Reflective Thinking Turns Experience Into Insight Education Essay

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The volition to further my personal and professional growth was the seed behind my decision to pursue an MBA degree. A year away from the mad cacophony of the corporate world provided me with the much needed space to reflect on myself and my predispositions. The rigorous of academia have helped me develop the qualitative and quantitative aptitude required to scale the corporate ladder. The most virtuous trait that I have inculcated is the ability to psychoanalyze my decision making and leadership traits. As the program culminates, it is important to objectively assess the impact of the MBA in delineating my management & leadership skills.

There exists a social context for both management and leadership. Different opinions exist on Leadership and thus it is hard to define. As per Wilfred Drath (2001, p6.): "The presence or absence of leadership depends on the presence or absence of some knowledge principle that enables a person or a group or a community or organizations to say, "That's Leadership"." Likewise management also has its roots embedded in a societal context. A leader/manager's individual principles thus play an integral role in the way they manage the societal context of their duties.

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Developing my personal management/leadership principles can help me assess the imminent impact of these principles on my future roles and responsibilities. This will also provide me a platform to critically assess the value created by the MBA program for me as an individual. In order for me to build on my principles, it is imperative to discuss my background. This will help establish my principles in the light of the environment that has shaped my world view and biases.

I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in a small lake town located in the north of India. The untimely demise of my father, when I was seven years old left the responsibility of raising three kids on my mother's shoulders. I was an ordinary teen, whose only motivation was to get the best grades in school as that put a rare smile on my mother's otherwise sunken face. To fulfill my late father's ambition, I pursued an engineering degree after school, which was funded by an education loan. After spending a year at college, I realized engineering wasn't my passion. Thus I started to pursue my interest in public speaking and writing more vociferously. I became the head of the literary committee and hosted a number of cultural programs. There was something about people oriented tasks, which got me going instantaneously. The biggest learning at college was how to survive when things are not the way you want. This made me tuff and inculcated in me the ability to judge people. By the end of the course, I had realized that public speaking was my true calling. Hence I decided to pursue a career in the training domain. My first job was a real eye opener in the context of introducing the dark side of the corporate world to me. Having learnt my lesson, I moved on to newer and challenging roles, that appeased my desire to learn. A major part of the learning stemmed from my association with smart people, who could challenge my ideas and provide me a new perspective. After spending over 5 years in the corporate world the insatiable human appetite caught up with me and brought me to Lancaster.

Having set the context on where I come from, I will now build upon my management/leadership principles.

Challenge the status quo to envision a better future

The principle involves investigating & raising questions about the applicability of existing organizational practices and norms, in the light of internal and external changes happening in the business. The underpinning of this principle rests on establishing a forward thinking mindset within the organization. This principle involves empowering employees to challenge their own areas of control and in the process identify innovative ways to improve the organization.

Genesis of the Principle

Marred by difficult financial circumstances during my childhood, I always dreamt of changing the existing circumstances. Education was my only route to a brighter future. Securing a place in a prestigious engineering college provided me that chance. As the Head of the literary committee at college, I first realized the importance of challenging the existing norms. My electronics professor Mr. D.C. Bala was the Faculty Advisor for the literary committee and he encouraged us to enhance the role of the committee beyond just producing the yearly magazine. He instigated the thought by asking questions centered on creating more value. Acting upon his advice, we initiated organizing literary events like debates, extempore, Guest Speaker lectures etc. In hindsight, I can see his role as a person who was not happy with the status quo and challenged others around him to bring positive change. Mr. Bala thus imbibed in me the virtue of questioning the status-quo, with the objective of bringing about a positive change.

Why is this Principle important for me?

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Is challenging the status-quo important?

This principle has helped me stand away from the crowd and carve my own niche. I will now illustrate examples from my professional life to put this into perspective. Working as Assistant Manager Training at Teleperformance, I questioned the role of the recruitment team in providing the business with sub-standard talent. This came to my notice, due to the declining retention figures during the training period. The ability to pose onerous questions helped me bag the project to streamline the recruitment processes. In line with my recommendations the business introduced psychometric solutions to the recruitment process, which helped us scale a 4% increase in retention rate within 6 months. This helped me win accolades from the management along with a hefty bonus.

