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The library of essays of Proakatemia

My leadership challenge



Kirjoittanut: Samu Nyqvist - tiimistä SYNTRE.

Esseen tyyppi: Yksilöessee / 2 esseepistettä.

KIRJALÄHTEET
KIRJA KIRJAILIJA
The Leadership Challenge
James Kouzes
Barry Posner
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 6 minuuttia.

The semester is approaching its end, which for many constitutes a time for reflection. Have I reached the goals that were set for this semester, what challenges did I face and how did I cope with them, and what are the things I want to improve on during the next semester – these are some of the questions that many try to answer to track their progress. That is also exactly what we, the business leaders of Proakatemia team companies, sat down and talked about in our last Business Leader paja of the year. The paja initiated a process of personal reflection in me, which I see fit to continue in this essay. To help with this, I will be using James Kouzes’ and Barry Posner’s Leadership Challenge’s Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership as a framework for me to reflect on the last six months and point out different aspects of development both academically and professionally in the role of SYNTRE’s leader of business.

 

Modeling the way

One of the first things I was very skeptical about stepping into the shoes of a business leader was the lack of professionalism and experience I can bring to the table. Having no previous experience in business-making and managerial positions (other than the army), I was very concerned about how I can concretely lead my colleagues, whom multiple had more experience than I did. Simply put, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to fulfill the role of a leader, and that I would face expectations I cannot meet. This is also something that James Kouzes and Barry Posner also tap into in their book: “It is a common misconception that leadership is innately tied to a title; that simply because someone is promoted to a prestigious position, the respect of their colleagues will automatically follow. However, as we have all likely experienced, that is not always the case.” (Kouzes, M. & Posner, P. 2017). So how could I model the way when I’m not even sure what the correct way is, and simultaneously preserve the respect of my colleagues?

To overcome this challenge, I found the answer in authenticity. Since I already was aware of my shortcomings when it came to experience, I wanted to make sure the team acknowledgees that fact too. An alternative approach would have been to hide my incompetence and act like I know everything about everything which would’ve ultimately put me in unwanted positions. By being transparent about my development areas, however, I made it easier for others to approach me and help me lead. This made the leading responsive and helped to create a culture where leaders are not seen as “bossy, all-know entities” but authentic individuals who are there to take the team further. By giving me better tools to lead, the team also gave itself a better chance to progress.

 

Inspiring a Shared Vision

The biggest impact I wanted to make on the team was on its culture of it. I wanted to make SYNTRE a more unified business-driven organization, whose members work tighter together. I understood, though, that it was a very ambitious and idealistic dream considering that our company is made up of 17 people with their own individual goals, values, and mission for the future. I had concluded, however, that the team cannot support each other’s learning if it’s not unified, and that the team can actually become a burden instead that slows down each member’s development. I felt like we as co-owners had forgotten about the general responsibility we have of SYNTRE. My vision was to get everyone on the same page so that the team could have more to offer to its members.

Inspiring this shared vision was difficult, though. To me, the possibilities of collective team effort were limitless, but communicating these possibilities and inspiring others to feel similarly required me to understand why things are like they are. Creating a vision for the future involves recognizing patterns, trends, and themes that have defined the actions leading to the current moment and using those to shape new ones (Kouzes, M. & Posner, B. 2017). The biggest theme I noticed to draw lines with the lack of collective effort in our team was the way we unconsciously promoted individualistic thinking.

 

Challenging the Process

A big underlying reason our team has been so individualistic in its way of thinking is the way we treat and think about money and the way of doing business in general. In our company, we are using a very traditional internal bookkeeping method known to team companies in Proakatemia. We have individual accounts inside SYNTRE which we use to track the financial contributions of each team member. If a person or persons are working on a project, the funds for it get allocated from and to their account. This creates the illusion that the profit they earn is their personal money, not SYNTRE’s funds.

Another problem with this system is, that it doesn’t support the collective effort, but instead promotes individual projects and money gathering. SYNTRE isn’t treated as a company in which we have the same goal of being successful, but as a platform to do and bill your individual projects. These projects, then, are the only source of a sense of ownership for the members of the team. The way of thinking has been, that as long as your own account inside of SYNTRE has money contributed to it, you’ve done your part. The rest 16 members are on their own. Challenging the functionality of this system, and possibly replacing it with something to match the vision of collective effort, is something I took on as my personal objective.

