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Leader’s Mt. Everest Climbing Experience Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: May 22nd, 2022

Overview of the Paper

The concept of leadership has attracted the attention of scholars over the past several decades. Some view it as an opportunity to exercise one’s authority and get reward from it while others take a more relaxed approach, viewing leadership as an opportunity to guide others towards success.

In this paper, the focus is to discuss my experience as a leader in one of the projects, which was climbing Mount Everest that our company undertook. I will discuss strengths and weaknesses of my team, leadership challenges that I encountered while leading the team, how path-goal theory and other leadership models could help explain the experience, and the development plan based on the experience.

Background

When I joined the company as a junior engineer, I was keen on applying the knowledge that I had in school to create a positive change in my department. I was not holding any position of power and I had to rely on the goodwill of the head of the department to foster change. However, I soon came to realize that things could not go as I had expected. The head of our department was a newly promoted manager who was keen on asserting his authority and ensuring that everyone follows his instructions.

He rarely gave his subordinates an opportunity to share their views even in cases when they had the capacity to offer proper guidance. I had to conform to my new environment where I had to follow orders without question. Even in cases where I thought, based on my knowledge as a certified engineer, that there were better ways of undertaking my tasks, I had to follow instructions of the manager. The head of the department was rigid and did not tolerate innovation, especially if he felt that it would compromise his position as the leader.

I felt unwanted in this department and the desire to climb the career ladder is the only motivation that I had to continue working for the company. However, the experience changed when I was taken to a different department under a new leader. When I joined this new department, I was immediately assigned a leadership role. As Hall and Simeral (2017) note, a leader delegates some of their duties, subordinates tend to be more responsible and motivated.

I developed a sense of belonging because this leader was interested in listening to our views and acting upon them. He created a conducive environment for personal and career growth. My self-esteem and that of my colleagues improved significantly during this period. He reaffirmed my understanding of leadership as an opportunity to guide others towards success. Although I was a follower, I regarded myself as a leader during this period. It was during this period that I got the opportunity to be a leader in a project that involved climbing Mount Everest.

Reflective Analysis of the Experience

When I was beginning this course, I had a rather simplistic view of leadership. I believed that as a leader, one only needed to issue instructions and subordinates had to follow without question. However, after going through leadership challenge course, this perception and understanding of leadership has changed significantly. I learned that as a leader, one had to be a good follower to understand needs and expectations of the subordinates.

The project of climbing Mount Everest reaffirmed the fact that one has to understand and take care of the needs of junior officers to succeed as a manager. Experiencing followership before I took the position was critical in defining my style of governance. I wanted to ensure that I treat my subordinates the way I would want to be treated.

The head of my new department developed a team building initiative that was supposed to strengthen the bond we had as employees in a highly diversified environment. We were assigned in random groups of five people to take the Everest climbing simulation. The primary goal of the simulation was to reach the summit of the mountain, a complex and dangerous undertaking. In our group, we had a physician, a photographer, marathoner, environmentalist, and I as their leader. Each one of us had to understand the assigned role and meet its requirements.

It was the first time that I had the opportunity to lead during my master course. I felt this was a major challenge not only because of the need to govern others for the first time but also the danger that we had to overcome to achieve success. As Mulder and Anselmann (2020) observe, leading people during challenging experiences is more difficult that in normal circumstances.

My understanding of leadership changed from my prior thoughts because I was faced with a situation of not only governing the subordinates but also ensuring that they are safe. Despite the challenge, my team members and I remained committed to achieving the set goal.

The first step that I took before starting the simulation was to explain the goal and process to the members. We had 6 days to accomplish the mission of reaching the summit of Mount Everest. There were four camps that we had to go through before reaching the summit. I allowed my team members to share their ideas on how we could accomplish this task within the set period. I noticed that team members had varying ideas on how to approach this task based on personal experiences.

The problem was that it was not possible to incorporate all their ideas because of the time constraint. Brown and Shaked (2018) note that when team members have divergent opinion on how to accomplish a given task, it is advisable to have a dialogue. I did that and after our discussion, we agreed that we had to sacrifice personal interest for the sake of achieving the primary goal of the team.

