Reflective Essay on New Perspectives on Leadership


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Reflective Essay on New Perspectives on Leadership

  1. 1. New Perspectives on Leadership Nicole Ashe – IBUS6007 2009 Mimic, Jeff Wall, 1982 Storytelling is a powerful form of communication and one that a leader should utilise to gain followership buy in and to assist in the delivery of key messages, values, and goals of the organisation. Storytelling is a fundamental human and social interaction and is the way in which people best retain and remember information. What story does the photo above evoke for you? Student: Nicole Ashe Student Id: 307223639 University of Sydney, Summer School 16 March 2009 Lecturers: Richard Hall & David Grant
  2. 2. New Perspectives on Leadership – IBUS6007 Assignment B: Reflective Essay Nicole Ashe Reflective Essay An effective leader embodies stories and relates them to their followers, these stories are about “...themselves and their groups, about where they are coming from and where they are heading, about what was to be feared, struggled against and dreamed about” (Gardner H. , 1995, p. 14) For a new perspective on leadership, leaders should incorporate storytelling into the way they lead others. Leaders can achieve this by telling their own stories, which reflect their own authenticity, but also by providing their followers with the ability to share their stories. Storytelling enables the whole organisation to learn and promotes leadership development within others in the organisation. Throughout the two-week intensive course, New Perspective on Leadership, the ideas, perspectives and concepts that resonated with me the most were storytelling, ethics, transformational and authentic leadership, followership, and art. It is clear that a leader who focuses on these areas will be able to bring about real change and be a respected, creative and effective leader in an organisation. No wonder new perspectives on leadership are being sought when we see the pressures to embrace the latest management fad or fashion and the unquenchable and sometimes unquestioned pursuit for quarterly profits are far more important than the reinforcement and development of creative and ethical leadership. Therein lies the problem, businesses short-term focus, competing in an ever changing, fast moving world continually making the same errors of judgement and decisions. A whole mind set shift needs to occur where the foundations of good leadership are respected and celebrated not the fast rise to fame, Ferraris and record share prices in record time. New Leadership needs to embody authenticity where values are expressed and embraced by followers, stories are told and listened to, ethical decisions are based on autonomy, consequences, and creative thinking rather than short terms solutions. Page 2 of 12
  3. 3. New Perspectives on Leadership – IBUS6007 Assignment B: Reflective Essay Nicole Ashe Storytelling throughout the course was a fundamental basis for the delivery of course material and the way in which we learnt. The presenters on the course told their own stories, which captured the essence of their leadership, and through their own story, they shared with us their experienced feelings, thoughts and emotions. As well as this the other students also shared their stories demonstrating or relating their own experience and knowledge which would provide further insight on a concept, or make you reflect on what had been said. The meaning of storytelling not only resides in the subject matter or the text but in the human transmission experience. Storytelling is a direct outcome of social interaction (Wallis, 1993, p. 12). From a more structured perspective, it was on day eight of the course at the Sydney College of the Arts where the use of storytelling was formally introduced and explored. This resonated with me because the concept of storytelling and the corporate business world seemed alien to each other and in no way could be connected, as I related storytelling to children, and facts and evidence to the business world. For fear of not been taken seriously many organisations and leaders shy away from leading through stories (Haven, 2007, p. 5). The more this topic was examined the more powerful and meaningful I realised it was to a leader, employees and fundamental to being human. (Schank, 1990) wrote that “stories form the framework and structure through which humans sort, understand, relate, and file experience in memory” (Haven, 2007, p. 10). This has taught me to value the art and process of storytelling and that it is a powerful form of communication. As a leader in my organisation, I will encourage others to share their stories from which there are learning’s and insights to be gained as well as the ability to empathise with others in the organisation. I will also endeavour to disseminate information or ideas through the mechanism and structure of storytelling. Storytelling has been found to be far more effective in gaining employee buy in and motivation towards corporate values, policies, and attitudes. By structuring themes and messages into story form this can increase worker commitment, involvement and sense of belonging (Armstrong, 1999); (Haven, 2007, p. 110). When putting a presentation, speech or business proposal Page 3 of 12
  4. 4. New Perspectives on Leadership – IBUS6007 Assignment B: Reflective Essay Nicole Ashe together I will now consider if this information can be put into a story structure, as this is an effective way that people understand and retain information. Humans remember stories better and longer than the same information presented in any other narrative form (Haven, 2007, p. 4). People are a fundamental component of an organisation and stories resonate with people. Humans interact, perceive, think, imagine and make their moral choices based on narrative story structures (Haven, 2007, p. 103). Ethics now more than ever is in focus when leadership is discussed. Recent corporate collapses such as Enron and WorldCom have put ethics, ethical leadership and corporate moral behaviour well and truly in the spotlight. On day, nine of the course ethics and leadership was the perspective presented by Dr Caroline West. Unethical behaviour and professional norms of corporate giants have personally eroded my trust of leaders and corporations but as (Sama & Shoaf, 2008, p. 40) state, it also erodes consumer confidence, market stability, and the growth potential of businesses. When we think of a charismatic leader conclusions of narcissism of are often drawn. This style of leader when making decisions may only look at one piece of data or one side of an issue to confirm their bias or view, in order to justify their ethical decision and deliberately avoid looking for information that may disconfirm their opinion (Marcy, Gentry, & McKinnon, 2008, p. 5). What is evident after day nine is that when people are placed in an actual situation they are generally less fair, than they are when they predict what they would do in a given situation and when making an ethical decision. This is highlighted beautifully by the Milgram experiment where sixty-five percent of learners where compelled to shock people to life threatening levels using a fake shocking machine. This experiment demonstrated how “real world” pressures can cause leaders and followers to make ethical mistakes (Marcy, Gentry, & McKinnon, 2008). As (Gini, 1997, p. 69) points out businesses exist to serve more than just themselves but that the goal of all businesses, labour, and work is to make life more Page 4 of 12
  5. 5. New Perspectives on Leadership – IBUS6007 Assignment B: Reflective Essay Nicole Ashe stable, secure and equitable. As highlighted in the perspective of ethics and leadership decisions made by leaders have consequences and we can see by the fallout of such companies as Enron, the massive social impact in terms of peoples financial security, employment and livelihood. These outcomes or consequences are in total conflict with what ethics stands for in terms of protecting people’s autonomy and individual rights and needs against and alongside the needs and rights of others (Gini, 1997, p. 68). Ethical leadership is examined by (Sama & Shoaf, 2008, p. 42) stating that ethical decision-making needs to consider more than bottom line results and should understand the full consequences of utilitarian decision making that may not fully account for the moral and social costs of that decision. The term “big picture” thinking is used a lot in the business world and by me in my own working life. The ethical perspective puts this metaphor into context and demonstrates the real consequences of decisions and that the term “big picture” should be changed to “ethical big picture”. The way to understand a company’s ethics is to look at how that company treats its people, employees, customers, and suppliers (Gini, 1997, p. 70). A moral community or company are formed when ethical transformational leadership is consistent and clear in their message that ethics and social responsibility are valued by those in leadership (Sama & Shoaf, 2008, p. 44). The fast pace of the course and constant change of perspectives and locations I likened to transformational leadership in action. All the participating students demonstrated traits of transformational leadership, genuine concern for others, honesty, openness, encouragement of critical and strategic thinking, and political sensitivity and skill. As in the business world, constant change and technological advances have increased the importance of transformational leadership (Krishnan, 2004, p. 58). Transformational leadership cannot occur without positive followership and a transformational leader is one who motivates followers to do more than they originally expected to do (Krishnan, 2004, p. 59). Followership was brought to life in the course during the ‘Fluxus Interventions’ on day three of the course. Not only did the fluxus interventions make the students Page 5 of 12
  6. 6. New Perspectives on Leadership – IBUS6007 Assignment B: Reflective Essay Nicole Ashe engage with the exercise but by switching the roles that each member played it ensured that everyone was a leader and a follower and repeatedly so. It was a collective exercise, which is what leadership is. Each team had a shared goal and the leader had to mobilise the others towards the set goal. As (Gini, 1997, p. 71) outlines “leaders are powerless to act without followers”. The fluxus interventions would have been almost impossible to produce on your own. Followership resonated with me, as it seems to be a neglected area of leadership literature and academic writing. Most research is based on the skills required to be a leader and leader development. (Burns, 1979, p. 426) quite pointedly highlights “leaders and followers are engaged in a common enterprise they are dependent on each other, their fortunes rise and fall together” (Gini, 1997, p. 72). It is clear that a true test of leadership and a leader is their ability to gain buy in from their followers. Leaders may offer a vision but they need to be able to convince and not just tell others, the well-being and combined intentions of all are served by this collaboration (Gini, 1997, p. 77). This concept of followership has highlighted to me that even if I have the best ideas, determination and charisma this will have no affect if I have a lack of followership. Followers set the terms of acceptance for leadership, is a concept that resonated deeply for me on the course (Gini, 1997). Through meta-analysis, it has been demonstrated by (Gardner, Avolio, Luthans, May, & Walumbwa, 2005, p. 365) that when trust exists between leader and follower, an organisation will see elevated levels of job performance, organisational citizenship behaviour, and organisational goal commitment. It is through the leader’s commitment to their core values, self-awareness and transparent decision-making that this trust develops which establishes a psychological contract with their followers and creates the foundations for resilience in times of change and an ethical culture. Trust is well placed with authentic leaders who guide their actions by end values and recognise the important of transparency, integrity, and commitment to core values that evokes trust in their leadership and authentic behaviour on their part (Gardner, Avolio, Luthans, May, & Walumbwa, 2005). Page 6 of 12
  7. 7. New Perspectives on Leadership – IBUS6007 Assignment B: Reflective Essay Nicole Ashe Authentic leadership was presented on day one during David Grants overview session on leadership, under post-transformational approaches. This concept was further explored on day two in the ‘Ozi Burger’ role-play. The elected CEO’s effectively embodied the role and character of the CEO and endeavoured to stay true to his core values and founding principles of what Ozi Burger stood for which was a demonstration of authentic leadership in action. According to (Cameron & Dutton, 2003) authenticity is the ownership of one’s personal experiences and acting accordingly through your own true self by expressing what you think and feel through how you behave (Turner & Mavin, 2008, p. 377). The concept of authentic leadership was then used by me as a lens in which I viewed all the presenters on the course as I felt that authenticity is fundamental to an effective leader/leadership. This is further highlighted by (Shamir & Eilam, 2005, p. 13) when they suggest that authentic leaders choose the events and experiences that appear in their life-stories and these stories reflect their concept of leadership, which enable them to enact their leadership role (Turner & Mavin, 2008, p. 378). Throughout the course, ‘authenticity’ was made reference to in discussion but was never solely focused on. It was during my own reflection after the course was completed that I explored and researched this concept further and through its links to storytelling and values, that I decided it was a key function of effective leadership. Authentic leaders have strongly articulated values and what they say is consistent with what they believe and the way in which they harness followership by providing drive and motivation towards legitimate goals (Turner & Mavin, 2008, p. 377). Authenticity, like storytelling taps into the true human side of leadership. I have learnt that through your own experiences, you gain authenticity and when leading in my own role I will endeavour to stay true to my own values. How individuals interpret their accumulated life experiences is where authentic leadership starts. The stories we tell about ourselves is how we discover and know ourselves (Turner & Mavin, 2008, p. 380). Both emotion and experience create authenticity and when you are transparent in your approach and the expression of emotions and feelings followers will respect that as long as the emotions are not Page 7 of 12
  8. 8. New Perspectives on Leadership – IBUS6007 Assignment B: Reflective Essay Nicole Ashe detrimental or inappropriate (Turner & Mavin, 2008). To foster authentic relations with followers (Gardner, Avolio, Luthans, May, & Walumbwa, 2005, p. 344) say that these relationships are characterised by a) openness, trust and transparency, b) guidance towards worthy goals, and c) a focus on follower development. This in turn cultivates the development of followers until they themselves become leaders. Art and Leadership was another concept that required further reflection once the course was completed. Jane Turner and Tanya Patterson presented conceptual art, creative thinking and acting on day three of the course. The day’s perspective broadened your way of thinking about leadership by looking at it through an artistic or creative lens. The fluxus interventions forced a creative process to occur and the exercise demonstrated the relevance of focusing on the actual creative process rather than just the end product or result. Like art and creativity, leadership can be studied and observed as a process instead of separate practices (Murray, 1999, p. 135). In the afternoon session, Tanya presented some conceptual art pieces by such artists as Joseph Kosuth and Felix Gonzalez-Torres, which are shown in Figure 1 & 2 below. The ideas behind the art was firstly, to demystify the notion of the ‘artist’, and secondly that the viewer was challenged by what they saw and to force the viewer to question how we are taught to see things, and finally how one idea can be shown. This can be linked to leadership in that a creative leader is one who would take the patterns of the artist and incorporate these ideas and relationships from complexity to clarity for their followers (Murray, 1999, p. 142). Page 8 of 12
