Saturday, May 01, 2010

What kind of leader i aspire to be?


"Below is a 3000 plus words essay that i have been working on as part of my leadership project before i commissioned as an officer on June 19...I certainly enjoyed reflecting on my leadership styles as well as studying the styles of famous leaders in the world before i actually came out with my personal command philosophy in my last topic below"

Topics
1) Self Introduction
2) What makes a good leader
3) What kind of leader i aspire to be


SELF INTRODUCTION


I think the best way to introduce myself is to share a bit of my background of my life. The way how I was brought up, circumstances that I been through, schools and places I have been too and activities that I have came across in my life that made me who I am today. I believe that all this factors has in some way molded my personality, character and leadership style.


A quick summary of my life, I was brought up in a well to do Christian family, went to St.Gabriel’s primary and secondary, and was very involved in my school soccer team then. Did pretty well for my o’ level’s, went to Catholic Junior College for the first 3 months before heading to Temasek Design School to do interior architecture & design.


But I would say the biggest event that made me who I am today was something that I would remember for life, and that was on December 9, 2005, where I encountered and experience something that change my life totally. Before that day, I used to be this low self esteem, introverted boy. I was very shy and never really a church goer. I can say I was like a “Sunday Christian”. And then after secondary 4, I went to my church youth camp at the end of the year. And right till today, I can still vividly remember everything that happened in that camp. I won’t go into the details about the series of things that happen there. But I can say for the first time in my life I actually had a personal encounter with God. And that opened my eyes and suddenly gave me a very different perspective about life. I suddenly had this deep intrinsic great sense of joy that filled my heart and I suddenly saw life to be much more purposeful.


From that very day onwards, I wasn’t that low self esteem boy anymore. I suddenly had more confident that before, became more extroverted which led me to open up myself to the people I meet be it in school or in church. I would say the people in my church were the once that saw the biggest change in me, as I use to be so quiet in church that almost no one noticed me. I even had a church mate who commented once that I was so quiet that she “never knew I could talk”. That was how low profile I was in the past than. But everything change in the next few years to come, I started to serve in Church, and soon became a leader in a few areas in church. All this slowly developed my leadership & management style.


Anyways in the next 3 years in Temasek design school, I pick up the passion for interior design. I enjoyed what I did, despite having long hours doing projects and assignments. I thought that being an interior designer would be my future career path, another event occurred in my final year that opened me up to a whole different “calling in life”. In Summary, I went for this retreat, and it was there that I had a very clear calling from God for me to serve full time in a church. I can truly say that it was something so clear that I know that I know is from God and not just my own thoughts. By choosing such a path by my own will would mean, sacrificing my dreams of becoming a designer to a full time staff in church? Or maybe even a pastor in the future? And that was when I realized that my passions deep down in my heart started to change. I would say I still enjoyed doing design, but if I compared my passion serving in church would be where my heart really is. There’s this verse in the bible which says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. And that’s clearly how my “treasure” has change. And right now that desire of my future stills dwells within me; I have my plans after national service probably to intern in church for awhile and probably go into Trinity Theological College (TTC), where I can get a degree that would aid my future calling in life.



Not many will understand the reason of why I chose to go into this path, even I myself would never ever dreamt or have such a thought that I would be pursuing this life if someone ask me this question five years ago. But now I know for sure, deep down in my heart, this is where I was called too. I know that if not for God, my personality and character would not be what I am today. And because of my personal faith in God, it forms everything in my ideas, dreams and views in life. That personal experience with God made such a deep impact in my life that it spurs me to want to share this great joy to the people I meet along my path, and whenever I’m given a chance to share about myself, this same testimony is what I would share. God has become my centre focus of my life and it became my inspiration for every step I make in the future.



Currently as I serve in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), I know this is the next phase in my life I have to go through. I personally believe that God has placed me here in Signal Officer’s Cadet Course (SOCC), and I really want to give my best to God in where ever I am place in right now. I truly believe in having the Spirit of excellence giving the best in everything I do. And I would say because of my optimistic nature it has helped me a lot in life now especially in the tough times here in SOCC or back in OCS. Wells by now one would know that in summary, the best way I can introduce myself is that my core values and life will always relate back to God after how he changed my entire life. It’s because of Him that I am what I am today.



WHAT MAKES A GOOD LEADER


“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more,
you are a leader.” -John Quincy Adams


Leadership is not just holding a title or a position of authority in an organisation. It is not just when you’re given an appointment like a school prefect, a class monitor, a cadet wing commander, a manager, a director or even an elected politician. It’s not like being some famous personal out in the world, like David Beckham or Barack Obama. In fact I believe anyone out there can become a leader.


Before I share my personal thoughts on what it takes to be a good leader, I want to say that leadership qualities can be expressed anytime anywhere, be it among your friends, at the classroom, even when playing a game of soccer. Somehow everywhere one can influence another in anyway. Be it leading your peers in a group discussion or even as simple as taking the initiative to make a decision on where to eat.


