All 6 entries tagged Leadership

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February 17, 2011

Aye aye capt'n.

Captains Log
Date: September 02.

So here we are, on the coastal port of Nira and preparing to set off and seek our fortune which lies in wait below the shimmering waves. We have everything we need and nothing can stand between us and our glorious future as treasure hunters! We have our team, we have our map, we have our instructions, and we have our treasure data! Let the adventure begin.

Captains Log
Date: September 07.

Arrrr... planning be a cruel mistress. Tis true the saying "fail to plan, plan to fail". Our initial lack of direction and planning completely threw us off course. Only after taking a step back, starting over, and looking at our challenge step by step coupled with the information at our disposal were we able to actually figure out what were we doing. It really drills in how important it is to take the time to understand what you're doing before rushing in guns blazing. As leaders, rash such decisions are questionable. Not only does it create confusion if you don't know the direction, but it also prevents progress.

Captains Log
Date: September 08.

And so our tasks on the high seas begin. As we set sail below the waves in our mighty submesible towards grid reference J5 we face many challenges including a profitability analysis! Team work is key. With laissez-faire management at the helm multiple emergent leaders appear, and yet the closenit crew of our submersible work effectively together to achieve the task at hand. People naturally begin to take roles within the team so that the whole team becomes a fully functionning system with each part working towards our common goal. What drives us? Could be the competition, could be the reward of an early finish. But mainly, it seems the intrinsic desire of everyone to see the task complete. We all genuinly wanted to finish and were driven to achieve together. The natural creation of shared goals and visions for me just demonstrates how the creation of an effective team become a motivational force in itself, and that through this the team works towards a shared vision even when one hasn't been given to them.

Captains Log
Date: September 16.

So far so good. Our tasks have lead us to the wreck. Gold ahoy! We found our treasure! Cleverly hidden in the sick bay of the sunken wreck, in a secret compatment behind the medicine cabinet. It may take us time to carry our vast fortune onto our tini submersible, but thanks to tardis like technology in its design we should have no problem.

Captains Log
Date: September 21.

As we leave the now empty wreck, our submersible loaded with riches we set off, ready to face our tasks on the way back to port. But alas, the tasks unfortunately get the better of us. Our successfull delegation of tasks at first seems to be working but then disaster strikes. We misread a question. We begin to stray off course. A simple mis interpretation of a question leads us to a wrong answer. And the most we try to understand where we went wrong, the less we actually read the question, and the more we attempt to answer what we thought the question asked! A simple misunderstanding leads to a continuing spiral of confusion. So many times people say when things begin to overwhelm you, take a deep breath, step back and start over. But as we realised, in the heat of the moment this is easier said than done. Once stuck in the mindset of "there can't be any other way" you continue in manner. A learning point for us all I think. Getting lost in the heat and panic of the moment leads to ever worse results and performance. I think this is true for assignments as well. If panic sets in, whether from deadlines or lack of understanding, continuing without break starts becoming less and less productive, until progress just stops!

Captains Log
Date: September 26.

Abandon ship! Abandon ship! As the timer runs out and our game ends, in our fully laden submersible we realise the safe shores of nira are just too far away! The light on the fuel gauge begins to flash. We know that we will never make it shore. The crew stares at the treasures one last time before darting to the escape pod. The fuel gauge light slowly stops flashing, the submersible goes dark and starts to slowly drift towards the ocean floor. As our escape pod rises to the surface, we watch our fortune fade into the darkness. Lost forever. Or at least until the next Leadership and Excellence module is run and another daring crew sets off in search gold and glory. For now, we must reside ourselves to the fact that lunch time is upon us and the common room beckons us with hot chocolate and coffee.

February 16, 2011

Leadership and Coaching

Provided that effective leaders exists in an organisation and employees have no fear about consultations with those in positions of leadership, leaders are considered as the go to guy when things go wrong or help in any form is needed. Being a good leader does not necessarily make an individual a good leader though and when providing guidance and coaching to people, a multitude of problems can be created. So when we are required to provide guidance and coaching to others, how do we ensure that this coaching we provide as leaders is effective and constructive? This was the question we discussed today in lectures.

Many many ideas of what is required to provide effective coaching were discussed but it boiled down to this. Effective coaching requires a leader to provide: guidance, focus, support, planning, empowerment.

In other words, when coaching others a leader should listen to the problem and  lead the individual into their own solution by prompting them with the right questions. By doing this, a leader should not have to provide the individual with a solution since the individual will solve the problem themselves. This method empowers individuals, gives them confidence in their own abilities, create trust between leadership and employees, prevents leadership appearing dictatorial by imposing their own problem solutions, and prevents the need for the leadership to be an expert in all of the activities of their followers.