One of the main responsibilities that I had was to ensure safety and security of all my team members. As such, I asked each of them about their health status to determine if they were physically capable of undertaking this project. I also asked them if there were some concerns that they felt should be addressed before starting the simulation.

Each team member had to give expert opinion based on their assigned role. For instance, the physician had to give his opinion about the physical and health challenges that the team could encounter and strategies that we needed to use to overcome them. In the entire process of simulation, I actively engaged employees in decision-making processes. As Alvinius (2017) explains, employees are often motivated when they are engaged in decision making. It helped me in ensuring that everyone felt responsible for the overall success in the project.

During the period of this simulation when I acted as the leader of my group, I identified various strengths and weaknesses that I have as a leader. One of my main strengths was the ability to involve my subordinates in the decision-making processes. According to Shapiro (2020), it is critical to involve followers in policy-making because sometimes they may have an idea that may enhance success.

I saw my subordinates get actively involved in trying to find solutions to challenges we faced as a team. My reaction to proposals that they gave was always positive. I encouraged them to own the process and remained keen on providing guidance to ensure that the team remained on the right path towards achieving the set goal.

The reaction of my colleagues was also satisfactory as they remained focused on achieving success for the entire group. Path-goal theory of leadership is relevant in explaining my approach to governance. Northouse (2019, p. 198) explains that “path-goal theory discusses how leaders motivate followers to accomplish designated goals.” In this case, the leader is interested in aligning goals that should be achieved with specific capabilities of followers.

According to Shaked (2018), path-goal leadership theory focuses on how a leader can assist subordinates along a given path towards achieving specific goals by promoting specific behaviors that can enhance success. In this case, I encouraged active participation of my subordinates in decision-making process as a way of finding the best approach to achieving success.

As Northouse (2019, p. 198) observes, “the heart of path-goal theory suggests that in order for leaders to be effective they must engage in behaviors that complement subordinates’ environments and abilities in a manner that compensates for deficiencies and is instrumental to subordinate satisfaction.” I was keen on embracing these principles during this period. Figure 1 below demonstrates the path that a leader needs has to take to enable a team achieve its goals based on this theory.

Basic Idea behind Path-Goal Theory
Figure 1. Basic Idea behind Path-Goal Theory (Northouse, 2019, p. 199).

The ability to convince my followers to abandon their personal interest for organizational goals was another strength that I demonstrated. For example, one of the members of the group, the environmentalists, wanted us to spend more time at some of the camps. After engaging all the team members, I explained why that was not a good idea, and her response was positive. I observed that she was willing to embrace the new ideas because her emotions and concerns were respected by the leader and team members. I applied the concept of path-goal theory and noticed that people tend to register better performance when they realize that the leader is paying attention to their concerns.

A number of emotional intelligence models can help in understanding what was going on at this stage of the project. Goldman’s theory of leadership was considered the most idea in explaining this event. It defines the ability of a leader to identify, critically assess, and control one’s own emotions and that of other members of the team (Ayers, Bryant and Missimer, 2020).

When one is able to control personal emotions, they will focus on reason instead of trying to prove a point. On the other hand, the ability to control the emotion of other limits chances of conflict and makes it easy for every team member to take a given path towards achieving success. That is what happened during the simulation process of climbing Mount Everest.

It is important to appreciate the fact that I had some weaknesses as a leader of this group when undertaking the Mount Everest project. The main weakness that I had in this project is the constant desire to get approval from my team members before making a final decision. It is true that I was keen on seeking consensus and ensuring that everyone participated in the decisions that we made in the project. However, I have to admit that the constant consultation made me feel that I was not focused on results as much as I should have.

The Blake Mouton Managerial Grid, shown in figure 2 below, identifies four segments of leadership that one can embrace, depending on whether they emphasize on concern for people or results. In my case, the approach I took can be classified as country club management, where the leader emphasizes on the need to ensure that subordinates as satisfied and happy. As this theory suggests, it is better to achieve team management (McGrath & Bates, 2017). The aim should be to have a high concern for people and results at the same time.

