Sunday, March 29, 2015

Thoughts on Leadership

It's seriously been donkey years since I last blogged. I've been meaning to pick up writing again and I've been procrastinating... but here I am. 

I guess I've been a bit contemplative today as it was the last class of Careers in Curriculum (CIC) which I had to convene and lecture. This is a compulsory unit which students need to graduate and it's meant to prepare them to join the workforce. They learn how to write resumes, job interview skills and all about the job market. Since the classes are on 2 Saturdays, it's normal for students to feel resentful of the unit. As such, we get students who are busy on their phones, laptops, earphones and sleeping. THat's fine... until you get students who talk and laugh so loudly that you can even hear them over the microphone you're using, and they're all the way at the back of the hall. Of course, I stopped to tell them off, and they didn't even know I was referring to them until I did it the 2nd time. Seriously. But what's more worrying is when I had the panel discussions featuring guest speakers who are extremely experienced and well-known in the respective fields. To make it fair, I made sure there was a representative from each field and they were to share their experience in the field, how they got to their current positions and their experience with recruitment. 

To me, I feel that these students are so lucky to learn all these things before they go out to the real world as they are more prepared when we had to learn by trial and error. To be able to hear from these experts and receive their advice is even more priceless and valuable. Yet, there are students who don't even bother to listen to them! I think when they go out into their fields and realise who these people are, they will really regret their choice. They have no idea of the market they are in and yet they think they know better. Sigh, this is the future of our country. -_-

I'd been struggling with the lectures, trying to share my own experiences to make the material more relevant and interesting. I think students also have this perception that lecturers don't know the truth about the world and they would only listen to non-lecturers, for example these guest speakers. So it was quite validating for these renowned players in the field to reiterate what I'd been trying to tell them. 

One of the things that was discussed was leadership skills. Previously I used to think I was a fairly good leader, until recently. It might have been due to a friend's continuous perceived put-downs that I feel as though I'm not as confident as I used to be. Somehow, while taking a bath (my best ideas seem to come when I'm in the shower or at the gym, or before bed... not sure why), I started reflecting on my leadership style. Actually, I think I'm not too bad of a leader, if I compare it to what self-help articles suggest.

1. Positive reinforcement/Reward system
When I was in university, I was in many clubs with my friends. At one stage of our uni years, the whole group of us were holding multiple positions in various clubs at the same time. Back then, many students didn't want to be responsible in clubs, so we had to 'recycle' people. It happened that my group was particularly active and we all had various interests, so each of us had a club we focused on. As we were all close, the clubs tended to work together. All of us would help out in committees simply because it was led by a friend. Then, we would repay the favour by helping out in their committees. 

I remember when I was in charge of events in the student council, I recruited my whole group of friends and we even had meetings during our lunch time when some of us were working during the holidays. We also had a meeting at my house at night and I felt grateful to my friends, so I made sure to provide lots of refreshments. On the day of the event itself, I bought KFC for the whole group to 'boost' their spirits beforehand. Ever since that day, I've always tried to show my gratitude to those who have helped by providing snacks. Even if my students don't always contribute, I try to encourage them by surprising them with something in the last class. I think this is called positive reinforcement, or just basically, a reward, to show gratitude and appreciation for their help.

2. Recognising their abilities, Trust = no micromanagement
As most of the committee members I had were from my group of friends, I knew what they were good in, or what they were interested in. Also, by that time, most of us had become 'experts' in different areas, due to continued experience in doing tasks in those fields for events. There were those who were good with design and decor, others in logistics, food, entertainment, tech and so on. Thus, they would be in charge of the area of specialization. Due to this, I would just let them handle things and just ask for updates as needed. As I trusted their abilities and judgement, I usually just gave them the end target, and asked them to work towards that. Of course, if they had any recommendations to amend the target, I was open to discussion, with the rest of the team's feedback. There was very little need for me to micromanage as many of them were more than capable to get things done. Even if there were newbies, I believed in teaching them or demonstrating, rather than doing it for them. I would only take over if they had shown that they couldn't handle the task. 

Learning to be a good leader wouldn't have been possible without members/friends who are committed, capable and responsible. If they hadn't trusted in me and supported my decisions, I don't think I would have learned all of the above either. Although none of us are millionaires yet, but I believe all that we have learned from these clubs have benefited us in our careers. From my CIC experience, I've seen a lot of students who think that joining clubs or non-academic activities are a waste of time when they should just focus on their studies. I believe they are deluded, as clubs and team activities help us to develop essential soft skills, as also supported by the guest speakers. 

Employers don't like students who just get good results, they want well-rounded and balanced employees who have shown that they are able to get things done and have the right attitude. Achievements in clubs and competitions are solid proof that people have believed in you enough to choose you to represent them. Through CIC and my interactions with my own students, I can only hope that eventually they will be able to listen to my advice and attempt to follow it, instead of thinking I'm just one of those lecturers who likes to nag and tell stories of the good old days. I choose to come off as naggy, if only for the sake of ensuring we have good future leaders. Hahahaha. Oh boy.

No comments: