One of the most essential factors that are needed in the world of human beings is that of leadership and its quality. This factor is seen in all forms of advanced animal life. In animals, leadership is usually associated with age or strength. In the human world which is based on a social form of living, there to exists the concept of leadership and the need by ordinary members of the society to be led. In fact, this concept of leadership is so important that it has become a part of social, psychological, and anthropological studies over the years. Leadership that is coupled with vision is an additional quality of the leader. This paper will deal with both the concepts with regard to personal experiences and also through the observations of the real world one lives in. The area of focus will be the Thai Lay Fashion Company since I work there as the managing director.
This section deals with a personal experience of this writer from which a very important life message was put across. My company is engaged in the manufacture and export of quality garments in Hong Kong. The export is mainly to wholesalers in Europe. Although my job provides me with many valuable insights about leadership and other aspects of management, I still remember a particular incident from which an important message became apparent to me. Due to a severe storm, a major power breakdown resulted in the stoppage of production. It was learned that this problem would persist for two or three days. As an exporter, the company could not afford to delay production since our European buyers are very strict about keeping schedules. It so happened that all our department heads including myself were away for a meeting. The production department panicked about keeping the schedule. The standby power system also started giving problems. Generators for hire were not available since they were already taken up by others due to the power outage. It was obvious that a leadership vacuum had occurred in the company. There were arguments and opinions about what should be done. Our administrative officer took charge of the situation and every employee and worker suddenly began to look up to him to solve the problem. He was able to find a solution within a day. The lesson I learned is that whenever there is a problem, people need someone to lead them. If no one is around, a vacuum will exist. It can be easily filled by any person willing to take the initiative and others will willingly follow him. But continuity as a leader will depend on other factors like leadership qualities and the official hierarchy within organizations.
Vision, negative vision, and leadership
It can be said that vision is a crucial factor ineffective leadership. “In the Book of Proverbs it is said, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ This is as true in business as it is in life. Organizations whose leaders have no vision are doomed to work under the burden of mere tradition.” (Snyder and Graves 1994, p.1).
In every case where survival and growth are required, vision is required. Leadership without vision is fine in situations where the need is only to maintain the status quo. Otherwise, vision becomes an integral part of leadership. So, “Vision is a compelling picture of the future that inspires commitment.” (Vision Leadership and Change: Vision. 1993). The positive vision of the founder of the company had resulted in the rapid growth of Thai Lay Fashion. He was able to foresee the great demand for cheap and good-quality garments in Europe. He was able to set up a company and create a strong and dedicated workforce with good managers. It is one thing to have a working idea. But it requires vision and leadership to set up a good organization that can bring the idea to fruition.
Leadership in isolation
Leadership in isolation is not possible and is even dangerous. People will begin to lose faith in both the leader and his vision. “A leader does not function alone. Leadership must therefore be seen as an interactive process involving leaders, followers and their environment.” (Pratt and Bennett 1989, p.72). There was a period when the founder was not well and could not look after the activities of the company. He could only communicate through the telephone to his managers. His lack of presence began to affect the day-to-day operations and quality began to suffer. Production schedules also were affected. This proves that leaders who are isolated from their followers will become ineffective.
Role as follower and leader
My role as a follower with the owner of my company was most rewarding. It was a learning experience for me. Even though he could not come to the company due to his illness, I could go to his house and learn many things from him about managing a company. My success as a leader came up in my efforts at bringing back the company to its original efficiency. It was challenging but helped me understand many things about managing during difficult times.
Influence of my belief in potential leadership situations
I have strong beliefs about ethics and discrimination. In case a question of ethics does come up during my role as MD, I am positive that ethics will take precedence in all areas. If my company employs people from different nationalities, I will see to it that none of them are discriminated against on this or any other issue.
Modes of leadership learning
The modes of leadership learning have so far not hindered my learning in any way. But I was forced to rethink some of my erroneous perceptions and beliefs along the way. This was in fact good for me.
Aspects of a credible and exciting personal vision
An organization needs the cooperation of the management, employees, and stakeholders for success. For this a shared vision is important. “Being forward-looking—envisioning exciting possibilities and enlisting others in a shared view of the future—is the attribute that most distinguishes leaders from non-leaders.” (Kouzes and Posner 2009). This is the exciting personal vision that I have developed.
Future goals for leadership development and steps
Developing more interpersonal skills and communication skills is very important to me. I would also like to become a good public speaker and hence develop my skills in this area. Personal experience, reading self-help books, and attending professional training are the methods by which I can achieve them.
Skills that I bring into my leadership
I use quotes of famous persons and techniques mentioned in leadership books as a leader. My personal experiences will also be an asset. The favorite readership book that is used is ‘Magic of Thinking Big’ by David Schwartz. I agree with the following observation of the author which says, “Dr. David J. Schwartz, long regarded as one of the foremost experts on motivation, will help you sell better, manage better, earn more money, and — most important of all — find greater happiness and peace of mind.” (Schwartz 2007).
My life experienced a paradigm shift during the six months it took to bring the company back to its normalcy. My outlook on life and leadership changed and it gave me a lot of confidence to take on challenges.
A person whom I admire for thinking differently
A person whom I admire for thinking differently is Bill Gates of Microsoft Corporation. He not only thought differently but also thought big. “Identifying the enormous potential of this new era of computing, best summed up by famously aiming to put “a computer on every desk and in every home,” Gates landed the deal to provide the operating system to the very first IBM-PC.” (Richards 2006). People may hate him or admire him, but even his detractors cannot say that he did not think differently or in a small way. At that time the computer could only be used by people who had some technical knowledge. The Ms. Dos operating system licensed to IBM PCs and clones enabled ordinary people to use computers. With the growing complexity of work and life, Gates could see that this different thinking could find a solution to this problem to a large extent.
Getting my point across
In my case, I would use several methods to get my point across to my team of which I am the leader. The first is that I should believe in the cause which will help me persuade others to follow me. I will use inspirational quotes as well as facts from real life. Empathy in place of sympathy will be used when solving problems for others. This is because “Effective communication with employees calls for more than sympathy. Empathy is a necessity.” (Horn and Pitfield 2008, p.72).
An employee can be considered as a follower of the leader (employer).
My Assumption of leadership and leaders and my role as a leader
I firmly believe that leadership is essential for growth and success, but the style adopted should suit the situation. On a personal level, it is felt that I have the potential to become a leader, but this needs to be developed through learning and observation. I feel that I am charismatic enough to be a leader, but find that transformational leadership is beyond me at this point in time.
This module has helped me to take the aspect of leadership in a serious and mature way. It has also helped me in identifying my shortcomings to a large extent. I feel that I need to be more patient to become a transformational leader. I also consider age to be a block at this stage. So I am at the threshold of becoming such a leader. I will be patient and wait till I get more wisdom with age. But learning, practicing empathy, and observation will soon become second nature to me.
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