Leadership is one of the most important roles in every aspect of human life, and it defines how a given section of the society will develop towards achieving specific goals. According to Armstrong and Stephens (2005, p. 23), most leaders prefer being showered with praises even when they are in the wrong direction more than when they are told the truth. This may be associated with the fact that leaders are always anxious about how their subjects view them. They would want to be accepted by the society, and praises are considered as aspects of this acceptance (Oestreicher 2011, p. 112).
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On the other hand, most leaders consider criticism as a sign of rejection from the concerned individuals. In most of the cases, the leader will react negatively to such forms of criticism, making it difficult to pick anything positive out of it. As a leader, I have experienced what it means to be subjected to both praises and criticism. In this self-reflective paper, I seek to conduct a self-analysis as a leader using some of the leadership philosophies to understand areas of personal strengths and weaknesses with a view of developing a path for future development. This will help me improve my leadership skills and be able to meet the expectations of both my supporters and critics in delivering my duties.
I have developed a strong desire to understand my orientation in leadership by conducting critical self-analysis. I became a leader at a very tender age of seventeen years when my parents assigned me to a unit to lead within the family company. I found it very challenging at first because I had to lead adults, some of whom were older than my parents. I felt intimidated, especially during consultative forums with the employees in this unit. They seemed to be experienced and more knowledgeable in this field than I, but still I had to offer them some guide.
In most of these cases, I would play the role of rubberstamping what members of this unit decided based upon discussions that I chaired. There were instances when I felt that their decisions were not in line with my thinking. I once questioned them over the same, but they would respond using complicated terms and approaches that would force me to stop further probing. I shared my views with my father who gave me encouragements. He directed me to various books of leadership and told me to take leadership orientation that would best suite my working environment. I wanted to be an inspirational leader. I would also like to be able to motivate the employees to be more productive in their different lines of duty.
I was concerned of the amount of criticism I would receive whenever I made independent decisions. According to Banks and Ledbetter (2004, p. 56), leaders should always use criticism to identify their points of weakness, and use it to develop a strong leadership foundation that is holistic in nature. At first, I found it difficult to follow this advice because I felt that these individuals only wanted to intimidate me. However, I slowly accepted their criticism as a way of understanding my weak leadership points. The fact that my parents never intervened in the entire process was very beneficial for my leadership development skills, because I realised that it was my responsibility to lead these people without any direct support from them.
According to Barraclough (2009, p. 67), transformational leadership is one of the new leadership theories that have been widely used in many organisations. I read widely about concepts of leadership theories in order to be able to offer proper direction to the members of my unit. One thing I found very challenging in this form of leadership was the fact that I had to convince the employees that they had the capacity to go beyond their current output levels.
The problem was that I did not understand the capacities of these employees because I was new in this department. Another problem was the stereotyping nature of these employees. They viewed me as a young boy who lacked wisdom compared to older people. However, I never gave up. I was committed to finding a way of changing this negative impression they had about me. The servant nature of leadership proposed by this concept of leadership offered me a breakthrough. I realised that I had to take the role of a servant when leading my group.
I needed something that would make them believe that I had the ability to lead them. Through the constant exchange and interaction we had with them, I was keen to understand the needs of each member of the unit. I decided to treat each of the employees uniquely in order to make it easy for me to understand them. I was always in the field with them addressing various issues when my attention was not needed in the office. This brought a very close relationship between us, the fact that made them appreciate my position as their leader.
I was also in the process of transformation. I was gaining more experience in the field, this boosted my ability to address specific issues. I was able to develop an understanding of the individual employees in this unit. This way, it became easy to understand why some of them were always full of criticism, while others preferred praise. I came to realise that some of those who were full of praise for me were not often genuine in their statements.
Some were concerned with personal benefits they could get from such praise. I also realised that some of the criticisms were not against my presence as a leader in this unit. They only wanted me to learn the dynamics in this department. I have been able to understand the diversity at workplace. I am more receptive to criticism than before, because I know that I can develop my ability to offer quality leadership to people in this department through it.
I have also come to appreciate the importance of networking. As the employees in this unit accepted me as their leader, there was a need to offer leadership by coming up with the industry’s best practices in this department. Networking became a very important way of understanding some of the new industry trends. Although I may not classify myself as a perfect leader because I am still in the process of learning, I consider my leadership skills adequate to steer this team to a great success.
Identification of the Outcomes of Reflexivity and the Internal Processes of Learning
The self-reflexivity and internal processes of learning had great outcomes in my ability to understand myself as a leader. The role given to me was very complex, but I had to fit this position and deliver results that would be pleasant to my superiors and junior employees. From the self-reflection process, I realised that I was timid in the face of contested debates. According to Sadler (2003, p. 36), a leader who feels intimidated in the face of problems can only act as a distracter to the development of his or her team.
This statement weighed heavily on me when I came to realise that I was a timid manager through one of the employees. In fact, one of the employees approached me one day and told me that I had to work on my level of confidence and avoid being timid during departmental meetings. This was an important learning point. I realised that I had a duty to address this timid nature. Through this self-reflexivity, I also realised that I was an authoritarian, especially when I was desperate to see a given issue addressed. I became conscious of this through interactions with the employees.
It was easy to relate this to the timid nature that had been mentioned by one of the employees. Chait, Ryan and Taylor (2004, p. 78) say that when leaders fail to have the charisma to influence the followers, they tend to use an oppressive approach to pass their intimidation to their juniors. Another factor that I realised was that I was a perfectionist. Employees found it difficult to discuss new ideas with me because I would always demand a perfect output. I realised that I had to change positively in order to take control of this department.
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The outcome of this self-reflexivity and internal learning processes made me an understanding leader when dealing with junior employees. Through experience and constant interaction with senior and junior employees, I was able to fight the timid nature as I gained confidence in my role as a leader (Heifetz & Linsky 2002, p. 86). I did not realise it, but I was pleased to hear from some employees that I had changed from being a dictatorial leader to become a more approachable and very supportive leader in the department.
As I became less timid, the need to intimidate others diminished. This is what Couto (2007, p. 56) refers to as the ability of a leader to view people as fellow human beings with feelings that are not superior or inferior to theirs. I also became more of a realist than a perfectionist. This resulted in a scenario where employees in this unit felt at ease in addressing me some specific issues without any fear of intimidation.
Engagement with Current Thinking and Research in the Fields of Leadership, Strategic Learning and Change Interventions
The field of leadership has attracted attention of many scholars for a long time. According to Gallos (2008, p. 45), leadership is a quality that one is born with and cannot be passed to others through learning. Gillam and Cosford (2011, p. 78) support this argument by saying that some of the renown world leaders such as Alexander the Great were naturally-born leaders. This argument has received massive criticism from various scholars. According to Harris (2009, p. 54), although some people may have natural features that may make them become good leaders, good leadership is acquired through a comprehensive learning process.
Helms (2012, p. 63) says that leadership is a complex process that requires an individual to develop an understanding of people and systems within a given environment. It means that a leader must learn to be able to offer a direction to the followers. This argument is also shared by Hesselbein (2002, p. 23) who says that, for a leader to be able to integrate well with the people and the environment, a learning process is necessary. I agree with this argument, because when I took the position of the head of this unit, I was far from being a good leader. However, through a consistent process of learning and interacting with the environment, I have become a better leader than I was previously.
As mentioned before, one of the most relevant theories that I found useful to me was the Transformational Leadership Theory. According to Kelly (2012, p. 65), traditional theories of leadership cease to have the meaning in the current dynamic society. People are becoming more knowledgeable than before, and some of the dictatorial approaches of leadership that had been used before may not be applicable today. Komives, Lucas and McMahon (2007, p. 67) note that people prefer a leadership approach that is consultative in nature currently.
This is what makes the Transformational Leadership Theory very crucial in the current society. This theory of leadership stipulates that a leader should be able to challenge the capacity of the employees in order to make them perform better (Kouzes & Posner 2010, p. 76). They have to make these employees believe that their potentials are yet to be fully exploited. According to Müller and Turner (2010, p. 89), this is what always distinguishes a successful firm or department from those that are poorly performing. This can be explained using McGregor’s Theory X and Y.
McGregor’s Theory X holds that employees are always lazy individuals who need close supervision in order to achieve the desired results (Ladkin 2010, p. 54). On the other hand, Theory Y holds that employees have a positive mind when assigned various tasks and can yield good results even without strict supervision from the responsible authorities (Polifko-Harris 2004, p. 89).
It is important to appreciate that these two theories hold some form of truth that cannot be ignored. Some firms have been brought down by poor organisational culture where employees avoid undertaking their assignments whenever this is possible. On the other hand, some firms have been successful because of the commitment of the employees (Renz 2010, p. 97). As a leader, it would be necessary to appreciate that both extremes exist in an organisation. This way, it would be easy to determine how to fight the negative attitude among the employees and encourage positive organisational culture.
