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December 17, 2010

Sound it out!

Recently, my friend and I established a debating union (in English). It took us months to discuss how to make it work. First, we clarified our mission of this union was to provide a platform for a high standard of intellectual exchange, language growth, and cultural understanding. Then, we talked about the venue and time which would be convenient for the members to join. Also, identifying potential members who are interested in developing argumentative and persuasive skills is also a task for us. Lastly, we planned the activities, such as inviting the guest speakers/moderators that would enhance members¡¦ debating skills.

I am really passionate and enthusiastic about running this debating union! Now we really made it happen! Regardless only four participants in the first meeting, it was a good start for the members to think about different pros and cons arguments, engage with opposing views and speak strategically.

My friend, who is an English native speaker, served as the moderator for the first debate. He helped the members to rephrase the sentences. In other words, our ideas became more clear and concise after he corrected us. A sentence ¡¡¡Óinstigate the ideas¡¨ was coming out from his comments. ¡¡¡ÓInstigate¡¨ was a new vocabulary to me and I asked him how to spell. He said ¡¡¡Ósound it out¡¨ with a dismissive tongue. I felt offended. From that point on, I completely disengaged myself from the debating. Yet, I knew this was not appropriate. So, I managed to pull myself back into the discussion till the end of the meeting.

After the meeting, I started to reflect why I had such abrupt emotion towards my friend¡¦s ¡¡¡Ósound it out.¡¨ Whenever he asks me how to pronounce Chinese characters I am always patient to teach him the tones. Whereas he made me feel that I was not intelligent enough to figure out ¡¡¡Óinstigate¡¨. After the meeting, he knew I was upset. I got it off my chest to tell him what I felt earlier. He was shocked and told me that it was totally not personal. They are raised this way to learn English. Thus, it was his sharp tongue which made me uncomfortable. I was glad that we talk through this misunderstanding.

Conflicts are unavoidable in our interpersonal relationships. However, conflicts could be resolved through communication. It was good that my friend and I took time to understand each other. Yet, we might have other conflicts for future cooperation. As long as we make the conflicts into functional conflicts, these functional conflicts will become building blocks for long term relationship.


May 24, 2010

Team exercise: The Leadership Challenge

When Paul reminded us that Friday's Leadership Challenge would be the last opportunity to exericse leadership in LE, I told myself that I needed to push myself to make this leap. I reviewed what we had learnt from previous exercises and tried to apply them on friday.

I really appreciated my team who gave me effective and honest evaluation of what I have done well and wrong during the exercise. The feedback was exactly the same I received during MOC module last Oct. In other words, my learning curve as a leader is still linear (nothing changed) since last year. My indirect personality not only affects the communication but impedes my critical thinking to lead the team especially I was the only one who knew the information and they all counted on me to lead them. I thank my team mate who suggested many ways in the future for me to be more tough in the team. Yet, I need to find my own way being tough without conflicting myself. This is my lesson and area to be improved.

After LE, there is the real battle field awaiting for me without any simulations and exercises. I should never forget the nerve I had for Friday's exercise. LE opens the door for continuous improvement by self-reflecting. I really enjoy this module.


May 23, 2010

Team exercise: Hotel

At the beginning of the Hotel exercise, our leader made a clear briefing to team and delegated different tasks to each team member. However, during the process of decision making, it was dominated by some people and left the rest behind, in particular, a sense of demotivation. None the less, this helps me to think how to be heard in a group esp with people who are more articulate than me. The problem is the way I express myself. Indecisive and ambiguous styles are the obstacles for achieving effective communication. It makes the impression that I don't even trust myself. As a result, my opinions, even if they are constructive, are most likely to be neglected in a group. This is the area needs to be improved for being an effective follower as well as a influential leader in the future.

Additionally, during the Leader and Observer's reflection session, it was great that some people pinpointed the issues during the Hotel exercise. Having an honest feedback is essential for further improvement. However, we need to learn how to give a feedback rather than criticism especially in public. Being silence does not mean nothing happened or scare to express real feelings. Under that circumstance, people would take it as criticism rather than feedback. How we expect people to improve if they do not accept our honest suggestions? People need to be convinced otherwise the good intention will be distorted. This would lead to frustration and misunderstanding between two parties.

In particular, I was surprised that how come a good listener in our team became an authoritative person in the Hotel exercise. After class, I learnt from my teammate that he led differently upon the composition of the group members. He understood well his followers thus he applied different styles of leadership to lead the team! This resonates my area for further improvement. I am too comfortable to work with people who listen well. With different team members, I need to adjust my style to communicate more effectively.


May 17, 2010

Shepherd and Sheep

Most people stereotype on followers includes weak, passive, apathetic and unmotivated. They are just a flock of sheep following the shepherd wherever he is guiding them. What we would prefer to enlist in our C.V. tends to be something like ¡¥leading xxx¡¦ or ¡¥president of xxx club/society¡¦. What about putting ¡¥being an effective follower in a group or organization¡¦? ¡§Following suffers from a serious image problem¡¨ (Douglas Smith). Most of us are aspired to be future leaders instead of followers.

However, we need to learn how to be a follower, an effective one, before becoming an effective leader. If we were not experienced the feelings as a follower, how could we put ourselves in followers¡¦ shoes once we become a leader? To some extents, we would know the way to effectively influence people if we have been through their positions before.

