Over the summer, I lost the most influential female figure I had in life. My grandmother. She was the hierarchy of our family. I considered her to be a knowledgeable, trusting, stern, yet loving leader. Someone who I had always strived to be like. She left behind her legacy that continues to be conveyed by her family. Thinking about when my time on earth is over, I wonder if I have portrayed myself in the way that I want to be recognized as a leader. There are many different ways that I demonstrate leadership; as a sister, a friend, a mother, and as a professional. This thought helped define what leadership personally means to me. Authors James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner (2017) describe a template of their five practices presented throughout their book The Leadership Challenge that are proven to bring higher levels of success to those who practice it. Their book challenges everyone to become a leader by providing them with the tools, confidence, and recognition that everyone has the ability be a great leader. I recognized leadership practices that were taught to me by my grandmother and that I have been unknowingly utilizing the five leadership practices that they describe. “Great leadership potential is discovered, and unlocked, when you seek to understand the desires and expectations of your constituents, and when you act on them in way that are congruent with their norms and image of what an exemplary leader is and does” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 28). I define leadership as creating and inspiring a powerful team of individuals to work together towards achieving an ideal goal. I recognized my grandmother as a credible leader because of the qualities she had that resemble what most people want to see in a leader. This book, along with my grandmother, have helped me determine the leadership qualities, skills, and practices that I have acquired and will continue to incorporate throughout my personal journey of mastering my own leadership philosophy.
Model the Way
My grandmother set a good example for me to follow based on her life skills and family values. She led her family with pride, even when times were tough she persevered through. Looking back, I realized that the impact of her strength taught me how to be a leader. Kouzes and Posner (2017) believed that by clarifying values through finding your inner voice and affirming shared values, along with setting the example by aligning your actions and values, is the first step in their leadership process described as Model the Way. Leadership starts with a single person who knows what they want and how to achieve it. As they live for their dream leaders demonstrate their values, the possibilities, and actions necessary to achieve success which can inspire others to join in with them.
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As a mother of two teenage boys, I lead by example, demonstrating proper behaviors, and reactions to different situations. Teaching my children that our spoken words and physical actions can affect other people’s feelings, so we must treat others the way we want to be treated. We cannot stop people from judging us, but we can use their comments and feedback to evaluate if their perceptions of us is what we intended to demonstrate. As a mother and leader, instilling good morals and values within my family is just as important to me as it was for my grandmother.
Inspire a Shared Vision
My grandmothers golden smile was memorizing to me and anyone she met. Upon multiple occasions, I heard people tell her that they felt like she was an old friend, even though they had just met. Growing up with her captivating personality, she earned my trust and respect. In order for leaders to gather support of followers they must appeal to and connect with others in order to establish a relationship. Exceptional leaders can visualize a future different from the present and create relationships with individuals who also believe in their dream and in them as a leader. This second step in Kouzes and Posner’s (2017) leadership process entails Inspiring a Shared Vision through imagining future possibilities and finding a common purpose, along with enlisting others who appeal to your common ideas and can help bring the vision to life.
This step in the leadership process made a big impact on my personal leadership philosophy as the lead dental hygienist within the office I work. With my natural tendency to be shy, I never have considered myself a leader. The passion for my career, ability to stay positive as changes happen within our office, good listening and communicating skills makes to easily connect with my co-workers as a leader. These skills I learned from watching my grandmother interact with others helped me become a great leader for our dental hygiene department.
Challenge the Process
I identify with Challenge the Process, the third practice within The Leadership Challenge the most (Kouzes & Posner, 2017). In fact, I feel it is the reason why I am writing this reflection paper. When I reached my twentieth year working as a licensed dental professional, I wondered how I could take all of my accrued knowledge and utilize it in a new way. I had recently partook in a four day Tony Robbins event that had encouraged me to change my future career path. While at the event, I set the goal of completing my Baccalaureate of Science degree in Dental Hygiene.
Making the decision to advance my educational background and expand my career options has challenged me to step out of my comfort zone as a leader both at work and at home. When I first looked at the guided pathway of this program, I was overwhelmed by each course required to complete totaling thirty-one units. By breaking the course down into six semesters made the program seem achievable. After every semester that I complete I treat myself to a day filled with spa treatments and desserts.
I initiated my challenge to Kouzes and Posner’s (2017) leadership process by searching for an opportunity to improve myself for the future of my career. This program has completely challenged me, at times I have even failed. Learning from the mistakes I have made has allowed me to grow into a better leader. This book has taught me to never put pressure on my co-workers, or children, to be perfect, leaving room for them to be creative and make their own mistakes that they can learn from.
Enable Others to Act
Kouzes and Posner’s (2017) fourth practice of Enabling Others to Act which fosters collaboration though building a trusting environment and developing relationships, along with strengthen others by enhancing their self-determination while developing competence and confidence. Reflecting back upon this makes remember the mutual trust I had with my grandmother. The concern she had for others built lifelong friendships and reciprocated bonds. Through observing my grandmother’s natural leadership qualities, I have been coached to develop my own confidence as a leader.
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It is important to uplift and empower my co-worker to feel confident about themselves and their clinical skills. I fully support each of them and exuberate trust in their abilities. I encourage them to continue to grow by providing proper instruments, demonstrate techniques, and communication skills so they can feel comfortable in every aspect of their job, gearing them towards success. I hold monthly meetings to allow collaboration between co-workers and even inviting outside healthcare specialist to join us. I strongly believe that if an individual feels that they know everything about their job, then they are truly board. I lead the dental hygiene department with the idea that there is always something new to learn.
Encourage the Heart
Through this reflection paper I have been able to share with you some of the exceptional qualities my grandmother had as a leader. This is a way I have been able recognize and appreciate her for the contributions she has made in my life. I have been able to celebrate some of the values she has passed on to me and will remain thankful of her. The last practice in The Leadership Challenge is Encourage the Heart which focus on recognizing contributions, celebrating the values and victories, and making you aware that leadership is everyone’s business (Kouzes & Posner, 2017). Involved leaders show their gratitude and that they care by giving personal recognition of individual achievements creating a rewarding workplace.
For some people giving or excepting feedback can be awkward, but with practice it can become very helpful and even rewarding for all parties involved. It is so nice to hear the words “thank you” from someone you have worked hard for. It feels even better when you have been supported by your employer, recognized for your hard work, or even rewarded with a celebration for a specific achievement. Having a leader show that they care about what you have accomplished makes an employee value their relationship and in turn they work harder. My personal leadership philosophy for my children, and co-workers, is to incorporate many ways to acknowledge and celebrate success and to help inspire others that they can also achieve the same successes while doing what they love.
Reflecting back on this class and the process of discovering what leadership means, I realized that the knowledge I have gained as a leader will stay with me forever. Each of the five practices presented in this challenge are equally as important, but the one that had the most impact on my personal leadership philosophy has been Challenging the Process. This is what made me realize that I am a leader. I have shown myself, co-workers and children that success cannot be achieved without failures. If I had never challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone, I would never have known what level of success I was capable of achieving. I realized the importance of pushing our limits, as a child and an adult. If we never give ourselves a chance to grow, we remain safe, but stagnant. This book changed my opinion from a leader being an individual that makes all the decisions and you follow their orders, to seeing that a successful leader believes we are stronger and can achieve more when working together towards the same goal. Incorporated in my personal leadership philosophy is that leaders create new leaders, making every person feel equally important as part of the team. Kouzes and Posner (2017) The Leadership Challenge has helped me discover my personal leadership philosophy in which I will utilize the five practices as I continue my journey of becoming an exemplary leader.
- Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2017). The leadership challenge how to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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