While at S&P Capital IQ, I raised questions on the Training team's inability to monitor the impact of the training initiative. This was met with strong resistance from within the team, as my peers thought it would put them out of their comfort zone as they will be facing a heightened sense of accountability in their work. However the Training Director approved of my idea and gave me the responsibility to design an automated training feedback system to quantify the impact of training. A successful execution of this project helped me scale an out of turn promotion. So what was exactly happening in both these scenarios? People around me felt comfortable sticking to their individual roles. They did not show any appetite for improving the processes around them, which could improve their own productivity. However my inquisitiveness helped me raise issues that others were not comfortable dealing with.

The Organizational Behavior and Change Management modules have helped me develop this principle further during the course of the MBA. To manage the ambiguity associated with a change process a manager/leader needs to question the impact of an imminent change and accordingly align his strategies. The role of Change Agents in the context of an organization is quite important as they act as the necessary pillars while implementing the change process. These lessons have helped me incorporate the concept of empowering change agents to my principle. I had the chance to apply this principle during the Summer Project with McDonald's. Working on a business process re-engineering project, I helped my team to question the existing performance management system within the customer service team at McDonald's. Evaluating the pros and cons of the system we looked at the suitability of the current system with respect to the changing business needs. We accordingly developed our recommendations to improve the system, which were subsequently ratified by the client.

Academic literature on organizational behavior talks at length about how management has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. As per Dess et.al (2000) "the managers/leaders face barriers that are structural, behavioral, political, or driven by time constraints" while challenging the status quo. The role of transformational leadership in managing the change process has also been widely discussed in literature. As per Eisenbach et. al (1999, p86.) "Transformational, charismatic, and visionary leaders can successfully change the status quo in their organizations by displaying the appropriate behaviors at the appropriate stage in the transformation process." The role of leader in providing a vision has also been associated with the successful implementation of change. "Leaders may not need to create dissatisfaction with the present, but instead may provide a vision of a possible future that is attractive and engaging" (Kouzes and Posner, 1988 as cited in Eisenbach et, al 1999, p86.). The implementation of change should be undertaken by the leader, post establishing the vision. Dess,et.al (2000) are of the opinion that "the leader can implement change by creating a sense of urgency, facilitating constructive dissent, encouraging risk taking, and getting everyone involved". Social influence is the other aspect of the change process, which is affected by the transformational characteristics of a leader. As per Ken Parry (1998, p86.) "The major dimension of organizational change relevant to leadership is the use of influence to change the activities and relationships of people within the organization. Because leadership involves a transformation in the views, beliefs, attitudes and motivations of followers, it is about change."

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An interesting research done by Herold et.al (2008) looked at quantifying the impact of transformational and change leadership on the employee's commitment to change. The results of the research present an interesting point of view. "When change has a low impact on individuals' own jobs, transformational leadership is only positively associated with change commitment when change leadership is low" This is depicted in Figure 1 below. "When the job impact of the change is high, regardless of change leadership, transformational leadership is positively related to employee change commitment". This is shown in Figure 2.

(Source: Herold et,al. 2008)

(Source: Herold et,al. 2008)

Thus empirical research shows that in scenarios where the impact of the change is relatively high on an employee's job, transformational leadership is more effective in managing the change process. Thus the academic literature, clearly highlights that my principle is of importance from a change management perspective.

What role will this principle play in my future?

As per Lewis et.al (2010), some of the key imperatives for the successful management of organizational change include managing natural resistance to change and to focus on new behaviours, not new attitudes. The authors are of the view that resitsance to change can be minimized if the employees are involved in the change process. Using my principle in the imminent roles that I take, I will resort to using focus groups, questionnaires, and workshops to empower employees voice in aligning the organizational direction. In order to facilitate change in behaviour, I will employ creative learning solutions designed to meet specific change requirements. Effective use of simultaions and role-plays supported by e-learning solutions will help me bridge the expectation gaps from an employee perspective. I will have to project an openness in the way I operate in order to establish trust through my actions. The success or failure of challenging the status-quo in a business context, will be determined by the effectiveness of the initiatives that I execute. Continuous reflection on my actions will help me analyze how successful I was in implementing my principle. The workshops and focus groups will be a great starting point to seek vaildation of the application of my principle in a buisness environment.

