Part 1 The assessment of Layla as a strategic leader
Hughes, Beatty, and Dinwoodie (2014) articulate “strategic thinking is about the present, not just the future” (p. 63). In another word, a clear understanding of the current situation is significantly constructive to all kinds of preparation for the future. Considering the current changes happening in my life, such as changing the plan of staying in Canada for the long haul, moving back to China and staying with the whole family, I identified three aspects needed to respond carefully. First, the transition of moving and adjusting to different kinds of environment and culture is the most important thing. For example, I need to understand the need to invest more time and energy in parenting since I still want my son to grow up like we did in Canada. There is a vast difference in education and parenting between Western culture and Eastern culture, and the experience of living in Canada made me realize a healthy way to help a child during his/her growing up. Second, the family should seriously face and figure out the unresolved problems from the past. Moving to Canada is a benefit for the family to solve several problems. However, the issues are still there since we moved back, and it is imperative for me to consider the solutions. Third, the future plan concerning the whole family needs more discussions and adjustments. Both short-term and long-term plans are critical for the growth of the family. To be more realistic, I decide the length of the current long-term plan should be two years. At that time, I will complete my degree. Therefore, it could be an appropriate time for the family to reassess the situation and make the decision.
To respond to the changes and prepare for the next step, I am managing different types of stress. Personally, there is anxiety stemming from parenting a child in the Eastern education system. The fierce competition and solely pursuing high scores can be both merits and drawbacks in education. Synthesizing the knowledge and experience of the past several months in Canada, I would like to build faith in my family initially as having a firm faith could reduce the anxious feelings (Peck, 2002). Then, I would make a great effort to retain the bilingual advantage for my child by daily talking to him in English. Further, it is more important to clarify high scores do not always equate to success to my family but also other people. Professionally, the stress comes from the imbalanced situation between life and work which irritated me for the past few years. In another words, I felt there were no clear boundaries between personal life and work, such as getting back to work during a dinner with the family. Returning to work this time, I would list specifics related to my job description to decrease the ambiguity and clarify the accountability (Atha, 2018). Therefore, I could refuse to accept the work which is not in my job description and highly focus on my part. Moreover, the most precious thing I learnt from Western culture is the family-oriented value. We should leave the work at the workplace, and enjoy the family time when we are back home.
Part 2 The wants and needs for changing or strengthening responses
Helping the family get through the transition is my top priority. Bridges (2009) states “unmanaged transition makes change unmanageable” (p. 8). Overlooking transitions in changes will lead to bad outcomes and more loss. For my family, I need to explicitly tell each member the days living in Canada are the past. “Every exit is an entry somewhere else” (Bridges, 2009, p. 30), and coming back does not mean failure. I want to make sure all family members understand our decision by continually communicating and exchanging thoughts. Also, I want to spend more time with my child and husband talking about their feelings and showing concern to each other (Bridges, 2009). Eventually, our family should get through the transition together with nobody ending up being hurt.
One of the unresolved problems from the past concerns my job situation. Since I am going back to work, the issue is still there. There is an implicit “rule” in the company which frustrates me the most as females cannot get a bright future in professional work. It comes clearer to me the resistant feeling stops me from moving forward after reconsidering the attitude I adopted these years. I need to discard the negative thoughts and focus on thinking possibilities. Possibility thinking “empowers us to accept challenges without being held hostage by circumstances or feeling helpless to change current realities” (Ungerer, Ungerer, & Herholdt, 2016, p. 10). It also indicates I need to build the capacity of acceptance without resistance and try to look at the problem from a different angle to create possibility. Therefore, I want to keep growing on my specialties in professional work and initiate more upward spiral conversations (Zander & Zander, 2002) with not only colleagues but also senior managers.
