For the past 2 years I have been experiencing constant change and uncertainty. A year ago, what seemed a professional failure became a great opportunity to achieve a dream: studying abroad. When we fail, we have two options: giving up or keep trying. When things were not going as expected my only option was blindly relying on God’s purpose, I have been walking on faith since then. Facing and overcoming some of my greatest fears made me confident of my call. In times of trial I experienced God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. Gratitude has been at the core of my experiences, although its has been hard cultivating it for unexpected circumstances. Having a clear focus gave me strength and resilience, Psalms 16 has been pivotal in my faith. It has also been a journey of grace and acceptance, too often I set high standards which I can barely meet. I am learning how to embrace failure and accept uncertainty. Reflecting, observing and listening to environment has been important. Seeking for support has led me through, without family and close friends I would not be where I am. Faith, gratitude, courage, resilience, love and grace had led my way.
Handling stress has been challenging, in the midst of professional uncertainty I have often felt overwhelmed. Living a day at a time, requesting help, organizing deadlines, communicating and requesting feedback have helped me overcome stress. Living a day at a time has significantly reduced anxiety over the future, each day has enough trouble of its own. Having clarity on deadlines and dividing goals into doable tasks has been helpful. As professionals we cannot expect to know everything, requesting help whenever needed was key for outcome attainment. Constant communication and clear expectations also played an important role. Feedback allowed me to adjust and change as needed. Flexibility has been indispensable. Simple but powerful things such as taking regular breaks or walks to clear my mind has increased my productivity and ability to face stressors.
At a personal level, acquiring new skills, grace, social support, and physical exercise has been extremely useful for stress reduction. The first step is recognizing stress symptoms, for me physical pain and little patience are the most common ones. I have found extremely helpful not ignoring my stress levels, I invest a considerable amount of time reflecting and connecting with my emotions. Acquiring new skills and knowledge has also been helpful. Giving myself grace has been powerful as well as creating a balance between high performance and non-compliance. Spending quality time with family and friends is always refreshing, it keeps my stress on a healthy level. Exercising and connecting with nature is a wonderful way to reflect and stimulate my endorphins.
Although I have been very intentional in creating strategies for improvement, much more remains to be done. As long as we are alive we can learn and improve. Currently, I want to focus my attention on two areas: achieve consistent results and time management. Consistent results lead to sustainability, which is an important component for leadership. An area I struggle often is time management, with an online program this is crucial for success. I found the program so insightful and useful, but to get the best out of it time management is indispensable. I believe perseverance and determination could be useful to improve the previously mentioned areas.
Mission, Vision and Values
My vision in life is resumed in Mathew 28:18-20 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
My mission in life is to use all my skills, knowledge and life experiences to serve the most vulnerable people in any possible way by sharing God’s unfailing love. I am committed to work on their behalf, helping them understand their true value and supporting them to achieve their true potential. I have a heart for children and people living under extreme poverty conditions, wherever there is pain and need I am willing to serve. I have been profoundly touched by Bob Pierce (World Vision founder) quote “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” (Stearns, 2017).
I believe having a clear vision and mission in life is a gift. I was blessed to understand my call when I was 16 years old. Working on behalf of vulnerable people has filled my life, every place God has placed me just confirmed my purpose. There are numerous ways to achieve our call, but it is always important to work towards the vision.
My core values are integrity, excellence, relationships, courage and perseverance. Doing our best effort in everything we do reflects we are children of God, it is never about perfectionism rather about excellence. Integrity allows us to live in a transparent and reliable way, we should have consistent behaviors wherever we go. People have a great value, cultivating healthy relationships is essential for me. I treasure every time someone opens their heart and gives their time. I cannot think of another way to live but with courage. I am inspired by Joshua, God gave him the victory and the promised land, but he had to work hard to get it. I believe good things come for those who are willing to try beyond their fears. Perseverance is also key to achieve results. When I think of this value I remember Thomas Edison; it took him at least 10,000 attempts to invent the light bulb (Boe, 2002). Whenever I fail, I remember I have at least 9,999 more opportunities.
A key element in the mind-set of strategic acting is recognizing only certain actions are strategic (Hughes, Beatty, & Dinwoodie, 2014). When everything seems important, nothing really is. I found 4 strategic drivers to create a significant impact on achieving my potential, these are: faith, flexibility, resilience and determination. Faith in God is important in everything I do. I constantly like to think on God’s plan and how He has an absolute control of everything in our lives, we just need to be aligned with His purposes to achieve our potential. Nowadays we live in a VUCA environment characterized by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (Ungerer , Ungerer, & Herholdt, 2016), flexibility is a key driver to excel in this environment. Flexibility is also directly related with paradox thinking, which is the ability to hold two seemingly competing ideas or “truths” in the same time and space (Hughes, Beatty, & Dinwoodie, 2014). It means being focused but open, flexible but firm, and so on. Resilience refers to the capacity of a dynamic system to adapt successfully to disturbances that threaten the viability, the function, or the development of that system (Southwick, Bonanno, Masten, Panter-Brick, & Yehuda, 2014). It means taking past experiences and transforming them to strengths and resources. The best example I can find are trees, they are designed for resilience. They naturally adjust to their environment, providing benefit to those around them, constantly growing and enabling life. Determination is a key factor for success, having a clear vision and walking to it can unleash our potential.