Appraise different realities to develop a shared context and take responsibility of my actions

We live in an ambiguous world, were every persons world view is shaped differently courtesy of their experience, values, biases, and beliefs. This principle revolves around understanding different intrinsic and extrinsic realities associated with a given situation, which then helps me to align and take responsibility of my actions towards achieving a certain goal. The importance of this principle is twofold. Firstly it helps me create a shared reality which takes into account individual blind spots. Secondly the awareness of realities associated with a situation/task provides me with a clarity on my available options, which then enables me to be accountable of the choices that I make.

Genesis of the Principle

The loss of my father at a young age, made me responsible and penny wise. There were times when I had to worry about how my school fees for the next month would be paid. This helped me comprehend how the external reality can shape one's life and perspective. Growing up in a safe environment of a small town had limited my exposure. However it all changed fairly quickly when I started my bachelor's degree. In my first year at college, I was bullied and harassed on multiple occasions, as I was an easy prey. I found solace in the company of a friend, who helped me appraise my situation and also made me understand how people from different backgrounds acted differently. That was my first lesson in human psychology. I realized that while facing a precarious scenario, I had three choices:

I could just wait and watch, and be hurt in the process eventually

Act like a victim and condemn my fate

Take control of my life and navigate through the hardships

I decided to take ownership of my actions and started assessing people objectively. I soon realized that the more I understood a person's psyche and his extrinsic environment the better I could align my objectives around that.

Why is this Principle important for me?

Is developing a shared context important? Why should I be accountable for my actions?

This principle helped me develop as an individual during my college days, and paved way for my initial success in the training domain. Starting as a novice in the training field, the first lesson that I received from my mentor was on creating a shared context with the trainees. The emphasis lay on studying the profiles of the trainees before I interacted with them so that I could understand their background and work on creating a shared reality during my sessions with them. My interest in deciphering human behavior helped me inculcate the ideology of creating a shared context, which then assisted me to achieve my goal - facilitate learning. As I reflected on this, I realized that shared reality as a concept had its impact on a much wider scale & was just not limited to training facilitation. Understanding the individual beliefs & biases within a team helped me in being a professional extrovert by engaging team members on issues that they felt passionate about. As I moved on to handle project management roles, I realized that understanding the individual agendas of stakeholders involved, was an integral part of the job.

It was during this period that I faced a challenge with a Knowledge Management Project that I was leading. The project involved stakeholders across 13 different locations across the globe, and dealt with document management across the research teams. The issue here was with the delinquency in the creation and updation of documents due to a combination of a complicated process and a lax attitude of the stakeholders involved. I decided to first understand the perspectives of different stakeholders on an individual basis. After spending almost two months in analyzing different perspectives, I figured that there existed a general sense of frustration around the current process and that provided me with a shared context to resolve the issue amicably. The end goal was in sight from the start, but the shared context provided me with the clarity to decide which option to choose. Instead of the cyclical revision of individual documents across all research groups, I initiated a cyclical Audit which covered all the documents of a particular group (research teams) in one quarter. This helped me establish stakeholder buy-in and create a 15% increase in audit efficiency. This also helped me secure an out of turn promotion. As I reflect back on this challenge, I wasn't really sure of what I was doing to begin with. However with discourse I was able to fine tune my approach and engineer a solution. Thus my principle helped me create value for the organization and myself.

The MBA has helped me refine this principle by introducing me to my own blind spots. The Johari Window exercise done during the program was immensely useful in identifying my own value system and biases. The group assignments, presented a chance to understand the values and biases of people coming from different nationalities and backgrounds. The project with McDonald's that I did as part of the Corporate Challenge, helped me apply this principle yet again. Working towards refining the business processes within the customer service department (CSD) at McDonald's, we had to interview people across different departments and hierarchies. Navigating through personal agendas and biases our task was to deliver recommendations that could add value to the business. We approached the project with an open mind and used adding value to the CSD as a shared context during our interviews. Post identifying various agendas of different stakeholders, we developed objective recommendations that we as a team could take accountability for.