Part 3 My strengths and weaknesses concerning the desired changes in my life
We all have personal merits and deficiencies. I deem strengths and weaknesses always come in pairs. In another word, weakness usually hides in the shadow of strength. For instance, my strength is I am very good at using polarity thinking (Hughes, Beatty, & Dinwoodie, 2014) in dealing with personal issues. Therefore, I am not resistant to changes as I like to consider the two opposing poles of the circumstances. Meanwhile, exerting too much polarity thinking in personal life leads to not being firm with my real feelings. Vaguely knowing my true needs is my greatest weakness. Many plans, including family schedules and individual development projects, are delayed due to my confusing moments. I am working on this issue for a long time as it massively bothers my family.
In professional work, I like to extend my specialties in various aspects. I work in the training department, but also familiar with the daily routines and issues concerning the financial department and developing department. When our department needs to cooperate or has a potential conflict with other departments, I could always fix the problem as the representative of the training department. In turn, I win respect and trust from colleagues and other coworkers. Nonetheless, I am not the best trainer in the department as I am engaging in spanning horizontal boundaries rather than vertical boundaries (Hughes, Beatty, & Dinwoodie, 2014). Considering the desire of earning a promising future in the company, I need to shift the focus on deepening one or two specialties. Being an expert in one field can help me become more competitive in the future.
Part 4 My mission, vision, and value
I believe either personal or organizational mission, vision, and value need to connect with the social context and local culture. Stewart (2017) suggests “there has to be a reality check on any vision or dream” (p. 34) as the well-thought mission, vision, and value could significantly help an individual or organization to thrive. Given Asian culture and social context highly honor collectivism, the professional mission, vision, and value should align with the social values. Moreover, the rapid development and breakneck economic growth of China makes the public focus switch to self-expression and self-identity. Therefore, it is appropriate for the personal mission, vision, and values to incorporate individualism, which I experienced personally for several months in Canada.
Mission: Keep learning and reading, promote critical thinking, affect family members with grateful emotion, show servant attitude towards other people, carry out stewardship for the community.
Vision: Becoming a mentally stable and healthy individual who could independently get through hard times and sincerely help other people as well.
Value: Confidence, Independence, Optimism, Integrity
Confidence: I will be confident in both relationships, and express affirmation to other people to help them be confident as well.
Independence: I will keep critical thinking and being logical toward daily issues. When conflicts happen, I will stay independent and stand alone if it is necessary.
Optimism: I will seek the bright side of everything while clearly knowing the existence of the dark side. Also, I will believe the bright side could influence the other aspects in a good way.
Integrity: I will be honest and sincere with other people at all times by voicing concerns, admitting mistakes and holding true to my faith.
Mission: Focus on the subject I am in charge of, innovate training methods, share my thoughts and offer help to others as much as I can.
Vision: Becoming the top expert and the most helpful employee in the training department.
Value: Collaboration, Communication, Accountability, Respect, Trust
Collaboration: I will collaborate as much as I can with other staff by seeking different opinions and seriously consider distinctive perspectives.
Communication: I will genuine communicate with other people and seek the best way to deliver messages to them without causing uncomfortable feelings.
Accountability: I will commit myself to complete the tasks assigned to the best of my abilities and will graciously hold other colleagues accountable.
Respect: I will respect other’s opinions and perspectives by allowing other people to voice and contribute equally.
Trust: I will trust other colleagues during work by telling the truth, sharing real feelings, and seeking resolutions to conflict together.
Part 5 Key Strategic Drivers
Strategic drivers should help individuals or organizations approach success (Hughes, Beatty, & Dinwoodie, 2014) and point a way out of dilemmas (Kloppers, Horn, & Visser, 2015).
Therefore, I believe key strategic drivers should be intrinsic incentives to help individuals or organizations get through difficulties and make achievements. Considering personal preference and dispositions, I would discard caring much about short gain and short-term loss for the benefit of my future plan. Although facing gain and loss could disrupt one’s mind and logical thinking, a strategic leader should be able to see the big picture, keep calm, and make decision critically. Closing the distance between temporary loss and gain is detrimental to conceive and implement the strategy for the future.