There are two main types of leadership styles based on behaviour approached, Autocratic leadership or Democratic leadership. Autocratic leaders tends to centralise authority and derive power from position, they tend to control by means of extrinsic methods such as rewards or coercion such leaders who use such a style are like Napoleon or Adolf Hitler. They will get things done but their followers may not appreciate their leader for that. And then there’s the democratic style where the leader would delegate authority to others, it encourages participation and relies on subordinates knowledge for completion of tasks. Such a leadership style empowers the followers.


Gary A. Yukl an author of Leadership in Organizations said this; leadership can be defined as “an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their shared purposes.” So as I derive from this quote, leadership first involves an influence, it occurs among people who intentionally desire significant changes, these changes reflect the purpose shared by leaders and followers who take personal responsibility to achieve that desired change.



Personally to me, the first main trait I would see in a good leader is someone who has the trait of “transformational leadership”. Such leaders are visionary, and focus on the big picture, where they need to be surrounded by people who take care of the details. Such a leader will always be looking for ideas that move the organization to reach the company’s vision. I really believe if someone can motivate change in someone by casting a vision and the follower or followers catch it, he has already accomplished half his task.

Next, I believed a good leader needs to have the confidence and having the charisma would be a big bonus. If a leader can be up there giving instructions or leading his people, he really needs to show that he knows what he is talking about. Having that competency would make your followers trust in your decisions. And having the charisma would be an added characteristic that gives him that influence to communicate in an inspiring way that motivates his follower to get a task done without using fear at all.


Other traits which I personally see in a good leader would be a leader who is optimistic and people oriented. These are two of my strengths too, and I can see why such traits would be a good benefit to a leader. If one is optimistic about his plans or ideas, he is able to encourage his followers to pick up on the idea or instruction easier. And being people oriented would means he is able to work well along side people and that’s a very key asset to one who need to lead a team of people. If his followers can engaged the leader and find him approachable, things can be done a lot easier without any barriers in between them.


All in all, having all this traits are good, but I would say what really holds on to make a good leader is one who maintains his character all the time. A good leader should always be calm and compose under pressure who always maintains his integrity and not compromising on it at all. It means even when no one is looking he keeps to his morals and values. And I believe all in all such character is what completes a good leader. I once heard this saying, “one can build on his whole life the ideal character of a leader, but sometimes making one mistake such as compromising on his morals and integrity can destroy the respect of a person totally”. And that’s especially critical if his men sees and knows what his leader is like after that.


At the end of the day people may not remember what you say or did, but they would remember the character and how you actually impact the lives of your followers. And all this are what I think would make a good leader.


WHAT KIND OF LEADER I ASPIRE TO BE

When I first came into Officer’s Cadet School (OCS), I dreamt that one day I would be in a position of influence to be able to impact the lives of men who are place under me. I have learnt and adopt the traits of leaders and commanders I have encountered in my lives in the army as well as outside. And I hope that the traits which I choose from these leaders will be something that would form my personal command philosophy.

A leader which have traits that I desire to have would be similar to the famous Christian evangelist , Billy Graham. He was not only known in the Christian circle, but also known throughout the world as a religious leader that has influence the world. He was born November 7, 1918, a Christian evangelist and a spiritual adviser to many United States presidents and is number seven on Gallup's list of admired people for the 21st century. He became well known in the world when his sermons were broadcast on radio and television.


Graham has preached in person to more people around the world than any ot
her preacher in history. According to his staff, as of 1993 more than 2.5 million people had "stepped forward at his crusades to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior". As of 2008, Graham's lifetime audience, including radioand television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion. At one revival in Seoul, South Korea, Graham attracted more than one million people to a single service. And. in 1978, Billy graham even came down to Singapore and preach at the National Stadium where hundreds of thousands people attended and had their lives impacted and change by God.


The reason I chose Billy graham as the leader I can learnt from is he has a lot of similar backgrounds as me; I was born in a Christian family like him. And we have similar callings in life. And if not for that same God that we believe in just like him, I would never be where I am today. I don’t exactly plan to be a great evangelist like him in the future but he has a great character and good leadership traits which I definitely can learn from him!

There’s a book that talks about him, it was clearly said that his definitely a man of a great character. His character and personality was what led him to be a great leader and evangelist out there. From personal interviews, his friends remember the life and ministry of Billy Graham, they tell of his character, vision, and the anointing of God. The book is titled, “Character leads the way”. He was mention to have Vision, and a gift of perception that Billy Graham ones shares with great quarterbacks who can see the whole field at once and make a pass to a spot where the receiver will come open. Not only that he had a global vision and an intuitive sense of spiritual opportunity have taken Billy into evangelistic ventures in many cities; in the media print, television and even in a movie. But of course it was also said in the book that character and vision are nothing without the anointing of God.

