Leadership and Followership

Leadership

&

Followership.

                                                Submission Date: 17th Feb.

A log of your activities, your personal experiences and responses over the two days of the workshop.

 

 

            In order to facilitate the completion of this assignment, I have decided to furnish each paragraph with a heading in order to make this log function more like a diary. I wish it to be noted that these headings are to allow the reader to follow along the journey with relation to time and task. The assignment has been divided into part A which is the diary log, and part B which is a reflection on management and leadership lessons which I have learned over the two day’s. However both sections are written in diary style.

 

DAY ONE:

We began early Monday morning at 9 am. We were met by the familiar Sebastian Green Patrice Cooper and the not so familiar Ben.  The introduction of Ben to the seminar was unexpected and speculation about his role began immediately. However this soon passed as we were given our primary task; “to study how leadership is given, taken up, undermined or withheld”. After this task was announced and rather vaguely explained we broke into three different groups. Separating into different groups was done in a manner which we claimed was for practical terms only. One side of the classroom had almost the exact required amount of numbers therefore it was argued that the divide happened for convenience. However when we really examined or own individual motives many said they choose the group for; safety, convince, fear of rejection and for those who had very close friends already in the group choose it for comfort and familiarity.

 

 

 

TASK A.

                        Our attention quickly turned to task A. We were presented with an empty envelope. Immediately our imaginations began to get the better of us. Discussing what should we do with the envelope; should we put something in it? Were we supposed to figure out the task? How did this empty envelope relate to our primary task? Quickly Patrice took back the envelope and placed the real Task A into the envelope.  A rather suspicious mentality developed, we wondered what were the other groups doing? Were they given the same empty envelope first, was this a clever ploy by the moderators to observe or reaction? We later learned over lunch that this was not the case and the other groups had actively sought to elect a leader. This led us to discuss the implications of the primary task. We posited that if a leader is elected that power is given by the followers therefore the leader only has as much power as those who elected them has. Power is not power if it can be taken away as easily as it was given. Power which has been taken is often more powerful.

 

Task B (Afternoon):

In the afternoon the rules changed, now the boundaries became permeable our group quickly adopted what one could only describe as a siege mentality. One of our group members decided to leave for another group. The remaining members took this as a direct personal insult. This led the group to act defensively against any future changes in the group dynamic. One of the girls in the group took it upon herself encouraged by the rest of the group to take Brian’s bag follow him to his new group and throw his bag at him and then preceded to write traitor on the white-board and left. When Gillian Fenton- Leogue and Natasha Rana (Two members from one of the other groups) came in to our room they were treated with deep suspicion and hostility. The group would no longer speak freely as we felt that they girls were intruders sent to spy on us. Interestingly Ronan Dunford (a member from another group) also entered our group. However he was treated very differently. Ronan was made fell welcome and at ease. He was there to do the same thing as Natasha and Gillian however he was perceived differently.

 

I left for home after the day with rather mixed feelings.

End of Day One

Tuesday Morning:

            The class met on Tuesday morning, the previous day we had been asked to all bring in some materials which could be used in an arts and crafts project. Again we were told to go to various different rooms around the building. I ended up going back into the group which I had been in the day before. Unfortunately there were no real motivational factors for choosing the group as I had actually run to the bathroom and had been separated from the class. Lost I wandered around the building attempting to find any room which had members of my class in it. However I will say that I was relieved to find a room and that the fellow group members did not seem faced or put out by my arrival in to the room. So I took this as a form of acceptance. While I believe the other members of the group were happy to see another member from the day before return. As I was leaving I saw two group members go out to take all of the materials. However as I was not in the room when this decision was made I don’t think I am qualified to speak too much on this particular instance. Today’s task was very different than the day before. Now we had a tangible goal, it was easier for clear leaders to emerge. Those who had practical arts and crafts skills, presentational skills, and indeed creative skills were allowed to come to the fore. I was in the group which focused on the story of the puppet. I think leadership emerged in this group in two very different areas. Jenny took up the teacher position at the top of the room, writing on the white board. In this way she was able to attract & control people’s attention and even sometimes censor their ideas by writing or not writing suggestions. However Jenny acted diplomatically as she had to adhere to a social contract, while she in a sense controlled the board I found it interesting that she didn’t write up any of her own thoughts or ideas. In a sense Jenny was leading through physical presence. There was several strong characters remaining, however one girl in particular stood out. I found she took up her leadership role in a rather loud and aggressive fashion. Often when the group wasn’t fully enthusiastic about her suggestion she would repeat the same idea intermittently. Quite often the group gave way and passively accepted her ideas.

