Human beings livein a highly competent business world and whether someone wants to start abusiness of his own or work in a business organisation, it is imperative that acommitment to continuous learning is maintained. A critical aspect of thiscommitment is self-reflection on an ongoing basis as one is exposed to continuousexperiences. If a person is willing to learn from the experiences and step upthe game of responding to the world in a better manner one can be good tooneself and the world around (Kelchtermans, 2009). I chose to do this study as itoffers me immense opportunities to enhance my understanding of this world and delivermore value as a human being to the society. Even though I do not regret mydecision, once I am in the UK, I could sense significant challenges which madereflection and learning challenging but interesting.
I am from a family whichhas family business in the area of construction. This means the study ofproject management is of critical significance for me and I slowly realisedthat project management is applicable at individual level as it is indispensableat an organisation level. The remaining sections of this study willundertake reflective analysis of my personal observations regarding challengespertaining to a number of areas and where my strengths and weaknesses lie(Appendix 1- SWOT analysis and Vision and Short and Long Term Targets), myfeelings and responses to the module materials including my learning andchallenges working in teams, discussion about difficulties and learning styles,and how my ideas and perception particularly towards learning has changed overtime. Finally before concluding the study a critical analysis of the projectleadership competencies is undertaken connecting them with SMART. 2. Vision In order to guide the process associatedwith my personal and professional development, I have created a vision which is”To continually support personal andprofessional development leading to enhanced value generation through criticalreflection, learning and hard work”.
This vision requires me to be on trackin the pursuit of the achievement of my long term and short term objectives.Since the short term and long term objectivesare clearly laid down, it is easier to follow them. However, in order to gainmore clarity, it is critical that the SMART principle is applied to theobjectives. With the presence of a vision, it is easy to sustain commitment (Mintzberg,1994). My experiences with learning and reflection associated with suchexperiences in Cardiff Met will be analysed in the light of the SWOT analysisand the short term and long term objectives as it provides more clarity to myreflection and subsequent action towards learning from experiences. 3. The significance of leadership for business management Leadershipis gaining more and more significance due the increasing turbulence and unpredictabilityin business environment (Bass and Bass, 2008). A number of leadership theoriescan be found as evolved over time.
The Project Leadership module introduced tothe students a number of leadership theories namely trait theories, personalitytheories, transactional theories, transformational leadership theories, action centredleadership, situational leadership, Goleman’s six leadership styles to mentiona few. From the perspective of project management, leadership can be found as indispensableespecially for certain projects due to the complexity that is involved with thedelivery of certain projects. As early as 1938, Bernard mentioned that a leaderhas both cognitive and cathectic functions.
Cognitive functions are concerned with guiding, directing as well asconstraining actions as well as choices. On the other hand cathectic functionsinclude emotional as well as motivational aspects of goal setting and alsodeveloping commitment and faith to a larger moral purpose. The evolution ofleadership theories also point to the higher need for leaders to be empathetic andas well as emotionally supportive to the subordinates. In this regard, self-managementand self-awareness are critical (Bass and Bass, 2008). Goleman et al (2002) also suggest theimportance of social and emotional intelligence skills which to a considerableextent is the outcome of ability to self-manage and be self-aware. This points to the responsibility of anindividual to be more self-aware and good at self-management in order todevelop himself as a leader. Asfar as I am concerned as well, these qualities are critical since I want to bean entrepreneur in the imminent future. To the development of self-awarenessand self-management, one theory which I found especially useful is experientiallearning theory of Kolb (1984).
I will explain my experiences and reflectionsassociated with that as part of my studies in Project Leadershipmodule and overall study relating them to the SWOT and short term and long termobjectives which can provide insights and clarity as to the areas I should payattention to in overcoming my weaknesses and enhancing my strengths supportingthe achievement of my short term and long term objectives. 4. Kolb’s experiential learning Kolb (1984) maintains that experience playsa critical role in the learning process. This model has four main stages namelyconcrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation andactive experimentation.Figure1- Kolb’s experiential learningSource: Adapted from: Kolb (1984) 4.1Concentre experience: This is the firststage of an experience. Identifying this is possible only if one is self-aware.Otherwise one should be faced with some accidents.
Nevertheless, taking that experienceas an opportunity to learn may not take place. Thus Kolb (1984) maintains thatnoticing the experience is the first step. As far as I am concerned, the ProjectLeadership module exposed me to some of the new concepts of leadership and projectmanagement and amongst with other modules required me to work in teams. Theseare really new experiences to me.
English is the communications language usedas well. These new experiences are so striking that it is impossible for me tonotice them. However drawing from the experiential learning theory in order forme to really capitalise on the experiences, I should guide the learning processto the other three stages as well. Fortunately for me I have set a vision andeven before that identified SWOT as well as short and long term objectives.This means that I have identified areas that require attention and the newexperiences can be very useful in the enhancing my strengths and mitigating myweaknesses and thereby enabling me to achieve the short term and long termobjectives. My vision requires that I should pay attention to continuouslearning and this can only be achieved efficiently with experiential learning. 4.2 Reflective Observation: This is the stagewhere a person reflects on experience.
This provides an opportunity look at anexperience from different perspectives. For me the new experiences in the formof learning new concepts and theories as well as interacting in groups cannotbe said as challenging. People from different cultures experience difficultiesin integrating to people from other cultures. There can be challenges raised inthe form of social identity and communication barriers which may be exacerbatedby cultural barriers (De Long and Fahey, 2000; Weinreich and Saunderson, 2003).
