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The library of essays of Proakatemia

Learnable Leadership

Kirjoittanut: Xiaoqing Yang-Pyydysmäki - tiimistä FLIP Solutions.

Esseen tyyppi: Yksilöessee / 2 esseepistettä.

Attainable Leadership
Fan Deng
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 7 minuuttia.

As a student of Proakatemia, leadership is the topic and competence we need to learn and develop. After being the business leader of Flip Solutions Osk., I found the book Attainable Leadership written by Fan Deng and its correspondent online lessons.

Fan Deng is the founder of the Fan Deng reading club. He aims to help those who have low reading efficiency to absorb the essence of 50 books per year, with the mission of “helping 300 million people develop reading habits”. Same time, he is an MBA senior lecturer and one of the top leadership experts in China. I am a fan of his reading club and have been following his channel for years and very appreciating his books recommendation and knowledge sharing.

In these lectures, Fan Deng explained from various angles that leadership is not an ability brought by natural genes, but a series of operable, imitable, and practicable tools. (FanDeng, 2017) There are nine main topics in his lessons. Most of the topics are referring to what we have always talked about in our studies at Proakatemia. In the brackets, I interpreted them into the words that we have often used by my understanding.

  1. 80% of leaders can achieve 80 points out of 100. Four levels of practice for improving leadership. (How to build a team)
  2. Clarify the roles, delegate, and avoid doing everything yourself. (Delegating tasks)
  3. Build a gamified organization to make work more fun (Learning contract)
  4. Clarify relationships and build team alignment. (Learning contract)
  5. Use goals to manage (Build vision and mission)
  6. Use the communication window quadrants to improve interpersonal relationships (How to improve communication)
  7. Learn to listen and create a positive communication channel (Diamond dialogue method)
  8. Give and receive feedback timely to build trust (How to give feedback)
  9. Use time efficiently (Decision making)

The author provided a systematic view to describe what we need to know for improving leadership and uses a lot of case studies and recommends practical tools in his courses. Next, I will discuss the topics that I am interested in detail.

Four levels of practice for improving leadership

  •  Build trust
  • Build a team
  • Establish a system
  • Build a culture

As we all know, building trust and building a team are two crucial aspects of leadership. Trust is the foundation for a successful team is built, as it allows team members to feel safe and supported, and to work with people without fear of judgement. The author didn’t go deeper in this section. In Proakatemia, we know that a leader needs to be transparent and honest in communication and decision-making. As well as being open and straightforward about goals, expectations, challenges, difficulties, and involving team members in discussions and making the final decision whenever possible. It is also about taking the responsibility for mistakes.

Establishing a system is like building a machine that can work automatically and precisely. Therefore, there must be operating rules, which standardize the process in the system. The rules of the team or an enterprise will keep it running normally even without a leader. In Flip, people appreciate structure and clear instructions. As the team become what it is now step by step over the past few years, we have been keeping following the rules we made in the beginning and exploring coping methods while facing new challenges. At some point, it could operate alone without a leader but not completely. We do need to refine the structure and accountability to reach the next level.

Building a culture is about having company values which gather people from the mind and distinguish them from other enterprises. Flip as a multicultural team is having members from Europe, Asia, North America and Latin America. It is our challenge to learn the cultural differences and to know each other’s backgrounds and beliefs. During our teampreneur journey, we found out Flip’s values, and they are,

Trust – empathy, freedom of expression

Success – passion, curiosity, learning, solutions

Professionalism – discipline, organised, accountability

Cooperation – togetherness, contribution, creating lasting connections

Shared values enable us to drive internal motivation to have collectively when facing external pressure and doubts. Same time, psychological safeness allows people to show their talents and take the challenges as there is a team behind them to support them.

Use goals to manage &

Build a gamified organization to make work more fun &

Clarify relationships and build team alignment.

Goals are the foundation for team management. The author categorized the goals into three types,

  • Directional goals. It is the general direction of the company. It is vague but inspiring.
  • Process goals. It needs to be defined clearly with specific plans. As well as the details that need to be paid attention to.
  • Rational and clear specific goals. This refers to more specific data indicators. It requires execution and follow-up.

