My experience was very much intriguing than I anticipated. Few days to the case day, I called up for a meeting with my group members via their email addresses to get familiarized with each of them and get to know some background about all of the group members before the scheduled case day. The meeting was arranged but unfortunately it lasted for a couple of minutes and I could not get much significant information about their background and it was at this point that I realized that I was going to have a lot of challenges at hand as a leader and a follower. This, I thought of due to the fact that, I knew a little about my group members and moreover, each of them come from a different country, with different cultural background, different belief systems and the like. I had no clue or experience as to how I could lead people with such diverse characteristics in term country, culture, beliefs, expectations and others.
In an attempt to learn more about my group members with these diverse backgrounds, I sent to each of them friendship request on facebook social network to enable me check some more background information about each of them before the case day. Fortunately, I got all of them to accept my friendship request on facebook social network and started to engage them in conversation to find out more about them – what their value are, their expectations, their experiences in life, etc. Some few background information about each of them was gathered in a way but unfortunately, there was not enough time to get to know more than I already knew because we all had some reading and assignments to get done. It was at this point that I realized that, it would have been better for me to have started the background check on each of them earlier than I did.
In that case, I would have had a lot of information about each of my group members in terms of their way of life, values, expectations, etc and to inform me on how to relate to each of them as a leader and a follower in a more effective and efficient manner. I must confess, this was the first time I have had to lead a group from different countries, people with varying cultural background and belief systems and the main reason why I thought it would be more challenging than it appeared.
The following is the account of my experience on case day one: My first task was a very interesting but challenging one and something that I never anticipated – you may be wondering what it was. My first task was to go shopping with my other four (4) group members to buy at least five (5) ingredients given one hundred Norwegian kroners (100 NOK). The most challenging part was that, these five (5) ingredients was not to conflict with any of the group members interest or that each of us would find no difficulty eating. I started to wonder how easy it would be to figure out food for five (5) people from different countries, with different cultures and beliefs.
I figured out that, the best way was to get everyone’s input as to what we should buy and should not buy and started taking suggestions and objections from each one of us. This exercise was to gather common ingredients to all of us and to do away those ingredients that were not common among us. Fortunately, after few minutes of deliberation on what to buy and what not to buy, a conclusion on what to buy was made and we got all ingredients that were common to all of us. I believe one thing was paramount here – cooperation.
I learnt from this interesting experience where five (5) people from five (5) different countries with very divergent cultural background and belief systems were able to accomplish such a challenging task of arriving at a consensus to buy at least five (5) ingredients to prepare food that could be eaten by all members without haven to disregard or deny anyone’s interest within a couple of minutes. This has really thought me a great and valuable lesson that, cooperation and deliberation can be the best remedy for arriving at a consensus in such as a complex situation. I also learnt that, it pays to be a good listener so that issues raised and discussed could be incorporated into making ethically responsible decision that satisfies everyone.
Surprisingly, the tasks were getting more and more challenging, why am I saying this? My second task was to locate the route to our final destination where most of the tasks were going to take place. The only way to locate the route was from a map and I had no experience or clue on how to use maps because I have never used a map to locate a route to anyplace before. I asked my group members if anyone knew how to use the map to locate the right route to the place and I gathered some ideas and information from them and we set off.
I learnt from this experience that, a leader does not know it all – he or she cannot be jack of all trade and has to rely not only on his knowledge but also on the knowledge and ideas of his followers through sharing and learning from each other. There is an adage that, “two heads are better than one”. To state it differently, a greater output or more effective and efficient outcome is achieved through sharing and learning by two or more people in a more cooperative manner than one person doing everything all by himself or herself.
While we trek, I took time to get to know my group members in terms their culture, experiences in life, likes and dislikes, interests and hobbies and so on. This was important for me because I was building on my knowledge of each of them and to get to better understand them to help me as a leader and a follower. When we had gone half way through the trip we have had to stop to evaluate me as a leader and at this point I had started to think about some positive attributes about myself as I led my group members in task 1 – where we had to buy five (5) ingredients that would be common for all of us to eat together and task 2 – which was to lead my group members through the right route to our final destination for which I had no idea about because I had to do it with the aid of a map.
In these two (2) tasks where I led the group, I did my best to listen to everyone’s view and involved everyone in the decision making, thus, ensuring that decisions arrived were in the best interest of everyone and we were all comfortable with the decisions without ignoring or disregarding anyone’s view. It was however not surprising that, all my group members thought of me as a good listener, team player, energetic and a leader who takes everyone’s view as equal and into consideration. It was revealed to me during the evaluation exercise that, I was a leader of few words, someone who does not talk much, gave less details and more of introvert person. This is in my view was a true reflection of my personality and I have started to find out how I can improve on my communication and social skills, which I believe would help me lead effectively and efficiently in not too distant future.
It is very interesting when your own colleagues assess you diligently and let you know in a friendly manner and in the same way encouraging to work hard because they believe in you and that you could be better. This made me want to learn more and more about myself, I wish I could have asked for more tasks to unravel my challenges or shortcomings as a leader so that I would be able to work on them for improvement. This was a good experience for me. This is the account of my first experience as a leader in a group of people with different backgrounds in terms of country, culture, belief system, etc and what I learnt from the tasks.
After the evaluation, one most important thing that happened was to change leadership and this brought to bare different style of leadership or approaches to solving different tasks in different circumstances. This provided me with opportunity to assess other group members’ leadership styles or approaches in solving tasks in varying situations and also learning from their good leadership attributes and helping them identify their weaknesses or challenges for improvement was a very good exercise for me as well. This exercise revealed to a greater extent each member’s strengths, weaknesses or challenges and values exhibited during the period of the activity and provided a strong foundation for every participant to improve on areas highlighted during the self-assessment and group member assessment sessions.