My learning process was greatly affected by these theories and leadership models. My thinking was greatly changed, especially when I realised that I had to be a servant leader in order to inspire the employees to embrace a positive organisational behaviour. I realised that both success and failure are possibilities, and the path that one takes will define whether he or she will achieve success or failure. I have embraced the Transformational Leadership Theory as a way of bringing a positive change in my workplace.
Evidence of Strategic and Experiential Learning Gained in the Process from Leading through Organisational Complexity and Change
The strategic and experimental learning gained in the process of leading through organisational complexity and change has helped me become a good leader. According to Roussel (2013, p. 56), one of the best ways for a leader to understand the dynamics of the environment is to go through the entire process of leading a diversified group. However, this requires an open-minded person who will take criticism as a way of learning how to approach different diversities in the environment. Through the strategic and experimental learning process, I have gained a variety of strategies that are useful in addressing various issues in the workplace.
Some of the skills include creative problem solving techniques and tools. Online brainstorming is one of the techniques that have become very relevant when coming with new ideas (Northouse 2010, p. 85). I have learnt that when employees are allowed to do independent research and share their findings with others through online means, then it is possible to develop some of the best ideas. The Reframing Matrix has been beneficial in generating different perspectives to various issues (Burns 2012, p. 42). I have also used metaphoric thinking to compare specific issues in the environment in order to develop solutions to some problems. This has improved my critical thinking ability in the firm.
Reflection on My Personal Meanings and Mental Models
As a leader I have had a dilemma in the construction of joint meaning and actions whenever there was a situation of acrimony among the employees during round table discussions. I found it more enjoyable to develop an action plan in cases where people shared a similar view. The process of leading and learning through change has various models that I have met in various sources.
It has helped me to develop mental models that I have found very useful in leading people towards a given direction (Selznick 1984, p. 45). I have come to embrace flexibility in addressing various issues. The use of flexible models has been very important in addressing the issue of diversity among employees. This has made me a dynamic leader who can work in different environmental contexts and with people of different social backgrounds.
Interpretation of how My Diagnostic Work and Critical Feedback from Others Inform My Learning
Leadership can be perfected by a constant learning and a positive attitude towards various environmental issues (Yost & Plunket 2009, p. 77). My diagnostic work and critical feedback from others have played a major role in informing my learning. The diagnosis has played a major role in enabling me to understand my specific areas of strengths and weaknesses. This way, I have been able to learn what I should keep on doing as a leader and areas that need my attention.
The specific areas of weakness identified in my diagnosis have defined the attitude I take towards learning. I have been able to know that I need to find materials that would help me fight the feelings of intimidation. The constant feedback I have received from my peers, junior employees, and superiors has greatly helped me identify the specific issues that I should learn as a leader. I have benefited from a group of very supportive junior employees who do not hesitate to tell me that I have made mistakes in specific instances. It has been beneficial in defining the path that I should take as a leader.
Personal Action Plan
According to Wallace and Poulson (2003, p. 51), reflective learning is very important in the process of developing skills and knowledge of a leader. It enhances a better judgement and enables a leader to understand challenges that may affect his or her unit. The personal action plan I have chosen is based on the Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze Model (Joiner & Josephs 2007, p. 43). This model is shown below.
The table below shows my action plan based on the self-reflection activity that has been conducted above.
|Learning Activities||Resources||Assessment Criteria||Evidence Expected||Timelines|
|I seek to improve my communication skills in order to be able to understand people that I lead and my superiors at work. I seek to be able to address issues of concern within the workplace as per the expectations of the stakeholders. In order to achieve this, I commit to do the following:|
|I will conduct an assessment of my current communication skills with the view of identifying any form of weakness that needs to be addressed.||People at my workplace will be the most important resources that will help me gather data. I will also record any instance that I feel I have underperformed in a communication process.||I expect to assess my improvement by analysing the ability of people to embrace what I tell them without feeling intimidated. I will also rely on direct compliments from other people.||The expected evidence from this action will be a permanent change of approach in communication strategies. |
The diaries used to record changes will also be an evidence to show the process of change.
|25thApril-25 June 2014|
A leader must be someone who can accept criticism positively and use it to change the world to be a better place. Conducting a self-reflection helps an individual to understand some of the weaknesses he or she may have in specific areas. It is important to use such self-reflection analysis to identify one’s strengths and weaknesses as a leader. This will enable such a leader to know how to address the weaknesses in order to become a better leader.
List of References
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