As per R. M. Kanter (2011) "The lens through which leaders view the world can help or hinder their ability to make good strategic decisions, especially during crises". In the recent past organizational context has become more relevant as a factor affecting leadership behavior. As per Porter & McLaughlin (2006, p.559) "Leadership in organizations does not take place in a vacuum. It takes place in organizational contexts." Situational factors play a big role in the effectiveness of leadership along with the personal characteristics of a leader.

However there happens a regular osmosis between the organizational context and leadership as both have the ability to impact each other (Porter, et. al 2006). Porter's research identified the following important components within organizational context that effect leadership behavior.

(Source: Porter & McLaughlin, 2006)

Thus it is evident that both extrinsic and intrinsic factors in an organizational context can impact leadership practice.

With the growing emergence of social networks in an organizational context it becomes important for a leader/manager to understand the inner workings of a social unit. As per Balkundi & Kilduff (2005, p.946) "To be an effective leader of a social unit is to be aware of: (a) the relations between actors in that unit; (b) the extent to which such relationships involve embedded ties including kinship and friendship; (c) the extent to which social entrepreneurs are extracting value from their personal networks to facilitate or frustrate organizational goals; and (d) the extent to which the social structure of the unit includes cleavages between different factions". An awareness of these factors can enable me with an in-depth understanding of the intrinsic factors affecting a given situation.

A leader who depicts accountability becomes a role model for followers to embed accountability in their own decision making. However as per Petrick & Quinn (2001, p.334) "Business leaders can attempt to evade full moral accountability by compartmentalizing and fragmenting their perception of the microeconomic world of organizational management and their assumptions about the macroeconomic world of global capitalism." A research done by Lerner & Tetlock (1999) highlights that leadership accountability can lead to enhancing group performance. Thus accountability is a must have tool for an effective leader/manager in his arsenal.

What role will this principle play in my future?

Will this principle be of any help in my future roles? Understanding the different realities associated with any business situation is the first step towards effective management. As I move back to the business world, my focus would be to analyze a situation from both micro and macro view, so that I can gain a holistic understanding of the different forces at play. This would help me address the situation by providing structural solutions. What I now need to build on is to be able to move across a continuum of perspectives, and still not lose sight of the big picture. To enable this I will start maintaining a checklist of all extrinsic and intrinsic activities, which I need to analyze for every business/personal situation that I encounter. Splitting these activities across tasks and people will help me examine the issue from both a mechanistic and humanistic viewpoint. Constant feedback from people that I will report to, will help me assess my level of accountability associated with a business context. My imminent business experience will provide me opportunities to reflect and develop this principle further.

Facilitate growth by helping people realize their true potential

This principle revolves around helping people comprehend and achieve their true worth in a way that benefits the organization they work for. The principle is not just limited to professional growth required to maximize performance related to a job, but also entails facilitating socio-cultural growth of an employee within the periphery of the organization. In a knowledge economy the growth of an organization is directly proportional to the growth of its human capital (Alverson & Spicer 2011). Hence it is of vital importance to instigate a culture that provides holistic growth for employees.

Genesis of the Principle

The virtue to help others has been imbibed in me since childhood. Be it helping my school friends with homework, or sharing my lecture notes with friends at college, I have always strived to help people around me. My spiritual belief in the power of 'Karma', the law of moral causation, helps me inspire goodness in others, which in turn leads to my own well-being.

Why is this Principle important for me?

How can helping other grow foster my growth?

The importance of this principle in my life revolves around a sense of self-satisfaction rendered by my actions to help others. To analyze this further I will draw on examples from my professional and personal life. During my role as an Assistant Manager-Training at Teleperformance, I faced a unique situation pertaining to one of my trainees. His overall performance during the training period was inconsistent and below average. During a monthly review, my Manager insisted that we should fire this individual as he was not able to scale the learning curve. However, I disagreed with my boss as I genuinely believed that this person had the potential to do well. Going out of my way, I bought myself an additional two weeks time, to bring this person up to speed. As I shared this news with the concerned individual, he revealed that his father was hospitalized and he had been spending his nights in the hospital for over 15 days. He could not afford loosing the job as his father was entirely dependent on him. Having understood his situation, I asked him to use it as a motivation to do well in the next two weeks. The fact that I had shown faith in him helped him gain faith in himself and this was evident in his improved performance. He completed his training and went on to become an Operations Manager within a year. I had the choice of handing him the pink slip however I was convinced of his potential and stood by him. What did I achieve in the process? Success like character and repute is something that no one else can judge for a person. Instigating a positive change in someone's life gives me a sense of pride. The fact that I did not have anybody to guide me when I was young, acts as an intrinsic motivator for me to help others grow.

