Back at the beginning of the course I was talking about positive and negative leadership experiences that I gained during my time in the Security Sector in Saudi Arabia. I had the opportunity to work under the supervision of two different individuals, one of which will forever remain an example of the unappropriated and even destructive leadership, while the other until todays shapes my understanding and personal concept of great leadership practices. It was an impressive contrast of two completely different leadership styles, and I would like to focus this work on the positive experience and authentic personality of Dr. Abdullah Alhoshan, who became my second manager and build on my desire to further learn and develop leadership capabilities that will serve best my social and professional environments. Before I continue, I would like to outline the three pillars of his leadership that will further become part of my analysis in view of the leadership style: justice, ethics and timeliness. When we first met, Dr. Abdullah Alhoshan introduced himself as my direct advisor. Ever since I heard that the term advisor clearly associates for me with the type of leadership that I consider transformational and developing.
The general setting of my organization is very strict as it is expected from the military organization and, even more, from Security office. It is important to note, however, that personality traits and behaviors of individuals that take managerial positions in the organization are very diverse and, thus, one can have very different experience and perspective of work, based on interpersonal experience. I would argue that this management style diversity is, somewhat a result of weak organizational culture that does not outline clearly and explicitly the Code of Ethical Conduct and does not promote shared values to the degree, which I would expect from the military service. This lack of alignment is evidenced through the gap of values between two managers that I worked with.
The experience of working with Dr. Abdullah Alhoshan makes me believe that the leadership is a multifaceted concept that cannot be placed in one unique framework and taught through classic axioms to other people. There are very little characteristics, in my opinion that can be attributed as a universal quality of a great leader and, thus, becoming a good leader is a path that each of has to take individually and learn from own experience as much as from others. There are, however, common traits and some classic definitions of good leadership. I believe that these qualities include the long-term vision, personal belief, charisma, excellent communication skills and ability to adapt. Vision is something that places a leader ahead of other people and gives him a role of developer and ambassador of change. Personal belief is the quality that is essential for a leader who will be followed. Charisma is, perhaps, something that we cannot learn and gain with time, but a personality trait that is built upon our values, experience and interpersonal communication process. Communication, in its turn, is the key for success in a leadership role. The reality is that the knowledge that a leader possess is literally useless, unless this leader is able to transfer the knowledge to his followers and show them how to use it in practice. Finally, ability to adapt, in my view, is a critical characteristic for a leader, as leadership differs from management by its role in the process of change. Change management is a complex process, and all people go through it in a different way. It is the responsibility of a leader, therefore, to adapt his style, behavior and approach to finding the best fit for individuals within his team and help them to develop. With that in mind, my major learning about leadership that I gained from the time working with Dr. Abdullah Alhoshan is the fact that in order to be a great leader, you should be able to find authenticity and make yourself confident and comfortable with your own leadership and accessible to others. Working with Dr. Abdullah Alhoshan makes me belief that he built his professional relationships by constantly asking himself: “Why Would Anyone be Led by Me?” Taking into consideration the importance of adaptation leadership, it is possible to conclude that the leadership is not about the personality, but about the behavior that great leaders have and how they manage “self”. I strongly believe that authentic leadership is the result of continuous learning about self and self-discovery and Dr. Abdullah Alhoshan is my professional ideal in this sense.