From my understanding, this is about building a mission and vision and setting up smaller goals in certain periods. A vision is a long-term goal or aspiration, while a mission focuses on short-term goals and how to achieve them. The author recommended using the SMART tool (setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) to create plans in management. Although Flip’s goals were set without using SMART, they were decided by the whole team, combined the expectations of all the members, and they are giving the direction and guiding the company moving forward. Because of this, we have team alignment. People are driven toward our goals on continues learning, understanding the finances, having an extraordinary final camp and being proud as members of Flip.

Money and dreams are no longer the most important reasons to attract people to work, it is better to make work interesting. The vision and mission will drive people to work together. For the team, we are here to learn and improve, it should be common sense for everyone that each member needs make progress and sometimes compromise. Flat organization, transparency and honest communication will attract people willing to be part of it.

A learning contract is the method we are using in our studies to share a reflection on the past, and present, and plan for the near future. It is an agreement with the team about what personal goals will be achieved and how where the team is informed and will support the members. When we combine what the company/team wants to do with what everyone wants to do, it will burst out with greater enthusiasm and motivation.

About communication

The author used three sessions to talk about how to communicate to improve the relationship in the company. Although the methods are different but very similar to the idea of a learning contract. The learning contract is a good tool to increase the understanding between people and invisibly shorten the distance between each other. It is a way to show resection and trust.

Then the author explained the benefit of being a good listener. Listening is a process of receiving information from the other party. People who are good at listening can accept the other party as much as possible. It can help to build mutual trust and smooth the progress of communication. However, listening is only one-fourth of the key elements in the dialogue diamond we often use the team learning. Being honest, waiting and respecting others is important as well.

Use time efficiently

The author emphasises that the role of a leader in a team can be summed up as “identify key tasks”. Referring to the task delegation in the front part, in many cases, he suggested managers should delegate work to others and pay more attention to those important non-urgent tasks. I do agree with this point that often the important non-urgent tasks are significant. As it is time-consuming or complicated or cannot see the result right away, we postponed them nowhere in sight.

When we are searching for solutions, brainstorming is the first step. The second is decision-making. Usually, there are two groups, one group agrees, and the other disagrees. There is no absolute right or wrong for these two groups. They are all talents, and their opinions are valuable. Fan Deng recommended the method of Six Thinking Hats here to approach the thinking process effectively in the team. The Six Thinking Hats method involves using six different coloured hats to represent the following modes of thinking:

White hat: neutral, objective, and factual thinking

Red hat: emotional, intuitive, and subjective thinking

Black hat: critical, negative, and judgmental thinking

Yellow hat: positive, optimistic, and constructive thinking

Green hat: creative, innovative, and divergent thinking

Blue hat: controlling, organizing, and summarizing the thinking

While the team is going through the decision-making process, the facilitator can decide which hat is going to be used first, then the second, third, till sixth to encourage everyone to think from different aspects that making sure each one is engaged and contributing their efforts. Unfortunately, this method hasn’t been implemented in Flip. I haven’t read a book about this method, but more suitable for making larger decisions. If you are interested in it, the book is called Six Thinking Hats wrote by Dr. Edward de Bono.

In the end

Many times, I consider leading a team has common sense as taking care of kids. For instance, take the initiative to participate in a task. We expect to turn what we want our children to do into something they are willing to do. When they are forced, they will rebound. It is wiser to provide options and let them choose so that they think that they made a decision, and they will go for it.

After explaining the various methods and tools, we can see leadership is a skill that can be developed and refined through learning and experiences. While some people may naturally possess certain characteristics that make them effective leaders, still leadership is ultimately a learned behaviour.

Proakatemia is a good place where we can learn and train leadership skills. We received very much knowledge and tools to understand the principles of effective leadership and to develop the necessary skills. At the same time, there are lots of opportunities for participating in group activities that can stimulate the motivation of self-learning with hands-on experience.

Eventually, the real world is the place we can test what we have learnt and improve. It is authentic, people can observe and learn from leaders who are successful in their fields. It can gain valuable insight easily and apply the school learnings into own leadership style.

Self-reflection and willingness are as important as others. We need to get feedback from others, to reflect on where may need to develop further and take steps. To learn from the successes and mistakes of ourselves and others.

In conclusion, after introducing the methods and tools of leadership learning, if you are willing to develop yourself more in this role, prepare to dedicate yourself to the continued study and practice of leadership to have the abilities and confidence towards success.




Fan Deng. (2017) Attainable Leadership. Listened on Oct–Dec 2022.

About Fan Deng Reading Club: https://www.dushu365.com/about. Read on 7th Dec 2022.

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