The areas I would like to excel in are critical thinking, processing information, and results-based leadership. Critical thinking and processing information are vital for both personal life and professional work. In an era of information, we are consciously and unconsciously accepting new information every day. In my observation, most of the people around me absorb and believe the messages without scrutiny. This phenomenon is even worse in Asian as people tend to compromise to achieve a sense of collectivity. However, the idea or information is unlikely to be correct even if the majority. I am willing to consider, review, and think the information and use “some breaking down or analysis of the evidence or experience within a particular context” (Aveyard, Woolliams, & Sharp, 2015, p. 114) get my conclusion. Building on the areas of critical thinking and processing information not only aligns with the personal vision, mission, and independent value but also helps me achieve the professional vision. Also, exerting result-based leadership is constructive for professional work. The results-based leadership will align other factors including measurements, strategies, accountability, and resources closely with the professional mission, vision, and value (Atha, 2018). In turn, the alignment could profoundly influence the result and is benefit for reaching the desired future.
Part 6 The personal and professional culture I want to develop from the mission, vision, values and drivers.
Godfrey (2003) defines culture as “the way we do things around here” (p. 1). Culture is critical for strategy as beliefs and practices representing culture could overpower any strategy if not aligned (Hughes, Beatty, & Dinwoodie, 2014). Therefore, both personal and professional culture should become the strengths for enhancing and representing mission, vision, and value.
My desired personal culture has two main subjects which are making connections with knowledgeable people and servant leadership. My mission is keeping learning, reading, being a life-long learner. Not only do I need to incorporate more information with critical thinking, but also have an excellent opportunity to discover other interests. The more I develop about myself, the more I should learn from both academic resources and other people. Also, hearing other people’s thoughts could significantly enlarge the inclusive capability and understanding different perspectives. The other element of my culture is to affect family and friends with servant leadership. I believe home and close relationships should be the most significant part of our life. We should offer more listening rather than quarrelling, more empathy rather than accusation, more commitment to grow together rather than be dishonest to them. Although I cannot predict or control their feelings and thoughts, I could show them servant leadership in life, affect them, and help them become servant leaders in their lives. I believe my vision of becoming a mentally healthy person must have the ability to be a servant leader and capacity of learning, thinking, and understand.
The two primary aspects for professional culture are building a collective belief and facilitating an open communication environment within working place. The training department does not have a common interest, and employees want to finish their shift indifferently. I want to build a collective belief by continually collaborating colleagues and finding out the common goal. The collective belief would significantly increase commitment and accountability in the department. Also, the result-based leadership, one of the professional strategic drivers, solely relies on the belief and faith as the firm foundation. Furthermore, an open communication environment is necessary for a well-performing team. With a collective belief as the basis, employees will genuinely thrive for the benefit of the whole team. Consequently, they will help each other and share ideas with other team members. Conflict is inevitable, but the collective belief and constant communication will help the team see an agreement which every staff recognizes and align with.
Part 7 Conclusion
There are two facets of the old economy way of doing things (Ungerer, Ungerer, & Herholdt, 2016) I am experiencing and working on changing them as well. They are “self-serving individualism” (p. 15) and “leadership as position and entitlement” (p. 15). Based on my working context and experience, self-serving individualism is still existing in my department. Trainers seemingly treat other colleagues nice, yet refuse to be accountable and blame each other when conflicts happen. I analyzed the reason behind this phenomenon, and it turned out to be the result of deep insecurity as everyone viewed each other as competitors. Consequently, there is neither consensus nor team spirit in the training department. That is why I incorporate offering help in professional mission; collaboration, communication, and accountability in professional value; and building a collective belief in professional culture. I need to collaborate with other trainers as much as I can, such as holding a speech together, attending and discussing training courses. During discussing and sharing thoughts, a smooth communication environment within the department will arise, and the employees can well connect. Also, I need external support, such as the senior manager, to offer financial support and create chances for trainers to get together. It would be much better if the senior manager could join the discussions and preach the concept of “internal locus of control” (Ungerer, Ungerer, & Herholdt, 2016, p. 15) as employees value his idea and have expectations on him. As a result, a common belief and goal will help staff be accountable and stop blame on other factors.
