Section 1: What is Leadership and What Kind of Leader are You?
Leadership means influencing others towards a common goal. This was how I viewed leadership ten weeks prior, before I started this online class. The definition itself stems from experiences brought about by memberships of the Junior Jaycees, university student councils and medical organizations. Extracting the definition comes easily. It may be correct but not necessarily complete. It is implementing it that’s tricky. Previously, I viewed leadership as it is in a box. A common goal is handed out to you. Then you’ll have to pick out which roads to travel to reach that goal. There was no formal training.
At the conclusion of this course, the leadership definition above still holds true. But it is not as it is in a box anymore. It’s like trying your hand at golf. You may score a hole-in-one without perfecting your swing. But crafting your swing based on appropriate training and stance would definitely increase your chances of achieving that hole-in-one. The journey towards that coveted hole-in-one would be more meaningful as it would be objectively guided.
According to Dan Clark1, “Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent”. Based on this definition and the concepts learned during the course, I would view myself as using more of the ‘transformational’ leadership style with a tinge of ‘transactional’, and just currently implementing the ‘empowering’ style. Transformational leadership entails inspiration and the conversion of a follower’s motivational state.3 I have always evoked inspiration as a leader, ever since I started taking responsibilities in small organizations in high school. This was how I managed to extract a good outcome out of the members.
The transactional aspect just came into existence on an accidental discovery. Having been raised frugal, I used to just purchase myself a warm creamy Starbucks coffee on a really bad day as a pick-me-up. When I felt good after a sweet sip at the start of the day, I noticed my productivity increased. So, I bought some for my staff. It was the best day ever at work. Everyone shared a smile despite the high workload and stress. This also strengthened my bond with the staff. They viewed the free morning gourmet coffee as a personal reward. So once in a while, I give out incentives to staff to boost up their creativity and efficiency.
That small gesture of a gourmet coffee led to gift cards, birthday party celebrations, etc. On the other hand, the empowering style of my leadership has just been developed during this course. It is indeed a new concept and is a work in progress. It does make sense. Not only would I be able to delegate tasks to the members, but this would also foster ownership and further training for them. Empowering the staff would increase their self-esteem, skills and productivity.
There is a lot of overlap between the leadership styles and collaborative leadership. According to The Community Toolbox by the University of Kansas2, the traits of collaborative leadership can be summarized as follows:
• Collaborative problem-solving and decision-making. It’s not the leader’s job to decide what to do and then tell the group. Rather, the group considers the problem, decides what to do, and counts on the leader to help them focus their effort
. • Open process. The leader, or some other interested party, doesn’t just start with his goals in mind and steer the group in that direction. Collaborative leadership means that the process of decision-making is truly collaborative, and has no set end-point when it begins. The end result is worked out among all the participants: that’s collaboration.
• Leadership of the process, rather than the group. The purpose of collaborative leadership is to help the collaborative process work, rather than to lead the people involved toward something – to a particular decision, for instance, or in a particular direction.
For me, ‘collaboration’ is taking all of the leadership styles mentioned above and gently infusing them into your members’ style, so that they would be leaders in their own small fields as well. This would definitely not unfold itself overnight but would definitely entail tons of patience and training, as well as rewards.
With these concepts, equipped with the course discussions and readings, which were applied to experiences in the past, present and the future, led me to the discovery of my own authentic leadership. We all have the capacity to inspire and empower others, but we must first be willing to devote ourselves to our personal growth and development as leaders4 to attain success. How we lead others is indeed a product of our life stories and hardships. It is for this reason that finding out your own authentic leadership should begin with awareness of self and the environment.
In lieu to this, the leadership development plan would serve as the first step towards discovering my authentic leadership. The objectives of this leadership and development plan are as follows: a) Based on the assessment questionnaires done, on top of the concepts learned in class, I would be able to increase my awareness of self and environment, acknowledging my strengths and weaknesses. b) By summarizing the concepts significant to my situation, I would be able to discover my current leadership style and modify or develop it as best as possible according to what I have learned. c) I would be able to create a specific action plan towards the development of my authentic leadership style. d) I would be able to apply the modified leadership style on a real-life situation. By preparing this leadership and development plan, I hope to achieve the objectives as listed above. This would serve as my unbiased guide as I embark on my most significant real-life leadership journey, which actually started a few weeks ago.
Section 2: Lessons Learned
This course has defined some previously unknown leadership traits and taught me lessons that would be valuable tools for the development of my authentic leadership style. I have summarized them as follows: a) Awareness of self and environment
Awareness of self and the environment have been recurrent themes during the whole course. I should agree that I have unfolded some layers of myself as the weeks went by. I have repositioned myself in my career environment differently. Working as a primary care physician and opening up a new private practice during the current economic environment requires a lot of courage. The Obamacare health plans have recently reduced reimbursements to physicians. Although some positive changes are already in effect, health insurances still remain a huge business industry in which patients and physicians fall victims of. Having a Protean Career Orientation, and being aware of it through the assessment questionnaires, provided a cushion against these changes.
Nothing provides more reassurance than knowing that regardless of how difficult the business climate might be, my boundaryless career orientation would somehow survive and prosper. Of course, the latter depends on the subjective definition of success. Having filled out the “Meaning of Career and Life Success” questionnaires helped confirm what matters to me as I find my way through this journey. Helping other people, achieving a work/life balance and personal growth have been consistent in what I want in life and career.
This is important because the health care system for physicians has been very rigid. With a young career, as mine, most of my colleagues resort to being employed and managed by hospitals or larger private groups. It is not financially conducive to open up a private practice at the onset. So, I am technically swimming against an opposite current, and the lessons from the readings have pushed me into moving forward despite of. I do not deny, of course, that there would be tough moments when I sometimes get tempted to choose the easy path and revisit the generous employment offers I had. When this does occur, the Protean trait comes in handy and muffles out all doubts and anxiety.
b) Leadership style/vision In a few weeks, I will be managing a business on my own. This definitely requires a multitude of organizational skills. As much as I have already implemented most of the lessons learned in this course, I would still be requiring the assistance of and probably revisit these reviews most often. The transition from being an employee to embracing an employer status would surely extract all the leadership qualities that I could muster. First off, I envision myself as a collaborative leader, making more use of the transformational as well as empowering leadership styles with a tinge of transactional method as well.
The balance of these techniques depends on every situation I would encounter. Empowering others and myself has been one of my strengths, mainly because helping out and teaching have always been my calling. This would definitely come in handy when I exercise these different leadership styles. Furthermore, I also want to be a leader who would embrace technology and use all resources available in my grasp for the betterment of the organization. Currently, social media has done away with geographical barriers. When used appropriately, it would also bridge the cultural gap and communication barriers within the company.
I wonder what the outcome would be if I implement a supervised “facebook/twitter” equivalent among the staff and management, tapping into hidden resources and skills within the group. In my line of business, I want recommendations from patients and staff heard. But because the latter sometimes become hesitant to give out ideas, it is difficult to pry their walls open unless they feel comfortable to expose themselves. That would be interesting to see. I bet there are still tons of instances when you can make technology work for you.
I would want to be that kind of leader who listens to those needs/changes and responds appropriately, with or without technology. On the other hand, aside from leading with both the head and the heart, I also want to lead by example. I have been raised with a solid Catholic foundation and ethics. I want to employ this kind of culture in my organization and allow it to trickle down to the staff as well. I have seen a lot of employer physicians take advantage of employed doctors due to monetary benefits. There is nothing wrong about prioritizing the balance sheets and net profits, as long as you have not crossed the ethical boundary lines. Business should be practiced with a conscience.
c) Leadership behavior changes When work demands increase, I find myself accidentally encroaching on family life. This is why the readings on work/life balance impacted me the most. The assessment questionnaires on this topic realigned my priorities. My husband and I, both physicians, strive so hard to give our two young children the quality time they deserve. From the onset, I have done away with inpatient practice and just focused on working in an outpatient setting with no weekend calls. Although most of the time, office hours go beyond the usual 8am-6pm schedule, as we tend to finish patient charts on time and actually sometimes bring work home.
From the lessons learned, I have learned to balance work/life more in terms of quality and quantity of time. Instead of restricting my kids’ schedule and designing it to accommodate mine more, I have given up some activities that would take away parent time. For instance, instead of attending a dinner lecture presentation for continuing medical education, I would just spend this time with my family and read up on the topic whenever I can during work time. Another topic that brought great impact to me was on managing the boss. As a leader, you have to stay in tune to the needs of your superiors as well as your subordinates. The lessons learned from these readings were an eye-opener. I have experienced instances when I went beyond the employed physician job description. The intentions were noble as I saw opportunities for improvements. However, my superiors took these the wrong way. Awkward relationships would have been avoided then. Now I definitely know better.