Kouzes and Posner (2011) suggest that the leadership is about behavior that incorporates five major practices: modeling the way, inspiring and shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act and encouraging the heart. Looking at the experience of working with my inspirational manager, I can go through each of these practices in analyzing his behavior as a leader in more details. Modeling the way is a critical role of leadership that enable the organization and the team to act together with a clear understanding of the goals and their individual contributions to achievement of these strategic targets. The leadership, demonstrated by Dr. Abdullah Alhoshan is an example of clarity of goal setting and accessibility of his as a mentor. I remember several occasions in which I asked him for advice and guidance in my work, and I always was able to find the required support and help. When it comes to the inspiring of shared visions, one of the most impressive moments in my daily work is seeing our team together, working on the projects and realizing the respect and humility that my manager inspires in others and passes over to the team as the core of communication and interrelationships process. Dr. Abdullah Alhoshan always states that working together is about treating people the way you would like to be treated yourself and bringing to the team the most of your abilities. Another element of shared values brought into the picture by his leadership is the realization of the value that each of the team members, subordinate or a leader can make, by helping others to develop and grow professionally and personally. Inspiring leadership, as I learned from him, is the ability to develop “self” and develop “others” in equal and complete way. Challenging the process is, probably, one of the most difficult tasks of a leader for two reasons: to be able to challenge, leader should be able to abstract from his personal convictions and see the bigger picture and, secondly, to be able to challenge the process he should see innovation and creativity as a key for effective leadership. I am confident that Dr. Abdullah Alhoshan pos
sesses both of these capabilities as he constantly review and looks for the ways to improve the operations in the department through inclusion and delegation of authority to each of us. Transformational leadership, in my opinion, is the most effective approach in military or civilian environment and this leadership, seen in Dr. Abdullah Alhoshan´s practices, proved to be very effective with individuals, like myself. My manager always promotes innovation and initiative and builds on the confidence of each of us through giving us certain authority and freedom in decision-making and approaching our own work. He always highlights the role of interpersonal relationships and teamwork and the paramount contribution of collaboration to the benefit of the group and the organization in general. This thinking and leadership style also demonstrated the role of motivation and employee satisfaction in achievement good productivity and high performance in the team. Kouzes and Posner (2011) conclude the list of exemplary leadership practices with the encouraging the heart. Dr. Abdullah Alhoshan is both, an effective manager and a great leader. As a manager, he brings in efficiency, structure and quality in our work and as a leader he is superb in keeping loyalty, motivation and bond within the team (Kotter, 2001). Some of the remarkable practices in this area, demonstrated by my manager is his participation in wins and failures of each of us individually and as a team, his role as a mentor and coach apart from reporting relationships and his personal life story, which in my opinion, is a great contribution to his image of a great leader. Born in the northern region of Saudi Arabia, he managed to develop himself without any preconceptions and eliminate the influence of his cultural background from his leadership style. This ability to educate “self” and go through continuous process of self-discovery is an attribute that, I personally, consider essential for a future leader.
When I think about my personal path as a future leader and the major learnings that I would like to take with me from current and past experience, there are several things that I always consider. First of all, I will always ask myself “Why Should Anyone be Led by Me?” and to answer this question, I try to look at such elements as how I expect a good leader to deal with change, conflicts, mistakes and emotional management. I believe that learning is the process that will always accompany the career and personal life of a leader, and it is important to realize that leadership is authentic and imitation of other leadership styles will diminish the leadership personality and, potentially prevent me from developing in specific authentic way. With that in mind, I will continue gathering information, observing and learning from the leadership style of people that I worked with, by whom I am currently led and with whom I am yet to work with in the future. At the same time, I will always continue to explore my own capabilities and limitations and look for ways to best utilize my strengths and leverage the weaknesses. Dr. Abdullah Alhoshan always tells to me that each of us has right to make mistakes and, moreover, we should make them learn and excel in the future. It is, however, critical that we use these experiences to improve and recognize the learning. The same way, accomplishment and failure can be of equal value if we know what and how to take out of this experience. One of the areas that I consider Dr. Abdullah Alhoshan struggling with is the difficulty to deal with personal mistakes, while he is extremely supportive and effective in turning negative experience into positive learning from others, Dr. Abdullah Alhoshan often encounters internal barriers in accepting his own mistakes and demonstrating his own vulnerability. This, at times, prevents him from seeking support and knowledge in others and may affect the outcome of his work. This observation makes me consider another take away for my future – being able to show weakness and let the followers lead at certain times. Leadership, at the end of the day is a mutual process of learning and development, where the roles and responsibilities can change over the course of the process.
Goffee R. and Jones G. (2000). Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? Harvard Business Review, September, 2000 Retrieved 19 March 2014, http://uthscsa.edu/gme/documents/WhyShouldAnyonebeLedbyYou.pdf
Kouzes J.M. and Posner B.Z. (2011). The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, 2nd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer Publishing. Print.
Kotter J. (2001). What Leaders Really Do. Harvard Business School. Retrieved 19 March 2014, http://hbr.org/2001/12/what-leaders-really-do/ar/1