty-first century, we live and work in a social and organisational world that is increasingly diverse and offers more opportunities for interaction among people who do not share a common history or culture. (Caproni P., 2005).
Cultural Intelligence is person’s ability to function efficiently in situations characterised by cultural diversity (Earley & Ang, 2003). Culture often relates to peoples perspective on their values, beliefs, stories or rituals. Cultural differences can influence people’s preferences, expectations and behaviours at work.
In modern organisations, the ability to function effectively in multi-cultural situations is important attribute for employees and managers. Corporate culture rests in distinctive capacities and incapacities that are built in to the attitudes and approaches of organisational members. (Morgan G., 1997) Cultural Intelligence provides insights about how to interact with others in multi-cultural society and organisations, engage in cross-cultural interactions appropriately, and perform effectively in culturally diverse work groups.
From my 360-degree feedback report, I learnt that my perception of ability to act across different cultures has changed between October 2009 and January 2010 as shown in Appendix iii. This change reflects that my recent experiences differ from my expectations. When compared with how others perceive my cultural intelligence, it is higher than what I perceive. I learnt that people see me as a person with good cultural diversity skill. It reflects my good understanding of cross culture knowledge. I need to be aware of how my behaviour affects others. I need to pay attention to the social context in which I am working. I need to continue to think in broad way and integrate diverse information and see uncertainty as an opportunity to develop my cultural intelligence.
2.3 Qualitative Feedback
Qualitative feedback from my peers shows that I am open minded, friendly, hardworking and committed person. I realise that I must take advantage of these attributes to develop good relationship with my colleagues and interact with them more frequently. My peers suggest that I should become more pro-active and articulate my ideas rather than keeping them to myself. They also suggested that I should develop smart ways to work faster and effectively while producing quality work. What surprised me most was that my peers noticed that I sometime think that my superiors are infallible. I believe that, this is partly due to my cultural beliefs. I need to ask questions to my superiors about their assumptions to change their perception.
3. REFLECTION ON PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENDA’S
Between October 2009 and March 2010 I have focused on developing three leadership qualities based on MBTI /ICCS assessment, class room notes, my past job performance, my current and future career requirements. These qualities are:
- Effective Communication
- Trust Building
The table below reflects on my leadership self-development process. It reflects on my commitment of developing right attitudes to become a good leader. It describes what I did to develop the above mentioned skills. It also mentions the results of my experiments and how these qualities will be useful to me in future.
Table 1 – Developing Leadership skills (Adapted from Kolb’s Learning Cycle)
Developing Effective Communication Skills
Activities: Communicating Effectively workshop – 09/02/2010
Power and Influence workshop – 10/02/2010
Managing Conflict workshop – 11/02/2010
Coaching and Developing Others workshop – 11/02/2010
Reading related books and articles – (Oct’09 – Mar’10)
I am very confident, comfortable and clear in communicating my message across to my family and friends and I generally adopt communication style which suits people’s culture. Although, I have observed that I am not an effective communicator in the public and at workplace due to fear of:
- Cultural differences
- Lack of self confidence and
- Lack of trust
Sometime while taking criticism I become defensive rather than being more open to accept it. So, I need learn to respond to criticism with empathy.
Concept and Generalisation:
To be a good leader communication is the utmost important aspect. Thinking about great leaders in modern times: Mahatma Gandhi, Churchill, Hitler and Martin Luther King, it’s clear that they were powerful leaders because they had ability to communicate their vision and inspire people to follow them in achieving their goals.
Communication is a two-way process. Knowing how to listen is just as important as being able to communicate (Venables J., 2002).
- Apply active listening method to improve communication skills. Try to give full attention to the speaker and listen with empathy.
- Try to be more confident and maintain eye contact during conversations.
- Try to see my facial expressions and observed what others will perceive from it and learn how I can improve.
- Try to be more open and friendly with colleagues to over-come my fear of cultural differences and lack of trust.
- Try communication skills experiments in my organisation, group meetings, client meetings and presentations.
As a result of above experiments, my self-confidence has grown and I have overcome some of my fears of speaking with colleagues. I have received good response from my colleagues and team mates regarding my presentation style.
This skill will be helpful to me in communicating effectively with my clients and coaching and developing my team.