 

Tuesday Afternoon Presentations:

In the afternoon we were asked to choose two people to give a presentation on the puppets which we created. The task of choosing the presenters was taken very seriously. Dave O Regan put himself forward. Dave is a particularly outgoing individual, who has worked in promotions and sales. Eva suggested that we choose candidates who are usually more reserved and less likely to have spoken up in the past. Unfortunately none of the more reserved candidates were willing to give the presentation so a compromise of Dave and Denis was chosen, as Dave’s excellent presentation skills would allow Denis a safety net if he found himself in trouble. Subsequent to our presentations we broke again for a final time to re-discuss Task A, now with the experience of the previous days in mind.

 

 

A reflection on how the workshop has affected your thinking about the nature of leadership or followership, and about your own role as a follower or future leader.

First Day Reflections:

This course was an extremely intense and highly pressurized experiential learning exercise. The very nature of the tasks made the groups extremely competitive and divisive. The extremely vague directions made us very secretive and even sometimes paranoid. In order to complete this assignment and facilitate me to better articulate my reflections I have decided to replicate an idea, borrowing from the eleven lessons of the life of Robert McNamara. This is in part to pursue one of my own egocentricities if you will, as in a third year history lecture I hypostasized that McNamara’s lessons could be applied to many different situations either in politics, business or even to life in general. Using the lessons as a basic framework I hope that it will allow me to fully explore not only my reflections on the course, but assist me to identify

lessons learnt and how I might apply them in the future.

 

Know your enemy[1]:

When I say enemy I am not necessarily referring to a polar opposite or to someone whom I am in conflict with. We perceived the other groups as our enemy. Often speculating as to what they were planning. While one member in particular pointed out that they were in the same vulnerable position as us we assumed that they; knew something that we didn’t and secondly; that we were in competition with them. I think that this was down to our own vulnerable position, from this sense of insecurity paranoia quickly set in and developed. We failed to understand that if we were more open and transparent that they could gain as much from as we from them. In reflection, during the morning it was decided that we should all go around the room one by one expressing our own weaknesses. While I think it would be fair to say that many of us have had disagreements with classmates in the past with regards to college work, I believe I gained a valuable insight in to why fellow members react and function in the way that they do. If I had to articulate this lesson I would say that; one should not judge or jump to conclusions, while we think we may know a person either via their appearances, social class status, etc one can never be fully aware of personal circumstances which may be influencing someone to act in a certain way. For example a person who is extremely pushy and loud may be doing so as a result of coming from a large family in which they were forced to vie for attention. While this information may not change the person’s behaviour it may allow others to emphasize with the individual. Note I use the word empathy as opposed to sympathy. I am optimistic that if at some point in the future where I may be having a strong disagreement with another individual, I hope that I will be able to put myself in the other’s shoe’s if you will, as this may allow for a greater understanding of their perceptions of me and of their thought processes. In turn this should allow me to alter my own behaviour in a manner which could lend itself to a more mutually negotiable position.

 

You can’t change human nature[2]:

When George Mallory was asked “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?”  he famously replied “because it’s there”. Brian Swift’s decision to leave the group was arguably one of the most important moments of the entire course. Similarly to Mallory when Brian asked to explain his decision he simply replied “because I could.” Brian like Mallory was curious and adventurous and he wished to discover how other groups would accept as an outsider. However I doubt that he considered the effect this would have on the remaining group members. With Brian’s departure the group dynamic changed. The group which had so clearly identified and proudly formed it’s identity as being a “tight group which had bonded” had lost a member. Group insecurity was epitomized by the action of everyone moving the chairs closer together s if to close out the gap left by Brian. Brian’s departure made the group so insecure that many moved to sure up the remaining members. What only could be described as the “roasting of Brian Swift” deterred any other members from leaving the group. I would normally have been one to get up and explore however given the advice dispensed earlier about acting different then you might normally I choose to stay, as I was not prepared to be treated in the same manner as Brian was. If any other members of the group wished to leave now, it would have been extremely difficult. The group all became followers not of any one person, but followers of an accepted group code which could be said to be the group identity. Of course the implications of this meant that all of us in some way or another lost his or her identity as we could see how the group may act if any one member did something which was abhorrent to the group as a whole. I think that throughout the course we feel victim to group think as there was a devoid of strong leadership.

 

Rationality alone cannot save us[3]:

I have always considered myself to be a moral individual who values pride and justice. Throughout my undergrad in History I studied many situations where seemingly rationale individuals did or at least considered the most immoral and irrational choices, such as the Cuban missile crises or the Mayaguez crises of 1969. I always believed that I would have had the moral fibre to stand up and argue against such irrational decisions. In the Mayaguez crises in 1969 several key military, government and indeed President Gerald Ford fell a victim to a phenomenon called group think. Group think is a mode of thinking which can occur when the aspiration for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Members of the group attempt to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or views[4]. Although I fully understood the concept in theory and even researched a detailed case study, up until this experience I had completely underestimated the power and consequences of Group think. We as a group which I would consider as rational individuals encouraged an irrational confrontational violent act (Throwing Brian’s bag). While I recognise that this isn’t what you might consider to be particularly violent. However this was in a secure and safe setting of the college environment. One can appreciate that the level of action violent or not would increase accordingly to the situation.