When you think about it... this reeeeaaally makes alot of sense. I mean, it even makes the leaders life easier because they don't actually have to know the answers all the time! I personally experienced this today during a role play exercise where I was coaching a colleague. Despite have no knowledge of the problem I managed to help guide him to create his own solution to the problem. This was without a doubt a eureka moment. While I've often given guidance to individuals in the past, I'd always been knowledgeable in the topic where I was helping them. I'd never really considered before that you could effectively coach someone without being knowledgeable in the topic but today really drummed in the effectiveness in all coaching situations of this method of guidance. Coaching in this style becomes a win-win for the coach and coachee I say. Surely everybody in a position of coaching would already know how much sense it makes and employ this tactic, it just wouldn't make any sense not to. And yet they don't! Crazy isn't it?

How many times in your lives have you attended coaching/training/guidance/whatever sessions for whatever reason and all that happened was that you were talked at, not with, and told the solutions to something by somebody who doesn't know anything about it!!! The number of times I've discussed an issue with managers, guidance counsellors, and the like where all that has happened is they have told me their pre-subscribed solution to a generic problem that is not only inapplicable, but completely uninformative. Yes there have been times where I have been genuinly helped through these means, but why has this been so rare? I understand that change is at times difficult to accept, so changing stlyes of coaching may be equally difficult for leaders. But then again, in a position of leadership where coaching is requisit, shouldn't the very idea that people will always come to you with different problems mean you should not be averse to change since you will constantly have to be developing new solutions to new problems?

February 10, 2011

What is Leadership?

Over the last few days, our lectures have involved many many discussion on what leadership means and who is a leader, which strangely enough for a Leadership and Excellence module isn't actually very surprising. What is surprising though is the depths this topic can actually reach.

The idea of what is leadership is a huge question. In our studies, we looked at a matrix analysis of 20 different definitions of leadershp from various people. Every single defintion was different, but what was quite surprising for us was the main currents of thought that prevailed in the majority of definitions.

  • "Art or process of influencing or mobilising the activities or thoughts"
  • "Relationship between leader and: others, followers or group"
  • "Achievement of purpose or goals."

The three concepts were present in the majority of definitions of leadership. Just think about that for a moment. Creating a shared goal that people want to achieve on their own accord is not considered an important aspect of leadership by the definitions that were expressed.
Furthermore use of the term influencing. I can't help but frown on this word because of its vagueness. How do we influence? Do we influence with the carrot or the stick? Or just by creating a desire to undergo a task. This word for me is too open to interpretation. Can a  tyrant who rules and influences by fear alone actually be considered a leader? Is somebody who makes people work just enough to achieve a task by throwing money at them really a leader? Or is a leader a person who makes people want to do something because they believe in it.
This bring me onto my next issue... The inspiration of voluntary effort is not considered to be of importance. How can this be possible? A good leader for me will make people want to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Could it be the corruption of morales has lead to hazziness in what people think it takes to be a leader? I fear yes. But hope still lives. By listening to our group discussions on leadership I see light. I see a generation that is considering what exactly it takes to be a leader, and that sees leadership is more than just managing people.

February 09, 2011

Is it all Leadership?

Imagine an individual in a position of power, lets for for example a someone running a branch of a large business. Every day they make decisions about the business and direct its operations.

In their position they have:

  • Authority
  • Power
  • Control
  • Influence

But does this mean they are necesarily a leader? I would argue that no, it doesn't.
Some people discuss the ideas of management and leadership as flip sides of the same coin but I can't accept this thinking. While both have the power to control the direction of an organisation, for me a manager and leader are two different individuals.

For me, a leader inspires other to follow. A leader should not have to exert direct authority, but should be able motivate individuals to act towards a common shared vision. A leader should be able to create a situation in which people are intrinsically motivated. They do not follow the leader because they have to, but because they want to.

My view of managers on the other hand is that they do not lead, they dictate. A manager will not create a shared vision and bring people together toward a common goal. They will instruct pople of what to do and how to do it. They do not inspire people to follow them of their own accord.

Personally, I think this distinction is very important because the synergy a leader can bring about through motivation towards a shared vision will outshine the "just enough" attitude that managers would bring about in their employees.

February 08, 2011

Nature vs. Nurture

Over the last few days, one question has come up on many occasions during my lectures and dicussions.

"Can leadership be taught?"

For me, this comes down to the age old question of nature vs nurture. Are we born with qualities that make us proficient in a certain role? Or do we develop these characteristics and qualities during the course of our life?

In the context of leadership, I see one side of the argument as our nature that makes us a good leader. Qualities such as charisma, confidence, good communication skills, and integrity, that for many define what makes a good leader may be considered as traits that one is born with. The desire and ability to lead are inherent properties of you as an individual that will direct how you behave and what you do throughout your life. In essense, the traits you are born with define who you are. This stream of through leads to the idea that not everyone can be a leader because leaders are not created, leaders are born.