There are several behaviours which limit my potential, currently I want to focus on 2 of them: Being hard with myself and setting unreachable goals (wanting to achieve everything at the same time). These areas are directly related to the previously mentioned analysis. These behaviors hinder development, just as fear limits learning. They take a lot of my energy away and limit results. Leaving these areas aside, will allow me to reach my potential. I constantly remind myself improvement is an ongoing process.
Some of the areas I want to excel in are decision making on uncertain environments, working with others recognizing their talents and working on a multicultural environment. In the VUCA environment uncertainty is a guarantee, a leader must be capable to make accurate decisions. According to (Lespinger, 2010) a key aspect for strategy execution is a wide coordination and cooperation in the organization, were goals are shared and roles are clearly identified. In such a complex environment we need effective teamwork. An organization can flourish when everyone is doing what they are good at. Another need to excel in such environment, is having a global perspective. Understanding different cultures and worldviews can create a competitive and solid organization.
In the complex environment we face, a culture of trust and effectiveness seems strategic. One where outcomes are obtained with the highest quality standards and where people know they are valued and developed.
It is important to have a meaningful vision and mission, whatever the business may be. When people perceive their work as meaningful they are more likely to be engaged and remain in the company. A culture of celebration promotes holistic development, allowing people to do what they are best at. It is extremely important for an organization to cope with change and environmental demands. Creating strategic alliances with key stakeholders can substantially contribute to outcome attainment. A culture open to new ideas and solutions can create a fruitful environment.
Communication is also a key component for a healthy organizational culture, it should be promoted at every level not only for top management, it should be everyone responsibility. People should feel free and invited to make contributions about processes, projects and initiatives. Integrity and reliability can create a trust atmosphere to develop such conditions. The organization should have clear ethics code to clearly state expectations of behaviors for employees. Stewardship is also a key component, using resources wisely contributes to effectiveness. These principles can also be applied to a personal culture, were people know they are valued.
Old economy and new thinking
According to the values described by Ungerer and Herholdt for old economy thinking, a practice I have used in my leadership is aristocracy of power. In the past, I understood leadership as a dominant behavior, where an individual is considered the ultimate authority. Coming from Honduras, this leadership figure is very common. A leader is perceived as the only authority, people respect and have clear boundaries toward leaders. Requesting help and recognizing mistakes is usually considered a weakness. These behaviors represent an old economy thinking which is obsolete. Ungerer, Ungerer & Herholdt (2016) explain how leading from a new economy values perspective represents a specific way of being a leader as well as doing things in a different way by serving the interest of others as a core starting point.
According to Hughes, Beatty & Dinwoodie (2014) the organizational strategy process has six key elements: Set mission, vision and values, discover drivers, create business strategy, develop leadership strategy, execute perform and learn, and asses internal and external environment. To become a better strategic leader, I would focus on 2 areas: develop leadership strategy and execute, perform and learn. Having a clear leadership strategy for the organizations has an impact on direction and commitment of employees, it outlines the ‘how’ leadership is expected to work. Regarding execution, performance and learning I want to obtain more tactics and skills toward strategy. It involves changing a mind-set and understanding it as an ongoing learning process.
I am just starting my journey to become a strategic leader. I am open for new knowledge and practices which may improve my strategic skills. I am also willing to adjust and change my mind-set to enable a better understanding and practice on the subject. The strengths which may contribute to such task are: perseverance, openness, flexibility, collaboration and determination. Results, particularly in this area, are not obtained easily; perseverance is a key driver.
Boe, J. (2002). Adversity Gives You Strength. Canadian Manager, 27(4), 25.
Hughes, R. L., Beatty, K. C., & Dinwoodie, D. L. (2014). Becoming a strategic leader. San Frncisco: Jossey-Bass.
Lespinger, R. (2010). Closing the execution Gap. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Southwick, S. M., Bonanno, G. A., Masten, A. S., Panter-Brick, C., & Yehuda, R. (2014). Resilience definitions, theory, and challenges: interdisciplinary perspectives. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 5(0), 1-14.
Stearns, R. (2017). Blessed by a broken heart. Voices. Retrieved from https://www.worldvision.org/hunger-news-stories/blessed-broken-heart
Ungerer , M., Ungerer, G., & Herholdt, J. (2016). Navigating Strategic Possibilities : Strategy Formulation and Execution Practices to Flourish. Randburg: KR Publishing.