Taking in considering of Billy graham leadership style, characteristics and my other reflection of what makes a good leader, has all aided me in coming out with this personal command philosophy which I believed would be an asset to me as a future Officer of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Firstly, I personally adopt the democratic style of leadership, People are more likely to excel in their positions and develop more skills when they feel empowered. The end result is especially rewarding if you can manage to establish an environment of ownership. One may even find that democratic leadership leads to a more productive and higher quality work. Such an approach in the SAF would be so much more productive especially if you’re always working as a team of specialist and men. If you trust to delegate and empower them to do their respective tasks I’m sure it increases the productivity and possibly the quality of their work if the men can catch the vision of his officer. Besides all that, I would say at times one may need to fall back on the autocratic side and be firm when making decisions as democratic leadership may backfire if your men get complacent or procrastinate.

Secondly, I believe in “transformational leadership”, Imagine if one can empower and inspire his man based on being visionary and by motivating them with a simple encouragement to his men. This may actually lead them to having this intrinsic feeling that they are valued and worthwhile; I believed this could possibly than inspires his man to do the best of his ability for his officer. I really believe if someone can motivate change in someone by casting a vision and the followers catch it, he has already accomplished half his task.

Thirdly, I believe in being confident and having the charisma just like what Billy Graham was. If one shows the confidence when giving instructions or speaking to your men, this portrays a form of competency that would allow your men to trust that you are proficient in what you do. And if one has the charisma, he will be able to communicate in an inspiring way which can actually motivates his follower to get a task.

Fourthly, I believe to be a leader who is optimistic and people oriented. These are two of my strengths too, and I can see why such traits would be a good benefit to a leader. If one is optimistic about his plans or ideas, he is able to encourage his followers to pick up on the idea or instruction easier. Being people oriented would means he is able to work well along side people and that’s a very key asset to one who need to lead a team of people. If his followers can engaged the leader and find him approachable, things can be done a lot easier without any barriers in between them.

Fifthly, I believe as a future officer, one needs to maintain that professional image. Human beings have a tendency to judge people by their first impression of them and all this includes your personal bearing, how you speak and behave among people. This is especially important in your first few sessions with your men, as like mention first impressions counts a lot and you would one to start out right portraying that professional image of what you hold as their commander.

Next, something closest to my heart is I aspire to be that leader who is able to lead by example and has the influence to impact the lives of people. Similar to Billy Graham, in his life as an evangelist he has impacted billions of lives in the world. And although what he did was a tremendous achievement, I personally am contented if I’m in a position of influence to start with just impacting lives of my men in my signal platoon. I strongly believe that as an officer, we are not just there to plan but to inspire and influence change in the men under you. Such as influencing them to be a better person and sharing life skills with them. There are simple ways to start, and it starts with the SAF core value of “Care for soldiers”. As an officer, you need to take care of the welfare of your men. Getting to know their needs and doing your best to provide for them, even if it means going down to their level training alongside them. It can be means of treating them morally with respect, and be approachable, but never cross that thin line that separates you as leaders. And I personally favor open dialogue sessions, as this allows you to know their needs and it will be great if one can go to a more personal level even counseling them supporting their emotional needs. Another perspective of welfare is good tough quality training. This would make your men more resilient and equipped well to be able to handle the complexity of exercises to come. At the end of the day, they would appreciate all that you have done, and I believe this is what your men would remember you for, not by the things you say, but by your actions.

All in all, having all this traits are good, but I would say what really holds on is one who maintains his character all the time. A good leader should always be calm and compose even under pressure. He would always maintain his integrity and not compromising on it at all. It means even when no one is looking he keeps to his morals and values. And such a character is what completes a good leader. One can build on his whole life the ideal character of a leader, but sometimes making one mistake such as compromising on his morals and integrity can destroy the respect of a person totally especially if his men see and know what his leader is like after.

If I’m a leader that has all those leadership traits that I mention above, I believe this is the kind of leader I aspire to be. To be someone who is able to lead by example, inspiring and impacting the lives of the people under you. To be someone who is respected for his competency and most of all to be remembered by his character.

”The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

- Dwight D. Eisenhower

References

David L. McKenna (n.d) Review: The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham. Retrieved April 17 2010,from http://www.barclaypress.com/selectedreviews.php/2008/05/05/review-the-leadership-secrets-of-billy-g-1

Mary Fairchild(n.d) Billy Graham Biography.Retrieved April 17 2010, from http://christianity.about.com/od/glossary/p/billygraham.htm

Billy Graham. (n.d) In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 17 2010, from .http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Graham

Legacee (n.d) Types of Leadership Styles. Types of Leadership Styles.Retrieved April 17 2010, from http://www.legacee.com/Info/Leadership/LeadershipStyles.html

Leadership (n.d) In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 17 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadership

Philip (n.d) Leadership Toolbox. Retrieved April 17 2010, from http://www.leadership-toolbox.com/leadership-styles.html


4 comments:

Henry Lim said...

Hey Ben!
Thanks for sharing your essay and including your testimony in it.

I'm always encouraged to read about how God has transformed you and changed your heart.

Henry in Melbourne :)

Benjamin said...

Hey Henry!

Sorry for the late reply! Just saw ur comment here after a looooooong time! Anyways yeaaa thanks for the encouragement! It sure was something that i reflected quite a bit as i wrote that essay! =)

Regards!
Ben Lau!

Diana Guess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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