On the other hand, the idea of nurture leading to the creation of a good leader means that anybody could potentially be a leader. The ability to lead is gained nurtune, as individuals grow, their ability to lead other develops through training, experience, and personal development. This could be said to be by choice as an individual puts themself in situations in which they acquire leadership skills; or even by necessity if an individual is put by others into a situation in which they must take control, during the process of which they develop their abilities to lead. The idea of leadership through nurture is that leadership skills are acquired, so rather than a leader being born, a leader is created.

Any example of a good leader could be argued to be the result of nature, or nurture, depending on an individuals point of view. Take for example someone considered as an iconic leader in history, Alexander the Great. Some may attribute his conquests to the fact that he was born a natural leader and inspired others to follow him. It may also be said that his upbringing gave him the vision and experience needed to inspire others to follow him.

My personal view on the nature vs nurture argument is no so straight forward. I argue that both play a role. I see nurture as the opportunity to become a leader. Nurture gives you a path to follow that will move you towards becoming who you wish to be, a path on which you can develop you skills and gain the characteristics that will help you become a leader whose vision will inspire others to follow. Nurture is only a path however. Nature is what will define whether you follow this path of not. Is an individual born with the desire and drive to achieve all they can achieve, or will they stray from the path and not make the most of every opportunity. For me, this is why the nature vs nurture argument seems slightly too black and white, and the question of "can leadership be taught" has a rather ambiguous answer of possibly. While some are born with the desire and characteristics that make the path to leadership easier, if you are born with the desire and drive to lead then the ability to lead can be learnt.

November 01, 2010


ep·ic  [ep-ik] –adjective Also, ep·i·cal.

1. Of, constituting, having to do with, or suggestive of a literary epic: an epic poem.
2. Surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size
3. Heroic and impressive in quality:

This one little word sums up my last week in more ways than one, and because of this my entry today will be an epic (in literary terms) because a quick post will not do the week justice. For me, the CBE module was indeed impressive in quality and surpassed the usual (comparing module standards of my academic life to date) far beyond my expectations. It wasn't until the final few days that it hit me how much we, as a class, have actually learned directly and passively during the previous weeks.

I'll give some examples. Our last seminar, a few questions on leadership lead into a heated and very much indepth discussion about leadership styles, morales, values. What is considered an effective style of leadership is a good question. Does the authority of an autocratic leader having absolute control motivate? Is a leader that leads by example better for morale? Is a democratic approach allowing input from everyone a better way to create an environment of high efficiency and creativity? Or can a more laissez-faire approach provide individuals with the drive to achieve by empowering them and giving them greater responsibility? Personally, i don't believe a leader should be restricted to any of these styles. I think what makes a leader is the ability to adapt, to be flexible and knowledgable enough to see the best approach any situation may require and to behave accordingly. No two situations are the same and a leader must be able to adapt as required.

But what role do values and morales play? Can a leader be "corrupted". We debated this to great extent, with opinions often at polar opposits to each other. On the one hand, it was argued that the only way to proceed in life is through a steadfast resolve to never succomb to moraly dubious actions to maintain ones dignity. That the ends will never justify the means. While on the other hand it was argued that sometimes corruption is a way of life, that the only method to achieve any end is through actions that may be considered questionable. This stream of thought considered that sometimes the ends do indeed justify the means. Personally, I sided with the latter. While the ideology that the ends never justify the means is the epitome of ideologies in a perfect world, I think that the flawed nature of our world means that the this cannot always be applied. I believe situations do exist whereby what people may consider a questionable action such as accepting or offering bribery is indeed the only option to achieve a desired result. For example, in a country where bribery is common place, an individual may desire to build a hospital that will improve social welfare, but the political system means that to be granted permissions a bribe must be offered. For me, not doing everything in my power to ensure the permissions are granted would mean a failing of my values, the ends here would justify the means. This is a very tricky topic however, does this put an individual on the path to complete corruption, or would such an assumption be a cruel stereotype that all individuals do no have the morale fibre to know when they will be going against what they believe in. For me, such actions will not guarentee the complete corruption of an individual.

Now, moving on to something different. Learning. How much have we been learning? The last presentations of the week enlightened me to the extent that which I have personally leart from my personal reading, and from my colleagues. I did not think I was as knowledgable about this presentation as the previous ones, I felt in some way unprepared. But once I started talking, it all made sense. As questions were asked at the end, I was able to participate in answering these question in an informed manner! For me, this showed that we have learnt far more this week that we are actually aware of and filled me with confidence that in the coming weeks, I will be able to apply this knowledge to my PMA.

As for the end of the week, once again, epic. The first MBE social gathering went off smoothly and I was amazed with the turnout. Seeing everybody together and enjoying themselves demonstrated the comradery present within our course. It made me thankful to be part of such a dynamic group that works so well together. We are all on this journey to excellence together.

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