Archive for September 20th, 2008

With the US elections barely a breath away and the impending Philippine elections coming in less than two years, some of the most burning issues that take the floor nowadays has to do with the issue of leadership?

One sometimes wonders at the idea of being a leader. Is it simply being put in a position of responsibility or influence? Is it a job, or an attribute.

As someone who has had first-hand experience in the dog-eat-dog world of banking, I can say also first-hand that being part of an organization with a defined hierarchy does not necessarily imply that leaders exist.

I might even argue the opposite: that leaders emerge when organizations breakdown, or are at the verge of breaking down. In circumstances when organizations feed on itself as a vicious cycle, say in a corrupt bureaucracy, or a money-hungry corporation, this might be argued as a venue where leadership is missing, or is sorely needed.

In 1991, two management consultants: James Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner, put together a framework for identifying and nurturing leadership. Briefly speaking, Kouzes and Pozner outlined 5 characteristics that can be said to be exemplars of leadership based on research they did. They described these characteristics as practices that identify leadership:

Challenge the process
The research found that leaders thrive on and learn from adversity and difficult situations. They are risk takers who regard failure – where not caused by poor performance – as a useful chance to learn and innovate.

Inspire a shared vision
Kouzes and Posner found in their research that people are motivated most not by fear or reward, but by ideas that capture their imagination. This is not so much about aving a vision, but communicating it effectively so that others take it on board.

Enable others to act
Leaders don’t seek to achieve it all themselves – they achieve results through others. But they do this not by simply repeating the vision mantra – encouragement and exhortation isn’t enough. People must feel able to act and then must be supported to put their ideas into action.

Model the way
Modelling means being prepared to go first, living the behaviours you want others to adopt before asking them to adopt them. People will believe not what they hear leaders say, but what they see their leaders consistently do.

Encourage the heart
Finally Kouzes and Posner established that people act best of all when they are passionate about what they’re doing. Leaders unleash the enthusiasm of their followers with stories and passions of their own.

You can check out further details on the K&P model from this online document. The interesting exercise is to run all aspiring leaders and wannabee leaders against the criteria to see who measures up. A similar exercise is going on in Finance Manila as we speak, but as with popularly held notions such as religion and nationalism–the notion of leadership can be quite a hotly contentious debate.

In these cases, being absolutely critical of one’s views and others is the only process I can think of that can ultimately lead to success.

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One of blogs I’ve recommended in the past for frequent visits is Instik Siomai’s blog. Written with a very unique point-of-view: an honest look at traditional Chinese practices, and with a feminine twist (arguably the disparaged gender especially in Chinese practice).

Her latest post includes a comment about parenthood, and comparison and contrasts between Filipino and Chinese (at least Philippine Chinese) approaches.

An excerpt:

Most people love to cuddle babies, probably because humans have insatiable appetite for affection. Adults “learn” to be embarrassed with showing and demonstrating affection. This is even worse among Chinese. Chinese are more uptight and stuck up. My parents are making it a big deal whenever they see couples hold hands in the mall. All Chinese parties I go to are so superficially staged. I would rather get a genuine hug and affection than a superficial “Angpao” from them.

Intsik Siomai’s honesty and in-your-face humor is a refreshing take on otherwise taboo topics, and her words have elicited more than passing replies (mostly of shock, sarcasm, some of outrage) from her mostly male(?) audience.

Check out her blog here.

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