At the start of the MBA program, we were asked to complete a quantitative module on Mathematics. I was fairly competent and comfortable in doing this module as I have a genuine interest in math. However this was a fertile ground for me to develop relationships as I helped people who were struggling with the module. My selflessness and willingness to assist others helped me built trust which then paved way to friendship. While working on group assignments involving presentations, I aided my team members by helping them master the skills of presentation, which I inherit from my background in Training & Development. It is the sheer joy of giving without expectation, which keeps me motivated to help people. Although it is hard to quantify self-satisfaction, but this principle has helped me gain trust and respect of peers; virtues which go a long way in shaping good relationships, a key element in driving results in a business environment.

The metaphor of 'Leaders as Gardeners' as described by Alverson & Spicer (2011, p76) personifies my principle. As per Alverson & Spicer (2011, p91) "Gardening has both aesthetic and functional purposes". The aesthetic approach considers gardening as an end, i.e. developing people being the sole aim of a leader. The functional approach looks as developing people for a higher purpose i.e. growing the organization as a whole. Hence gardening is looked at as a means to an end. The role of coaching has been vastly covered in leadership literature. As per Katherine et.al (2010) " Requisite coaching competencies include communication skills, analytical skills, assessment and feedback skills, planning skills, goal setting skills, organization skills, creativity and resourcefulness, ability to motivate and encourage, ability to challenge and confront others, results-orientation and accountability, integrity, empathy, caring, personable, approachable, flexible, empowering, and trustworthy". The core ideologies behind coaching lies in helping people reach their potential so that they can lead themselves. Manz & Sims (1991, p.18) describe this as "SuperLeadership". As per them a leader's strength can be measured by "one's ability to maximize the contributions of others through recognition of their right to guide their own destiny, rather than the leader's ability to bend the will of others to his or her own" The authors then establish a seven step process to help people discover others true potential.

Source: Manz & Sims (1990, p.33)

This process provides me with a tool that can help me develop my principle further. I will focus on encouraging people to set self -goals to begin with.

The notion of shadow leadership, which was unpacked by Mr. Ken Parry during the Advanced Leadership elective, also offers insight into my principle. Through the medium of the movie 12 Angry Men, Mr. Parry highlighted how a leader can inspire followers by helping them align their thought process in a specific direction and then take backstage. The role of facilitating others growth is paramount in developing human capital and my principle will allow me to practice it in my imminent roles.

What role will this principle play in my future?

As I aim to work in the Training & Development domain post my MBA, helping people grow will be a part of my KPI's. This puts me in a unique position, whereby I will find a platform to practice my principle on a regular basis. The effectiveness of my principle in my job can be analyzed via both objective and subjective methods. Training evaluation tools provide me an objective framework to judge the impact of my training sessions, in the light of business requirements. On a subjective level, I can evaluate the principle based on how I frame coaching/mentoring relationships with people in the work domain, which then foster their personal growth within the realms of the organization. To insure that I make progress in developing this principle further, I need to focus on my self-development. An objective way to do so is to enroll for the CIPD qualification in Learning & Development to begin with. I will also strive to practice shadow leadership in my future roles, to analyze the effectiveness of this technique for me as a manager/leader. I also need to actively look out for leaders in my network, who follow this principle. I can learn from their personal experience, and also seek their feedback/advice on how I can develop this principle further.

To maintain moral and ethical integrity in decision making

In my personal and professional life, I pay heed to taking into account the righteousness of a decision, no matter how small or big that might be. The principle thus unpacks itself as taking decisions which are not only synchronized with the overall benefit of the people involved and the stakeholder value created, but are also legitimate based on my own rational convictions. The principle entails being open, considerate, fair and honest while undertaking any decision within the business, whilst keeping it isolated from any vested selfish interests.