The second aspect “leadership as position and entitlement” is harder to change as Asia culture emphasizes the role and power of leaders very much. Usually, a leader has top authority in any issue about professional work. Although coercive and micromanagement leadership could help organizations survive from natural disasters or other turn-around situations, it is not constructive most of the time (Goleman, 2000). To change the stereotype of leadership and transfer to transformational servant leadership, I plan to form a team with four or five members and make a move. Reflecting on the leadership courses and the observation of Dr. Atha who found the capacity of stewardship from me (Douglas Atha, private conversation, August 7, 2018), I will impart the information and knowledge regarding transformational servant leadership to other team members. Then I will exert stewardship in team learning, discussions, and conflict resolutions. When the team are ready for practical application in real working context, we will affect the department by being an example. In turn, the training department could influence other departments. Eventually, the whole company would change, and servant leadership can supersede old economy thinking to help people make contributions to the society genuinely.
Based on the strategic leadership model (Hughes, Beatty, & Dinwoodie, 2014, p. 49) and my Birkman assessment, I grade myself 90 points as a competent strategic leader in personal life and 75 points in professional work. Personally, I am a deep thinker with relatively high self-discipline. Also, polarity thinking, reading, learning, and critical thinking help me continuously reflect thoughts and conducts to make sure they align with my value and vision. However, being a deep blue thinker, also a complete introvert, is weak at assessing the internal and external environment. In another words, I need to work on collecting and making sense of “information about the internal and external environments” (Hughes, Beatty, & Dinwoodie, 2014, p. 34). Unlike extroverts starting initiative communications, I enjoy sitting alone and listening to other people. It is not a wise way to collect internal and external information. Professionally, besides assessing the internal and external environment, I also need to put attention in shaping culture and setting direction. As mentioned above, I set a wrong direction by negatively assuming there was no bright future for females in professional work. Also, the traditional issues such as culture and leadership style are not easy to change. Based on my personalities in professional work and strategic aspects, it is realistic for me to take the advice of Hughes, Beatty, and Dinwoodie (2014) to improve the weakness alongside one or several team members as we “both develop and provide support to each other” (p. 57).
Generally, in the VUCA environment “which represents features of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity” (Ungerer, Ungerer, & Herholdt, 2016, p. 3) my present strategic strengths are learning in the strategic process, firmly holding my faith, mission, vision, and value, discovering strategic drivers, critical thinking, and strategic thinking (Figure 1). I believe the mission, vision, and value are the basic gears of my strategic leadership with faith as background. They make sure the conducts, thoughts, strategic plans align with my core value. The learning serves as a constructive lubricant and continually helps other gears work smoothly. Critical thinking and strategic thinking are two properly joined gears in the middle to keep the strategic process going. Discovering strategic drivers is above them because the key strategic drivers might be different as the goals and contexts change. I deem strategic leadership as an ongoing process. The more strengths I gain, the more gears I should put in the figure to make the “strategic machine” function well and longer.
Figure 1. Layla’s strategic strengths and leadership model.
Atha, D. (2018, July 30). Transformational servant leadership for results – Day one: Introduction-Foundational faith, values and ethics [PDF document]. Retrieved from http://learn.twu.ca/pluginfile.php/130150/mod_resource/content/1/2018_Day_1_Powerpoint.pdf
Atha, D. (2018, August1). Transformational servant leadership for results – Day three: Frameworks for results, demonstrating value Individual performance plan and organizational structure [PDF document]. Retrieved from http://learn.twu.ca/pluginfile.php/131018/mod_resource/content/1/2018_LDRS_503A_Day_3a_Powerpoint.pdf
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