Enabling Others to Act

One big point that I thought should be improved from the first year of SYNTRE’s operations was transparency and communication. Team members were often complaining about how they couldn’t find projects to work on and that it was hard to come up with stuff. Though it seemed that nobody was active, that wasn’t the case. Many people were active, but their efforts were left unseen because they weren’t communicated with the rest of the team. To help tackle this problem, we started incorporating more project talk in our team meetings. This enabled for more effective sharing of tacit knowledge within the team.

Enabling others to act does not directly mean that the others will act. I noticed this during the process of developing the new internal bookkeeping system for our company. When first introduced to the idea of getting rid of the personal accounts in SYNTRE, people were ecstatic and eager to move into a different system that resembled that of a proper company. I was very pleased about the fact that the team was open to trying a different approach. As they say in the Leadership Challenge, “You can’t achieve anything new or extraordinary by doing things the way you’ve always done them. You must test unproven strategies. You must break out of the norms that box you in, venture beyond the limitations you usually place on yourself and others, try new things, and take chances.” (Kouzes, M. & Posner, B. 2017).

However, when it came time to implement the new system and strategy, the attitude suddenly switched. At the beginning of the process, the majority of the team were supporting the idea – but in the end, only a minority were up to implement it. There was no genuine commitment to the cause. That was a very challenging pill for me to swallow. Had I not made a clear enough case to earn their commitment regardless of the hard work we did with the finance department? Did my teammates not feel as though their contributions and dreams have a place in my shared vision? It’s hard to tell, but, hopefully, like our coach Annikka confided in me, the process we went through was the spark that the team needed to fix the issue. In one way or another.

 

Encouraging the Heart

During the past six months as a business leader, one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced has been in inspiring my team members. The struggle in that can be seen, for example, in the commitment issues. Reasons for the lack of community can be many, but I would argue that with more celebration and show of appreciation the situation would be a whole lot better. If it weren’t for my co-leading partner, Sille Sinor, a lot of hard work could have gone unrecognized. She has been very effective at picking out accomplishments to celebrate on and has led with positive energy throughout the whole semester. She understood that a sense of connection amongst the team members can lead to better well-being, accountability, and commitment in SYNTRE. This aspect of leadership is something I often seemed to overlook. In hindsight, I know that is one of the things I have to put more focus on in my next managerial position – whatever that may be.

 

Conclusion:

The past six months, as an experience, have been very interesting and educational. It has included moments of despair, excitement, and everything in between. First and foremost, however, it has been a challenge. A challenge that has left me wanting more. Not instantly, but after I’ve managed to internalize all the learning I’ve faced. Even though the official duration of my business role is coming to an end, I still feel like my leadership challenge is just in its beginning phase.

 

 

Sources:

Kouzes, M. & Posner, B. 2017. Exemplary Leadership Starts With You. The Leadership Challenge: The Five Practices 16.6.2021. Read on 7.12.2022. https://www.leadershipchallenge.com/lead-on/exemplary-leadership-starts-with-you.aspx

Kouzes, M. & Posner, B. 2017. Inspire a Shared Vision: How to Create a Common Purpose. The Leadership Challenge: The Five Practices 20.7.2021. Read on 6.12.2022. https://www.leadershipchallenge.com/lead-on/inspire-a-shared-vision.aspx

Kouzes, M. & Posner, B. 2017. From Inspiration to Innovation: How to Challenge the Process. The Leadership Challenge: The Five Practices 22.9.2021. Read on 6.12.2022. https://www.leadershipchallenge.com/lead-on/from-inspiration-to-innovation-how-to-challenge-the-process.aspx

Kouzes, M. & Posner, B. 2017. Enable Others to Act: How Building Relationships (and Trust) Can Elevate Your Business. The Leadership Challenge: The Five Practices 10.1.2022. Read on 8.12.2022. https://www.leadershipchallenge.com/lead-on/enable-others-to-act-how-building-relationships-and-trust-can-elevate-your-business.aspx

 

Kouzes, M. & Posner, B. 2017. Encourage the Heart to Build Community and Achieve Results. . The Leadership Challenge: The Five Practices 17.3.2022. Read on 8.12.2022. https://www.leadershipchallenge.com/lead-on/encourage-the-heart-to-build-community-and-achieve-results.aspx

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