Genesis of the Principle

The roots of this principle lie in my upbringing. From a nascent age I was tutored to look at the legitimacy of my action and its impact on people around me. As a kid, I used to share my homework books with a few close friends. When my mother figured this out, she asked me a simple question 'Are you really helping your friends?' She then went on to explain how my actions were actually hindering the progress of my friends as they were just copying my work and not learning by action in the process. This incident helped me realize that one's actions have consequences, and thus we need to be critical of what we are doing. My experiences in life thereafter have helped me develop this principle further.

Why is this Principle important for me?

Is moral and ethical integrity essential for me? Has it made an impact on my life?

Having realized the importance of judging the integrity associated with my actions at a young age, this principal came to the forefront when I joined the corporate world at an executive level. Working for a financial process, I was responsible for making collections on delinquent customer accounts for Dell. Four months into the role, I identified malicious practices being adopted on the job floor. Some executives were extending collection activities on accounts that were beyond their territory, in order to enhance their monthly performance figures. I perceived that to be an unethical practice as it took the incentive away from people who did their job honestly. To confirm my suspicion, I spoke to a quality assurance analyst on the matter and he helped me monitor the black swans and build a case against them. Once I had the required proof, I shared it with my team leader who dismissed the factual proof as a fickle piece of my imagination. He warned me to not stray around and just do my job. However I was resolute on making this right, hence I decided to take up the issue with the senior management. Bypassing the hierarchical structures, I spoke to the VP-Operations about the issue and he assured me of an imminent investigation. However the whole thing was brushed under the carpet and I was transferred to another team. My ethics did not allow me to work for an organization that used corrupt practices to achieve short term gains. Having made a futile attempt to set things right, I decided to part ways with the firm and tendered my resignation. As I reflect back on that instance, I realize that majority of the people are driven by self-interest and never have the grit to stand for what they believe is right and ethical. I waged a lone battle as I truly believed in upholding my ethics. The fact that I did not surrender meekly and followed my principle without the fear of consequences helped me build on my self-esteem and also strengthened my belief around my principle.

During the course of the MBA, I faced another dilemma where my ethics principle was brought to light. I was booked for a second plagiarism case as part of one of my group assignments. The situation was precarious for me as a second booking could have hurt my future aspirations. Irrespective of the consequences that I might have faced individually, I decided it was ethical for me to take responsibility of the part that I had written. No one else in the group came forward and took the responsibility of their individual sections; on the contrary they tried to pin the blame on me. My ethical stand saved me as the Plagiarism Officer did not consider it as a Major offence and reprimanded us with a warning. Reflecting back on this incident made me realize that guarding my personal interest before that of the group has never been my ethos & I personally abstain from aligning any pseudo allegiance, to further my personal goals. What I learned was that a Mindful Manager needs to walk a thin line between ethics and politics. I need to be omnipresent in observing what's going on and guard my back at all times.

Matt Alverson and Andre Spicer (2011, p53.) in their book 'Metaphors we Lead by' express the opinion that "there remains a strong assumption that effective leaders have a high level of integrity, honesty, and ethics; they are almost saint-like in their qualities of being authentic, putting their followers first and so on." As per Bass & Steidlmeier (1999) "The ethics of leadership rests upon three pillars:

The moral character of the leader

The ethical legitimacy of the values embedded in the leaders vision, articulation, and program which followers either embrace or reject

The morality of the processes of social ethical choice and action that leaders and followers engage in and collectively pursue."

Looking at my principle in the light of the following three pillars helps me explore the impact of my character and the social context involved in the decision making process. I believe that the virtue of being fair, honest, and open to followers can help establish patterns of reciprocity. If a leader is perceived as a person with a high moral character, it helps him build on faith & trust (Alverson & Spicer, 2011 p66). If a decision is made keeping into account the value creation for the people involved, the leaders vision thus becomes that much harder to question. The moral aspect of leadership is visible in both transactional and transformational styles of leadership.