  9. 9. New Perspectives on Leadership – IBUS6007 Assignment B: Reflective Essay Nicole Ashe Figure 1 - Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled”, Portrait of Ross in L.A., 1991 Figure 2 – Joseph Kosuth, “One and Three Chairs”, 1965 This resonated with me, as art and creativity are not usually synonymous with leadership however; on reflection is quite relevant and impacting if used well. In times of crisis or the impending need for dramatic change in organisations, Page 9 of 12
  10. 10. New Perspectives on Leadership – IBUS6007 Assignment B: Reflective Essay Nicole Ashe leaders are looked to and expected to have the creative solutions and fresh ideas to solve organisational problems. As (Murray, 1999, p. 137) states that great creative leaders bring far more than the creation of something new they change the domain or field in which they have worked forever after. Much like we learned in the musical perspective when the classical composer and pianist, Ludwig van Beethoven, changed the way music was performed by insisting that performances take place in a concert hall and not in private palaces. This changed the way music was performed from thereafter and forced concert halls to be constructed. This will influence me when I attempt to float an idea or express those ideas to others. The idea not only has to resonate in my mind but also in the mind of my followers. (Aptekar, 1986) wrote “it is the idea , the meaning, and the perception made clear and visible by the art form that is great art”, in relation to a leaders it is their ability to translate and make sense of the idea that is the art of leadership (Murray, 1999, p. 136). In her paper (Murray, 1999) focuses on an author, Toni Morrison, and says as a great creative leader and a highly awarded artist in her field, Morrison has the ability to not only communicate a story, but also that she establishes meaning to others through her ideas. This highlights the significance of ideas made clear through language, perceptions and the art form (p. 142). Storytelling can be a source or mechanism for not only presenting ideas or information but also as a means for self-reflection. The more leaders are able to reflect on their values, feelings and experiences the more they can learn from them (Cartwright, 2004, p. 10), much like this essay has made me reflect the same way about my experiences, feelings and values whilst on the course and has increased my learning on the perspectives I have chosen to focus on. To re-establish trust in leaders and corporations at large leadership needs to adopt a foundation based on ethics, authenticity, creativity and transformational leadership. In our current times now, more than ever these perspectives need to be reinforced with current and up and coming new leaders. The stories of these new leaders should focus their attention on both useful information and pleasure: the allegory, the lesson, the moral (Wallis, 1993, p. 12). This is the new perspective for our future leaders. Page 10 of 12
  11. 11. New Perspectives on Leadership – IBUS6007 Assignment B: Reflective Essay Nicole Ashe Works Cited Aptekar, B. (1986). Making the invisible visible: The roots of original magic languagage. In D. Castriota, Artistic Strategy and the rhetoric of power: Political uses of art from antiquity to the present (pp. 171-184). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. Armstrong, D. (1999). Managing by Storying Around: A New Method of Leadership. Three Rivers, MI: Armstrong Inc. Burns, J. M. (1979). Leadership. New York: Harper Torchbooks. Cameron, K. S., & Dutton, J. E. (2003). Positive Organisational Scholarship: Foundation of a New Discipline. (R. E. Quinn, Ed.) San Francisci, CA: Barrett-Koehler. Cartwright, T. (2004). Feeling Your Way: Enhancing Leadership Through Intuition. Leadership in Action , 24 (2), 8 - 11. Gardner, H. (1995). Leading Minds. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers. Gardner, W. L., Avolio, B. J., Luthans, F., May, D. R., & Walumbwa, F. (2005). Can you see the real me? A self based model of authentic leader and follower development. The Leadership Quarterly , 16 (3), 343-372. Gini, A. (1997). Moral Leadership and Business Ethics. The Journal of Leadership Studies , 4 (4), 65-81. Haven, K. F. (2007). Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story. Westpor: Greenwood Publishing. Krishnan, V. R. (2004). Impact of transformational leadership on followers influence strategies. Leadership & Organisation Development Journal , 25 (1), 58 - 72. Marcy, R. T., Gentry, W. A., & McKinnon, R. (2008). Thinking Straight: New strategies are needed for ethical leadership. Leadership in Action , 28 (3), 3-7. Murray, G. J. (1999). Courage to Create and Courage to Lead: A Case Study of Artistic Leader Toni Morrison. The Journal of Leadership Studies , 6 (1/2), 134 - 144. Sama, L. M., & Shoaf, V. (2008). Ethical Leadership for the Professions: Fostering a Moral Community. Journal of Business Ethics , 78, 39 - 46. Schank, R. (1990). Tell Me a Story. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Shamir, B., & Eilam, G. (2005). "What's your story? a life-stories approach to authentic leadership development". The Leadership Quarterly , 16 (3), 395-417. Page 11 of 12
  12. 12. New Perspectives on Leadership – IBUS6007 Assignment B: Reflective Essay Nicole Ashe Turner, J., & Mavin, S. (2008). What can we learn from senior leader narratives? The strutting and fretting of becoming a leader. Leadership & Orgnanisational Development Journal , 29 (4), 376 - 391. Wallis, B. (1993). Telling Stories: A Fictional Approach to Artistis' Writings. In B. Wallis, Blasted Allegories: An Anthology of Writings by Contempary Artists (pp. 11 - 17). New York: New Museum of Contempary Art & Cambridge: MIT Press. Page 12 of 12