Developing Trust Building Skills
Activities: Reading related books, journals and research papers – (Oct’09 – Mar’10)
Believe in Myself – (Oct’09 – Mar’10)
Be Truthful, Reliable and Fair – (Oct’09 – Mar’10)
Set Boundaries – (Oct’09 – Mar’10)
I feel I am Open-minded, trustworthy and reliable person. I am highly regarded and trusted in my friend circle and been asked for advice regularly. But I feel I am not always involved in the decision making process in my organisation and family. I am not sure if this is for a good reason or a sign of mistrust. And therefore, I feel that I need to develop ability to earn trust of my fellow colleagues, clients and family members, to build good relationship and to develop positive emotions and atmosphere around me.
I also feel that workers in the organisations should not be judged against quantitative goals such as profit, cost and other numerical scale, which are to be ineffective as motivational tools against qualitative values of trust, responsibility and innovation.
Concept and Generalisation:
If you trust yourself, you know you made the right choice. And that’s a strong foundation on which to build trust. Trust is critical to managerial effectiveness and building client relationship. Great relationships and organisations are made and broken on trust. Trust helps clients deal with market uncertainties and risk, ultimately resulting in increased satisfaction and loyalty in the client relationship. Breach of trust can lead to breaking of relationship and confidence.
According to Robert Bruce Shaw, author of Trust in balance “The importance of trust becomes clear when we try to imagine a world without it”.
- Always try to be truthful.
- Set realistic deadlines and make every effort to achieve them
- Delegate work to juniors and help them with their problems
- Attend client meetings
I have been truthful and learnt to say no to unrealistic deadlines. Being truthful does not always work in my favour. I have mange to develop good relationship with my juniors and earned their trust. I understand importance of client needs from business perspective.
This skill will be very helpful to maintain trust of colleagues, clients and family members for the years to come.
Developing Networking Skills
Activities: Reading related books, journals and research papers – (Oct’09 – Mar’10)
Develop good working relationships with colleagues – (Oct’09 – Mar’10)
Make new friends and attend social events – (Oct’09 – Mar’10)
Develop friends community on social networking website – (Oct’09 – Mar’10)
Reflective Observation of my Networks:
I have come here from India and my network here is limited to my family, university friends and work colleagues. In addition, I am very introvert person (also indicted by my MBTI assessment) when it comes to making new friends. When I meet the quality kind of people who share my interests, I have been friends ever since with them. I feel strongly that friends are forever. I feel society tends to value extroverts more highly than introverts and I sometimes feel sensitive to social rejection. I sometimes fear that other people might not understand and hurt my feelings.
I desire to improve my networking skills. I fell that I need to stay open to new ideas. I need to develop relationships with clients, my senior colleagues, old school friends and sport friends.
Concept and Generalisation:
Networking is a deliberate, systematic process of building and maintaining relationships based on mutual benefits. The quality of relationships with your subordinates, bosses and peers significantly influences your task effectiveness, careers development and personal well- being. (Caproni P., 2005) Businesses thrive on relationships. The more people you meet, the better the chances will be to find good, new, personal and professional opportunities. Networking is helpful in sharing knowledge, experience, opinions and differences which helps to develop a broader worldwide view.
Application/Experiments (inspired from Kerr C., 1999):
- I have joined Business Networking website BNET.
- Attended Institution of Civil Engineers evening meetings.
- I invited my work colleagues for a dinner at my home.
- I invited my previous boss at my place for a long weekend.
- I have joined my organisations cricket and badminton club.
- I have joined health club with my friend and a neighbour.
- I have joined School friends group on Facebook.
- Call friends and family frequently.
- Attended my little sister’s engagement party in India.
At first no one joined my school friend’s community and had a disappointing start to my experiments. I tried finding the contact numbers of my old friends and after a few quick calls to old friends the community has grown to 15 members, but a few are still not convinced.
I have also managed to develop good relationship with my colleagues and I feel more open to express my views and accept different opinions of other colleagues. I am able to engage in discussions.
Initially, I found social events boring and exhausting but now I am starting to enjoy it. I have experienced that networking requires a lot of time, perseverance and efforts. Therefore, I need to focus on important relationships and not waste valuable time to convincing people who lack enthusiasm and similar interests. Networking is more effective when people share similar interests.
Through these experiments I have made new friends. I have become happier, more open to new ideas, possibilities, aware of differences in opinion and less worried out rejection. All in theses networking experiments has boosted my confidence to make friends develop relationship with important people.
I am thinking of starting to arrange a social events club for my organisation. I need concentrate my efforts more to develop a network of clients. I am also thinking of taking part in a charitable activity over the next year. Networking skills will help me to develop and progress my personal and professional life in years to come.
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