In Search of Purpose: Reflections on How to Develop my Leadership Potential
The present paper is actually a culmination of all the reflective activities carried out in the course, including an assessment of my strengths, what I envision for the future, leaders I emulate, and empowerment. The insights which were gathered from these exercises were reviewed and synthesized for more profound reflection and courses of action towards developing my leadership potential.
Leadership Competencies Assessment
I personally believe that one cannot give what one does not have, and therefore, if I were to be successful in my niche, I should endeavor to enhance my strengths further and hone weaknesses. In doing this, a logical first step is benchmarking of the traits which I already possess and those which I have yet to develop. The course has effectively allowed me to carry this out through the leadership competencies assessment. I started this task by clearly defining my purpose which is to be successful to be able to provide well for my family. This desire was naturally borne out of my impoverished status as an immigrant. In my stay here in the country, I have realized that dreams turn into reality in this land, for as long as I am willing to invest time and effort to pursue my plans.
My purpose is clear to me. It is to become successful, and thus to be able to provide for my family. Like most of the children of immigrants, my life was not always like I wanted it to be. I have experienced hardship, borderline poverty, and grief. My family came to this country with nothing. They quit their jobs, sold their properties, and left their loved ones behind in order for their children to have a future. Now, I feel like it is my purpose to be successful and make my parents proud. I have to prove to myself that we did not come to this country for nothing. I am one of those lucky people who were given a chance to have a successful life. I have to take advantage of the countless opportunities that this country gives us. I realized that unlike other places in this world, America really is a land of opportunities. You can be anything you want, as long as you work hard. It is my duty now to seize the moment and make my most impossible dreams come true. It is a part of my purpose for my parents to see that they have made the right choice, and for my children to have a life filled with opportunities and happiness.
One of the more noteworthy portions of this reflection is the realization that I do have the strong drive, independence, and ambition to go after my goals. I also believe that I imbibed the good work ethic of my immigrant parents which I can leverage on in going after my vision of personal success. Moreover, I also anchor all my plans to my family, and in a very strong sense, they are my anchor and reason for living. I am a very honest and trusting person and this is a good seed for practicing empowerment when I become a leader in the future. Some areas for improvement include my communication skills, and learning how to control my temper. The latter is especially critical in my role as someone in charge of Accounts Receivables for a nursing home, where there is heavy interface with people from a variety of backgrounds. I realized, too, that there should be deliberate effort from my end not to pre-judge people and to postpone judgment up until I have gotten to know them sufficiently.
To be able to develop myself on these critical soft skills, I have to expose myself even further to people from all walks of life, and grab every opportunity to listen to them. I should learn how to be a good listener and people manager, because these are firm bases for being a distinguished transformational leader. I am likewise hopeful that this MBA program will also substantially contribute to this thrust of developing my people skills. I will also constantly remember that I develop credibility among people by walking my talk and living what I preach. I shall also advocate assertiveness, self-expression, and going after my staff’s dreams. I will encourage them to struggle to reach their full potentials.
I personally want to develop a transformational leadership style that is more dynamic, innovative and accepting of change than that espoused by a management role. Tichy and Devanna (1986) assert that managers are not so much change catalysts as are leaders. Transformational leadership emphasizes change, innovation, and entrepreneurship. They assumed that transformational leaders start with a social fabric and are not content with the status quo. As a result, they are compelled to rock the boat and change such fabric for the better (Bass, 1990).
Bass (1990) argues that there are four suggested personal characteristics of a transformational leader including dominance, self-confidence, need for influence, and conviction of moral righteousness. These are only some of the traits that I have to focus on in undertaking my development plan. One of the expectations from transformational leaders is to be comfortable with uncertainty and to change the enterprise from their lofty vision. The role, needless to say, is demanding and sets high expectations from organizational leaders from across industries.
Technical Skills Acquisition
Apart from developing myself in these soft skills, it is also imperative that I require as much technical skills as I could. Thus, one short term goal for developing my leadership potential is to be able to acquire as much technical skill as I could to reach my vision of being a nursing home owner one day.
Skill acquisition acknowledges that proficiency and expertise are a function of the exposure to a variety of situations. These circumstances become experiences for the learner to elicit apt responses. Bandura (1977) emphasized that most learning transpires by observing and modeling behaviors. Information is then stored and coded cognitively and utilized as guide for action. He further noted that the development of a realistic learning setting incorporating environment, behavior, and thought promotes the acquisition of complex skills. Moreover, simulation can help in providing this realistic exposure for neophyte professionals (Bandura, 1977).