A number of researchers classify followers into different types.

a)     Abraham Zaleznik in 1965

1.     Impulsive

2.     Compulsive

3.     Masochistic

4.     Withdrawn

b)     Robert Kelley in 1992

1.     Alienated

2.     Passive

3.     Conformist

4.     Exemplary

5.     Pragmatic*

c)     Charles Manz and Henry Sim

1.     yes people

2.     calculative compliers

3.     enthusiastic sheep

4.     self-leaders

d)    Ira Chaleff in 1995

1.     Implementers

2.     Partners

3.     Individualists

4.     Resources

Among above Follower Typologies, I think Robert Kelley¡¦s category of pragmatic subordinate is the most effective follower. In other words, they have the four characteristics that Robert Kelley defines ¡§Self-management, Commitment, Competence and Focus, and Courage.¡¨ Above all, they know when and where to play the role as a leader or as a follower.

Reference:

Barbara Kellerman (Dec 2007). What Every Leader Needs to Know About Followers. Harvard Business Review.

Kathryn J. Deiss (May 1998). The Shared Leadership Principle: Creating Leaders Throughout the Organization. Association of Research Libraries, Washington, DC


May 10, 2010

Lao Tsu's leadership

Follow-up to Confucius¡¦ leadership from Julia's blog

The wicked leader is he who the people despise.

The good leader is he who the people revere.

The great leader is he who the people say, 'We did it ourselves.'


May 07, 2010

Followership

Last night, I had an opportunity to influence my friend¡¦s thought but¡K

I found that interesting that Paul taught us to use statistical control chart analyzing the variations of being late so I shared with my friend when we were chatting. There are common causes and special causes that could affect us being late. However, special causes are unpredictable. So, we need to reduce the common causes which would affect our capability of being on time. Being on time also shows the respects to the lecturer, and the colleagues. It is about the attitude.

However, my friend argued that one of his friends always skips classes in a master programme. According to my friend, his friend just needs the degree and does not care about the classes. My friend thinks that not all classes will benefit students. While we are sitting in the class, his friend makes hundreds of pounds just by making some phone calls. He said that his friend could learn and write the essays by himself afterwards. If one could ¡§utilize¡¨ his/her time, why attending class on time or even attending class, according to him.

I told him that the example of his friend is ¡§special¡¨ (cause) whereas most full-time masters students intend to learn instead of making money.

Then he brought up cultural issues. He said that the 2 pm meeting in Brazil actually means starting at 3 pm. He went on, ¡§if you do not know their culture, what is the point of being on time?¡¨ Again, I told him that the example of Brazilian time practice is just one culture whereas we have hundreds of nationalities in the globe. If we say 2 pm, universal concept is exactly 2 pm, isn¡¦t it?

I tried to reason him that his friend and Brazilian culture are special cases and the key was people¡¦s attitude towards being on time at work, class or any meeting with friends. However, his conclusion was: I will attend classes on time but I do not care if my colleague is late because they have rights to utilize their time and we should respect other cultures.

I had an opportunity to influence my friend¡¦s thought but I failed.

What if I am the leader and he is my follower?

What is the relationship between leadership and followership?

I slept with two unsolved questions with me last night.

Coincidentally, the top two seminar topics we choose this morning were followership related. I am looking forward to explore the ways to influence their followers. Conversely, how to be a follower by other leaders is worthwhile discovering too. Unless we establish our own company, the leaders (e.g. line managers or project managers) also are led by other leaders (e.g. programme managers and top management team).

Areas of improvement: to influence people effectively


May 05, 2010

Leadership Definition

Today, we used the analysis matrix to go through 20 leadership definitions by different authors. One varies from the other. None the less, they are basically different combinations out of 8 elements. The result of the analysis in our group was almost according to the sequence of those 8 elements, i.e. "Art or process of influencing" has mentioned the most out of 20 leadership definitions (19 times) and "leadership occurs within a situation" & "Leadership occurs through the communication process" & "Leader establishing purpose or direction" only mentioned 6 times.

The attempt to come up with group's leadership definition was to prioritize those 8 elements individually by weighting from 1 (the least important) to 8 (the most important). Surprisingly, none of us had the same prioritization. It is evident that the criteria as a leader vary from one another. The same result when we were given the same information to select a leader and a deputy in "Lifeboat Leader" exercise - - - none of the group had the same answer.

Since we could not standardize leadership (quote from Elvis, "Like beauty, leadership seems to live in the eye of hte beholder"), does it imply that EVERYONE has potential be a leader? I remembered in PPMC module, there was no designation among team members, everyone exercised different leadership styles (e.g. leading the team or managing the team, or coaching the team) by turns in different situations.

I think this is a positive message I learnt today, esp I have doubted myself whether if I have the competence to be a leader in the future, a good one.


May 04, 2010

Confucius¡¦ leadership

Unlike most modules, there are no notes, slides, models, or matrixes in Leadership and Excellence. What we have done today is based on our empirical experience to learn how to be as a leader and observe how people behave as a leader. And it is all about reflecting.

The more I learn about western thinking of leadership, interesting enough, the knowledge echoes the Confucius¡¦ philosophy which has been taught for more than 2,500 years ¡V if one would like to conquer the world, one has to rule the country first. Yet, before ruling a country, one has to govern the family first. Nevertheless, before governing a family, one has to keep refining himself/herself. In other words, to be a good leader, one has to keep reflecting so as to lead a team, a company, and even a country in a sequential order.

Reflecting what I did right, what I did wrong and learn from failures.

Reflecting what matters to people most.

After the first day in LE module, I would say that leadership is a lifelong obligation to bring the best of self and others.