During week one of our Leadership Learning and Technology course we discussed who we regarded as respected leaders. We explored our perceptions of leadership by submitting a short list of 10 respected leaders that came to mind during a synchronous session with our professor.
What I Observed:
Our lists of leaders were then posted in a forum and were open for discussion. The list included a variety of leaders based on faith, politics, celebrity, community, cultural, gender based and philanthropy. As a group, students commented and reflected on the common perceptions of leadership among the group.
I reflected on potential unconscious biases that may have played a role in the selection of the posted leaders. Many students reflected on the factors of gender, age, culture, environment, location, personal beliefs and media may have played a role in the selection of the listed leaders.
Through my lens, the common thread discovered in leadership among the cohort was that many students believed that leaders were agents of change. The consensus was that leaders possessed influence over their following by creating awareness of a problem and providing a solution that usually appealed to various human factors. Kotter, (2001) explains that in regards to leadership, “achieving a vision requires motivation and inspiring—despite major obstacles—by appealing to basic but often untapped human needs, values and emotions” (p.86). Some other noted key perspectives of leadership found within the weekly discussion forum were:
- Respected leaders took ownership and responsibility of their vision for change.
- Their vision is usually rooted in their personal beliefs and experiences within their environment/community.
- They inspire innovation for change and advocate collective knowledge building.
- Influence others to take on leadership roles.
- Make decisions on what is morally right for the sake of the group, based on personal beliefs.
Yuki, (2012) states that “Leaders use change-oriented behaviours to increase innovation, collective learning, and adaptation to external changes. Specific component behavior include advocating change, articulating an inspiring vision, encouraging innovation, and encouraging collective learning” (p.72).
Through my personal reflection, the leaders which I respect are ones that inspire individuals and groups through their work to make an impact on society and culture within their community. I believe I have unconscious biases that affected my choices of respected leaders. Some of the leaders on my list came to mind because they’ve made an impact or influence on my life because I share similar interests, philosophy, passions and beliefs as they do. Through their work, words and acts, I have made connections with the listed leaders as they inspire me to think differently and find comfort in being my authentic self. These leaders continuously stand up for what they believe in although it may go against status quo. Their ability to lead others is grounded in their passion and purpose and not for the results of their work. Whether it is to lead others to get involved in philanthropy or innovating technology that pushes our culture and design thinking forward in the 21st century, these leaders inspire me everyday to stand confident in my beliefs and vision while inspiring others to be their best at all times.
After reflecting on the weekly discussions and readings, It appears that the cohorts choices of respected leaders were chosen based on similarity of human factors, which makes it easier for our brains to rationalize. These factors that contributed to the selection of their respected leaders were unconsciously biased based on age, gender, personal beliefs or profession. Initially, the respected leaders that I chose were listed for these reasons as well. In addition to being agents of change, what I respect most about some of the leaders on my list are that they acknowledge the contributions of their team while inspiring their supporters and followers to become more confident, and prepared to make an impact on society and culture within their community and become leaders in their own way.
Insights from Resources:
Kotter, (2001) explains that in regards to leadership, “achieving a vision requires motivation and inspiring—despite major obstacles—by appealing to basic but often untapped human needs, values and emotions” (p.86).
Yuki, (2012) states that “Leaders use change-oriented behaviours to increase innovation, collective learning, and adaptation to external changes. Specific component behaviours include advocating change, articulating an inspiring vision, encouraging innovation, and encouraging collective learning” (p.72).
Kotter, J.P. (2001). What leaders really do. Harvard Business Review, 79(11), 85-96.
Yukl, G. (2012). Effective leadership behavior: What we know and what questions need more attention. Academy of Management Perspectives, 26(4), 66-85.