One very concrete move towards this goal is being able to graduate from this MBA program which is a tangible stepping stone towards being a Health Care Administrator. I am eyeing a promotion in the near future upon graduating from MBA. Moreover, it is also important to be able to form networks along my line of expertise, possibly towards mentoring relationships. I can also opt to undergo self-development options such as attending seminars, reading books, and interfacing with gurus in the field.
An Assessment of My Leadership Style
In the reflection on choosing a leader which you admire, I have chosen my leader based on the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, which encompass modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging the heart (Kouzes et al, 2002, p.13). To be honest, my chosen leader has all of those leadership qualities, and that is why she was able to create a perfect working environment, as well as double the usual yearly profit of the organization. She has hired very effectual employees who deliver results as expected and simultaneously are able to develop themselves in their roles. She is also not anxious to have employees better than her and even considers this an accomplishment. She likes to surround herself with good staff to make the system self-sustainable. I wish to be as effective as her in inspiring a shared vision amongst my future staff.
To carry this out, the first step I will consider in my developmental plan is to have the capacity to maintain the enthusiasm and motivation of my team towards their work. Concurrently, I will also aim to develop my leadership potential and theirs. I will concretely undertake this by developing a strong mentoring relationship with my superior or an expert in my field. Empirical research from both educational and industrial settings suggests that students and employees both have increased probability of success if they have had a mentor. While mentors are effective for everyone, sometimes organizations implement mentoring programs to support particular parts of their populations, often newer employees. And while mentoring programs are always established with the best of intentions, their results are often mixed (Werner, 2004). To make the most of my work exposure, I hope to establish a strong mentoring relationship with my superior or with an expert in my field to develop my competence further. Coaching and mentoring is a very effective way of developing my leadership potential because it does not only develop me in terms of technical expertise, but it will also allow me to actually experience how these experts undergo the coaching and mentoring exercise.
During my tenure at Silver Lake Nursing Home, I got a chance to observe how leaders and managers practice empowering leadership and the power of exercising such leadership. In my department, there are two people superior to me: Controller and Administrator. They are both outstanding workers, and pretty strong leaders who set a positive example on employees. However, their leadership practices are somewhat different.
The Controller believes that “the human heart drives a company’s success.” In order to produce great work, each and every employee must get rewarded and recognized for their individual contributions (Kouzes et al, 2002, p. 316). Also, words of encouragement can sometimes drive workers to success. “Encouragement is a form of feedback: wonderful, personal feedback.” (p. 321). Our Controller consistently updates the employees if they have made some progress and lives this best practice of continuous feedback. She shows them that she truly cares, and their success is important to her.
The main approach in developing myself is to develop fully into a transformational leadership role. With transformational leadership, the followers feel trust, admiration, loyalty and respect towards the leader and they are motivated to do more then they originally expected to do. Leaders transform and motivate followers by: (1) making them more aware of the importance of task outcomes, and (2) inducing them to transcend their own self-interest for the sake of the organization or team and activating their higher order needs. In contrast, transactional leadership involves an exchange process that may result in follower compliance with leader requests but is not likely to generate enthusiasm and commitment to task objectives. Therefore, my staff need to feel that I can empathize with them, are able to give them feedback while maintaining their self-esteem, and also solicit their ideas on important issues.
One other way of developing my leadership potential is by regularly reflecting on areas for improvement. In this area, the feedback of my superior would serve as critical input.
Apart from focusing on my own leadership needs, I would also like to assist in the drafting of Career Management plans of the members of my team. I would also like to ensure that I continuously serve as a model and inspiration for them in terms of giving support, praise and encouragement to all team members. Moreover, I will work for the implementation of retention strategies among the team members I work with through career development, flexible work, induction, partnership and staff involvement, and pay and rewards.
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavior change. Psychology Review, 84, 191–215.
Bass, B. (1990). Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership: Theory, research and managerial applications. New York: The Free Press.
Tichy, N. ; Devanna, M. (1986). The transformational leader. John Wiley and Sons.
Werner, W. (2004). The importance of mentoring. Law Practice Today. Retrieved on February 19, 2007 from http://www.abanet.org/lpm/lpt/articles/mgt07041.html
Kouzes, J.M., ; Posner, B.Z. (2002). The leadership challenge (3rd edn). New York ; John Wiley ; Sons.