 

Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning[5]:

One could equate the intrusion of Natasha and Gillian into the group with that of an outside consultant coming in to work with a business. Staff may not trust or be totally forthcoming with a consultant as they may be unsure of their motives. Both Natasha’s and Gillian’s actions did not lend themselves to the group either their body language was quite suspicious, rather than joining the group sitting in one of the empty chairs, they choose to sit outside the group at the top of the room in an almost superior and supervisory role. I would like to believe that from this experience that I would be more sensitive with regards to my demeanour if I was ever operating as an outside management consultant or indeed entering into any new organisation at any level. Nevertheless one must examine one’s own actions. Natasha and Gillian arrived in to our group not long after the departure of Brian Swift. In this context we acted to protect the remaining group identity. While Gillian and Natasha both acted suspiciously one must take into account that one of our group members went down and called Natasha out by name to come join our group. It is difficult to see how Natasha could be completely comfortable in that situation. As I posited earlier if we as a group were able to empathize with our so called perceived enemy in this case Natasha we could have understood her body language and moved towards a more warm and hospitable environment in which we could have taken the time to learn about Natasha’s experiences in her group so far.  If we had empathized with Natasha’s uncomfortable situation we could have better understood her actions. During the Cold was rapid arms build up occurred, in which each nation tried to better the other. If both sides had empathized with the other they would have seen the others actions to be a reasonable response to the new challenge posed by the other. McNamara posits that it was the ability to empathize which prevented a major catastrophe during the Cuban Missile crises.

Seeing and Believing are both often wrong[6]:

Towards the end of Tuesday afternoon in our final group discussion we asked Ben if he could identify a clear leader. Ben picked out one member in particular. However in my own view and in the view of a few other after later discussion felt that this was not actually the case. Our group had several individuals who could all have been considered leaders. Leadership switched to various different people throughout the course of the module; however it always pivoted around the same five or six individuals. This was rather disappointing as we all had been asked to take on different roles. At the beginning of the first day I made a very conscious choice to allow others to take the floor. However I did unfortunately find myself speaking up and reverting to my normal behaviour. I now more than ever have been able to recognise those who say nothing. In the past I would have considered silence to be a form of agreement. However I now realise that it can be a form of dissent. It is difficult gauge the body language of others when you are speaking, but it is necessary if you are to persuade the fence sitters one way or another.

 

“I guess the way you learn to do things is to do them imperfectly[7]:”

While I would be reluctant to state a particular lesson learned as being the most important, I think that if I was forced to name one it would be that; Leadership works much better when people willingly and openly acknowledge it. Only when people acknowledge it and candidly and readily accept it can the group get on with the goal or objective. Without going in to detail from my past experiences I have myself wondered at times if I did not pay a very great price for being more energetic than wise about a lot of things.  On day one, we decided to go around one by one each first pointing out their own weaknesses we had the opportunity to listen to what other group member thought were good qualities in each of us.  When it came to my turn others said they viewed me as “energetic and enthusiastic” however as I can see the positive in these observations I also see the negative. Often my eagerness has led me to make rash decisions or indeed hampered my ability to work with others. While I think it is important for me to remain enthusiastic when entering into any task, perhaps I could temper it at certain times, recognising that others may be anxious about entering into any new project. Sometimes it is important to be a fence sitter or go along with ideas of no huge consequences in order to establish relationships and partners. With these established it then allows the individual to influence the more important decisions.

  

Bibliography:

Chris Lamb, “Belief Systems and decision making in the Mayaguez crises”, Political Science Quarterly, 1984, Date accessed: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2150707.

Morris, Errol, ‘The Fog of War, eleven lessons from the life of Robert McNamara’, 2003.

Thurston Clarke, ‘Ask Not’, Henry Holt & Co, New York, 2004.


[1] Morris, Errol, ‘The Fog of War, eleven lessons from the life of Robert McNamara’, 2003.

[2] Morris, Errol, ‘The Fog of War, eleven lessons from the life of Robert McNamara’, 2003.

[3] Morris, Errol, ‘The Fog of War, eleven lessons from the life of Robert McNamara’, 2003.

[4] Chris Lamb, “Belief Systems and decision making in the Mayaguez crises”, P 48.

[5] Morris, Errol, ‘The Fog of War, eleven lessons from the life of Robert McNamara’, 2003.

[6] Morris, Errol, ‘The Fog of War, eleven lessons from the life of Robert McNamara’, 2003.

[7] Thurston Clarke, ‘Ask Not’, Henry Holt & Co, New York, 2004, p. 252.

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