Source: Bass & Steidlmeier (1999, p5)

There also exists a divergent perspective according to which "The high morality of a manager could be met with suspicion and seen as misplaced in a highly political context."(Alverson & Spicer, 2011 p66). The aspect of moral transformation of employees can also be seen as a part of the transformational theory of leadership. As per Bass & Steidlmeier (1999, p11) "Leaders are authentically transformational when they increase awareness of what is right, good, important, and beautiful, when they help to elevate followers' needs for achievement and self-actualization, when they foster in followers higher moral maturity, and when they move followers to go beyond their self-interests for the good of their group, organization, or society." However in the current context of decentralized workforce this attribute can be seen as moral policing, which might not induce favorable outcomes. So what impact do these learning's have on my principle? I need to develop the skills to tactically use ethics in a political environment. This trait will then help me develop people with high moral integrity and yet skilled to face work politics.

What role will this principle play in my future?

Capitalism as of today has eroded the moral virtues of the business society. Insider trading, financial and environmental scandals are an everyday norm. The public view of business executives is shaped by media reports on hefty bonuses and lack of business acumen in making the right decisions (Barclay's Libor scandal being a case in point). This state of pandemonium establishes the need for righteous business ethics in today's business leaders. Hence the applicability of maintaining moral and ethical integrity in decision making is rightly justified. In my future roles, it is not going to be easy to implement this principle, as business decisions are primarily driven by self interest, as suggested by the principal agent theory. I foresee dealing with multiple individual agendas laced with biases, trying to push forward their personal interests ahead of what's right for the business. I need to make inroads by first establishing my credibility as a fair and honest manager, which will then provide me the platform to involve others. I do not have to impose my principle on others; however I do need to empower people to decide for themselves as to what is the righteous decision to make in a given situation (Laissez-faire). Benchmarking my decisions based on the ethical quotient associated with them can help me evaluate the impact of this principle in my decision making.

Persevere to achieve excellence in the task at hand

This foundation of this principle lies on the pillars of courage and excellence. The principle outlines having the courage to follow my conviction, regardless of the obstacles in order to accomplish a task. The underlying motive is to accomplish the task with the highest standards of excellence, which can then act as driver of motivation for people around me.

Genesis of the Principle

My mother has been a pivotal force in instilling the virtue of courage in me. For a widow, without any formal education raising three kids in a highly orthodox environment was a daunting task. It was her courage and conviction to impart the best of education for her children, that helped her find a way. Every night before she put me to bed, she told me 'One can achieve anything that his heart desires; you just need to want it hard enough'. Thus she helped in inculcating this virtue in me at a nascent age.

Why is this Principle important for me?

Why do I need courage to seek excellence?

The success of an idea depends on how well it is executed. After finishing by bachelors degree in engineering, I had the choice to join a technology firm. However my passion did not bear allegiance with engineering. Thus I made a conscious decision to delineate a career in the training & development domain. The road that followed was not an easy one. I had to face societal and parental pressure, as nobody believed in me. It was the shear conviction that I had in my abilities that helped me sail through the rough tide. Reflecting back at that time makes me realize that my future would not have been the same, had I not shown courage to stick to what I believed in.

My decision to pursue an MBA degree at a time, when my professional career was on the upswing, did not go down well with my family. Financing my MBA was also another major hurdle that I had to look after. My hard work helped me scale the entrance to the MBA programs at Lancaster and Nanyang, however finding a bank to finance my studies happened to prove the most difficult aspect. It was during the same time that both my mother and grandmother had to go through surgeries. I used to spend my nights in the hospitals and my days chasing banks to secure a loan. My ambition to achieve an MBA helped me sustain the pressure and my belief in my abilities helped me finally achieve my goal. The courage to stick by my convictions had yet again proved to be a game changer for me. Thus my conviction has helped me stand in a good stead, during testing times.