Blake Mouton Managerial Grid
Figure 2. Blake Mouton Managerial Grid (McGrath & Bates, 2017, p. 188).

When undertaking this project, another major weakness that I had was self-doubt. Although I was able to overcome the fear that comes with such a doubt and my team members never noticed it, I felt concerned about the ability of my team members to complete the simulation successfully. I noticed that sometimes the desire to stick to principles of path goal theory may sometimes lead to self-doubt as a leader will be constantly questioning their decision (Northouse, 2019).

One of my biggest concerns was the fear that risks involved in this project was beyond the scope of my understanding, not to mention the fact that this was my real opportunity to demonstrate leadership during the period of this course. Shapiro (2020) warns against self-doubt and its ability to limit a leader’s creativity and authority. I was able to overcome this challenge within the first two days of the project. The level of respect I received from the members and their commitment to ensure that this project was a success encouraged me to continue with my efforts.

Development Plan

The Mount Everest simulation project helped me to identify various personal developmental issues that I need to accomplish through this course. One of the key developmental plans is the development of my planning skills, which should have a minimum score of (7/10) by the end of this course. I need to be more confident in my future leadership assignments. I learned that self-doubt impairs one’s ability to make the right decision when faced with various challenges.

My goal is to ensure that in my future leadership activities, I will involve subordinates in the decision-making processes, not because of the fear of making mistakes, but from a point of strength knowing that I can correct and properly guide them when they make mistakes. This goal will be achieved through training within the period of this course. Feedback from my colleagues will help in determining the progress that I have made.

I am also keen on enhancing my conflict resolution skills, which should have a minimum score of (6/10) by the end of the course. I noticed that when managing a group, it is common for conflicts to arise. Alvinius (2017) explains that in such cases, a leader has to ensure that the issue is adequately addressed at the right time. Given the diversity in the workplace environment, it is common for such issues to arise. I will focus on addressing conflicts which arise from the diversity of group.

I need to learn how to make people work together despite the differences in age, gender, race, or religious beliefs that might exist. I am also interested in enhancing coordination skills. I need to have the capacity to assign specific resources and time to a given project. Just like the above goal, this will be achieved through training and in the process of this project.

It is also important to note that I intend to develop my communication skills, which should have a minimum score of (7/10) by the end of the course. As a leader, communication is an important aspect of governing followers. One has to understand the approach that is appropriate at different settings (Gordon, Oliver and Solis, 2016).

I did not experience major challenges during this project, but sometimes I felt that my communication strategy was not as effective as I would have wanted it to be. I intend to sharpen my skills to be in a better position to convince my subordinates, especially when faced with unique challenges. I intend to seek the assistance of my colleague during the period of this course to help provide regular feedback about my capacity to communicate effectively to different audiences in varying settings.

Reference List

Alvinius, A. (2017) Contemporary leadership challenges. Rijeka: Croatia InTech.

Ayers, J., Bryant, J. and Missimer, M. (2020) ‘The use of reflective pedagogies in sustainability leadership education: A case study’, Sustainability, 12(17), pp. 6726-6728.

Brown, M. and Shaked, Y. (2018) Preparing future leaders for social justice: bridging theory and practice through a transformative andragogy. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Gordon, S., Oliver, J. and Solis, R. (2016) ‘Successful innovations in educational leadership preparation’, International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 11(2), pp. 51-68.

Hall, A. and Simeral, A. (2017) Creating a culture of reflective practice: capacity-building for school-wide success. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

McGrath, J., & Bates, B. (2017). The little book of big management theories and how to use them. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education Limited.

Mulder, R. and Anselmann, V. (2020) ‘Transformational leadership, knowledge sharing and reflection, and work teams’ performance: a structural equation modelling analyses’, Journal of Nursing Management, 28(7), pp. 1627-1634.

Northouse, P. (2019). Leadership: theory and practice. 8th edn. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication.

Shapiro, R. (2020) Finding a place to stand: a systems psychodynamic approach to citizenship. Oxford: Phoenix Publishing House.

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