Again, individuals’ true identity was also unraveled throughout the whole activity with no fiction or falsehood. When we arrived finally at our final destination, it was all excitement and every member of my group walked up to me and said “yes, we made it” – I believe it was a great success for all haven used a map to locate the place without prior experience. At our final destination, the tasks got more and more interesting and thought-provoking. We were assigned a task to build a tent for shelter against extreme weather condition. The leader of our group organized us and we shared ideas as how best to build the tent within the stipulated time frame. The leader led by example, taking the initiative after we agreed on how to build it and this was a good thing because it motivated the team members in accomplishing the task as allocated to each one and as scheduled.
Another major challenging task was assigned to us to make a one-handed rolling pin within a limited time frame and to also prepare food within the same time frame. This was the most challenging tasks for two reasons: one was the fact we did not know (or have prior experience on) how to make the one-handed rolling pin; and two was the fact that we have had to perform two (2) different tasks concurrently which could result in shifting more attention to one perceived as most important. The leader started by organizing the team members, we planned, shared and allocated the two tasks among ourselves. This was done to avoid the tendency of shifting more attention to one task leaving the other task unfinished.
The leader also monitored, coordinated and motivated the team very well ensuring the two (2) different tasks were completed within the stipulated limited time frame. The interesting thing was that, no one was assigned a task that he or she was not willing to perform (morale was high). Thus, everyone was made to do what he or she could do best to ensure overall success of the team. We were successful in completing the two (2) tasks within the limited time frame. I learnt that good communication, planning, organizing, sharing of ideas, division of labour, monitoring and motivation as well as teamwork were important recipe for success in this situation.
Additional task was assigned for us to pick a log of wood with ropes without touching the log with our hands and take it to a specified location without getting the log to touch the ground. As we did always, the leader organized everyone to share ideas on how best to complete the task assigned. We successfully completed the task but we were a bit late since the other team completed before us. Here, the spirit of motivation was very good because we did not give up even though we knew, we were behind time and this is something I also learnt. This task was repeated and this time around we successfully completed before the other team. This however, meant that, we did our home work well and learnt from our mistakes. This is another important thing that I learnt from the exercise.
Below is the account of my experience on case day two:
In this case, I partly owned a sawmill company in a small county that buys trees from the farms in the area and produces and sells materials to most carpenters in the county and neighboring counties. I also had 15% shares in a local fishery factory in the county and represented party two (2) in the city council. All the roles assigned was believed to expose each participate to varying situations of ethical dilemma and assess how each one of us was going to act in such situations.
At the beginning of the case, it was not too clear what we had to do or act. Most people were confused about their roles and what they needed to do to have their roles excellently played out. This was because most of us if not all of us did not have enough information as to what to do, who to interact with and what tasks were involved. When information regarding what each one of us was to do was disseminated then, it became clear what was expected of everyone. I was doing my business as expected but my business partner did not involve me in the finances of the business and would provide me with details transactions of the business.
He was always out of the business premises doing one thing or the other and I had to take care of the business by staying in the office all day. I was never involved in any unethical act in my sawmill business and knew nothing about my partners’ unethical acts such as converting his personal loan to business loan, bribing others and the likes. This however, revealed that it is very essential for a business partner to be actively involved in all aspects of the company’s activities otherwise a lot of things could go wrong without it being recognized as was evidenced in my case.
Another important point to note is the impact of the sale of my shares in the local fishery factory. The local fishery factory for over period of time was not making enough money due to the pollution of the water by the mining company’s activities. The mining activities rendered the local fishery factory unprofitable and even unsustainable and the city officials were not doing anything to salvage the situation. The mining company that was killing the local fishery factory was also a shareholder in the fishery industry. I was approached by the Accountant of the mining to sell my shares to the mining company and I did on the grounds the keep the business running (sustaining it) and make it profitable with greater shares in the fishery factory. It was realized after that the mining company only wanted to take over the fishery factory and collapse it, making the very essence of the sale of my shares lose its importance.
I sold the shares because the fishery factory was going to collapse anyway but realized that by selling off the shares to the mining company, it do something about the situation. Thus, if it allows the fishery factory to collapse it losses more and therefore, would proactively do something to remedy the situation since it was the mining activities that was killing the fishery factory. The idea was that, a lot of people were going to be unemployed, people would lose their investments and society at large suffers from the collapse of the fishery factory. The mining company just wanted to collapse the fishery factory which I believe is not the right way to go as it harms people (employees, customers, etc.), animal, society and the environment at large.
In conclusion, I have learnt a lot about myself as an individual (my strengths and weaknesses), about others and how to relate well with others in spite of varying backgrounds. I have also learnt various leadership qualities of an effective leader such as being a good listener, a good communicator, confident, able to delegate, creative, able to inspire others, positive thinker, caring and the like. Throughout the activity I learnt how to deal with different situations as a leader and as a follower (team member) and how successful a team can be as well as how far it can go if the leader ensure that all members work in harmony with each other and also with trust and honesty. I have learnt also that knowing one’s own self and the team members plays a critical role in being a good or effective leader and makes it much easier to lead in a positive way as well as achieving better results.
From case day two, I learnt that, it is imperative for companies or businesses to note that in achieving organizational goals, maximizing profit or personal benefits, it should not be done by causing harm to others, animals, society and the environment as a whole. I believe that, the mining company’s activities was causing more harm to others and the environment, thus, it was unethical from the utilitarianism, duty ethics, virtue ethics, discourse ethics, ethics of rights and justice perspectives as their activities, actions and inactions harm others, animals, society and the environment at large. Finally, the two-day activity was very helping in providing a practical experience in leadership and ethical decision making situations for participants.