The Leadership module and the Advanced Leadership elective, which I studied during the MBA, helped me develop this principle further. As per Chris Saunders, "A leader can only inspire other by virtue of his actions." This made me think of my principle from a tangential perspective. How can I mould my principle in such a way, that I can inspire others in the process of chasing my goals? Mr. Ken Parry spoke at length about looking at leadership from a follower's perspective. I thus stepped into the followers shoes and asked myself a question- If I have a leader who is persistent in his approach towards reaching his goal, which attribute of his would inspire me? In that moment the answer became clear to me, if a leaders strives for excellence in all his deeds that would trigger his follower's to do the same. Hence I amended my principle to incorporate seeking excellence along with persistence towards achieving a goal.

The academic literature on charismatic and transformational leadership provides me with benchmarks to weigh my principle. As per Bass (1997, p.23) "A particularly salient aspect of charisma and idealized influence is the manifestation of determination and persistence in leadership". As per transformational leadership theories "It is in pursuing excellence, motivating others to become their best, seeking the best interests of both the individual and the organization, and constantly learning that organizations are able to create high trust and the high performance work cultures that produce increased profitability and long-term sustainability" (Pfeffer 1998, as cited in Caldwell, et.al, 2012, p.177). The question that thus arises is how can a leader inspire and motivate his followers? As per Conger et.al (2000) "the leader's exemplary acts involving personal risk and self-sacrifice build follower satisfaction with the leader by heightening perceptions of the leader's commitment to realizing their shared vision and the shared rewards that will accompany the outcomes of the mission". Thus setting the right examples by chasing excellence in deeds can help a leader build trust. The role of moral conviction is also integral for a leader to garner support. As per Antonikas et.al (2012) "Expressions of moral conviction and statements that reflect the sentiments of the group even when the sentiments are negative establish your credibility by revealing the quality of your character to your listeners and making them identify and align themselves with you. " Ken Parry, during his lectures on Advanced Leadership described leadership as a process. Popper & Mayseless (2003) used the analogy between parenting and transformational leadership to bring out the effects of transformational leaders on their followers. The authors argue that the leaders/parents employ psychological processes to improve the follower/child interpersonally and morally. The figure below presents a listing of such processes and the desired outcome that they lead to. These processes along with setting the right examples of pursuing excellence in the set goals with conviction can help me develop as a manager/leader.

Source: Popper & Mayseless (2003)

What role will this principle play in my future?

The ambiguity associated with the business problems, demands a manager/leader to identify solutions that offer an innovative reconciliation. Once the solution has been identified, it is the conviction with which these measures are implemented that leads to the success or failure of the initiative. Thus it is imperative for me to involve people in the decision making process, to empower them. I will follow this up by choosing the best fit solution in the context, by keeping the principle of laissez faire in mind. Setting the right example by walking the talk, will help me build trust and inspire others. A quantitative way of measuring the success of my principle lies in measuring the productivity of people that I lead. This would ascertain whether my conviction for seeking excellence in all my tasks has grown on my team. Empowering employees to take accountability of their own decisions will provide me with another way to assess the implications of this principle. The success or failure rate of the decisions instigated by the employees will help me appraise the self-belief that I have been able to imbibe in them. In my future roles, I need to adopt a more participative approach to my leadership style so that I can motivate people to strive for excellence in their own domain of expertise. The complexities associated with business decisions that I will be making, will help me develop this principle further. As the level of complexity increases, I will have to challenge my own limits, in order to insure that I see all my decisions through.

Conclusion:

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself"

Leo Tolstoy

The desire to change myself was at the heart of my decision to do an MBA. The self revelations that have transpired throughout the year have helped me develop as an individual. As a Leader, having a vision is of utmost importance. For me challenging the status-quo, with a desire to envision a better and brighter future provides me that platform. The implementation of a vision requires an absolute understanding of the environment in which the vision unfolds. This helps in developing a shared context and also induces accountability. What good is a leader who pays no heed to his followers? If I can help people around me grow, that furthers my growth as well. Upholding the spirit of moral and ethical integrity in thoughts and action provides the leader with a choice to achieve the vision in a sustainable manner. For me this is the thread that binds all my managerial deeds together. Finally I will not be able to put any of the above into practice, if I do not have the required courage to follow my conviction. Hence my current principles serve my incumbent needs. These may change in the future and that might lead to alterations to my existing principles or the discovery of new ones.

As George Eliot rightly said "The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice", I am certain that my principles will aid me in making the right choices in life.