Challenges are part and parcel of life and when I decided to take the courseand come and study in the UK, I expected some challenges. I have been confidentthat such experiences will enrich me and prepare myself better in theachievement of my objectives. Communication in oral and written English is oneof the main challenges I faced. The need for emotional intelligence is usuallyfelt by someone when they are exposed to a different culture. As Bass and Bass(2008) and Goleman et al (2002) suggested, self-awareness is a key element iscritical to emotional intelligence as well as leadership. I felt a lot offriction and a sense of uneasiness when I engaged in team based presentationpreparations. All these experiences can be better understood and managed when Itry to conceptualise them. 4.
3Abstract conceptualisation: Coming to my mainchallenge, communication skills. I studied in Oman and the main medium ofcommunication is Arabic. This meant that I have not gained much experience in verbaland written communication. Thus being in Cardiff Met, I was required tocommunicate in English, which put me under tremendous pressure. Because Iexpected this, I could manage it considerably well. Even though I developed myvision recently, there was a conviction in me that if I could not communicatewell, I could not capitalise on the investment I made on this. I am supposed towork in a company and later to start a business of my own. Therefore beingaware of the value of investment is critical.
Fortunately for me I believe suchan awareness is in my blood as we have been traditionally a business family.This gives me a sense of commitment to persevere and learn what I am supposedto do. I could identify that watching BBC news, interacting with the peoplefrom the UK, making friends in the class from other cultures can better equipme in enhancing my communication skills.
Further, I could sense that increasingmy vocabulary is a critical element in improving my written communicationskills. In this regard, reading business articles from the electronic databases and Google scholar could be helpful. Asfar as challenges with cultural differences are concerned, I believe it isbetter not to take “my culture is the best culture” attitude as this canprevent me from properly understanding people from other culture. Higher self-awarenessis critical and there is also a sense in me that leadership about properlyunderstands people’s expectations. If I fail in that, I may not be successfulin integrating myself in the group, whether I act as a leader or not. I shouldlearn now itself cross cultural team competency as with globalisation andincreased levels of migration, the teams of many companies are cross cultural (Congdenet al.
, 2009). I myself is planning to start a new company in Oman and Oman hasa high presence of migrant workforce. Thus for me the development of crosscultural competence is inevitable. With such awareness, I believe friction incross cultural interactions can be better understood as a learning process and withthe understanding that eventually everybody is human and it is possible topositively influence people with patience and willingness to listen andintegrate their perspectives. 4.
4 Active Experimentation: This is one of the most delightful phases ifone is committed to learning from experiences. However, this phases requires theapplication of concepts. From my own personal experiences, if the concepts arenot applied then it could be difficult to understand the meaning of behavioursof people and therefore not understand them.
For example, people from differentcultures may behave in different ways and may be more comfortable and thereforesupportive of someone from the same culture. If the concept of self-identity isapplied, then it is much easier to understand the reason behind theirbehaviour. For a project manager the application of such concepts is critical asit helps in better understanding the team members.
In addition to this, theapplication of concepts helps in developing self-awareness as well, which canenhance social intelligence as well. Clarke (2010) states that emotional awarenessand emotional management influence three critical processes namely problem analysis,theorising cause and effect relationships and action planning. As thediscussion revealed, problem analysis is a natural aspect of abstract conceptualisation.However the real application can be challenging because one may go through numerousemotions.
However understanding cause and effect relationship can supportmoderation of one’s emotions. Having an empathetic approach can also support thiskind of behaviour as the fact that nobody is perfect in this world can enable oneto be more accepting of others. I have mainly applied the concepts mentioned inabstract conceptualisation.
I always applied the principle that it is betternot to approach people with a particular agenda. Rather in team settings, onecan use the team as a common object to drive performance and I have appliedthis principle to an extent. Asfar as communication skill enhancement is concerned, UK provided much moreopportunity to experiment with my communication skills. This happened quitenaturally in the class, outside when shopping communicating with the salespeople.
This helped me to naturally adjust my accent as I could understand thatpeople were struggling to understand. Thus a continuous level of sense makingcan be found as applied in the process of enhancing communication, which isargued to support critical reflection (Dervin, 1998). Sense making in the rightway is critical. For example, when I talk to people who are native Englishspeakers, they tend to get uncomfortable and if I get annoyed by that, it canhamper the learning process. I could sense that their uneasiness is quitenatural and they could not communicate properly with me. With experimentallearning, I could enhance my communication with them. Another major challengewhich required higher level of sense making and patience has been enhancing mywriting skills.
To write a course work, I tend to take a lot of time as readinglots of articles and books and checking for grammar and overall sentence constructionhas been tough. I could relate this to one of the qualities of a leader thathe/she should be emotionally supportive of the subordinates (Bass and Bass,2008; Goleman et al., 2002). Thus in the development of the leader in me, Imust first of all be supportive of myself as otherwise, I may struggle to understandthe challenges of others when I manage a team or work in a team.
Particularly whenI start a new business, I should be able to develop people and their skills andif I get easily uncomfortable and not emotionally supportive of people, thenthey will leave me. I want to be a shaper (Belbin, 2010) overcoming some of theweaknesses of a shaper such as offending people. Overall,I can state based on critical reflection that I have made some improvementsassociated with skill development required for the achievement of my short termand long term objectives (Appendix 2). With the application of experientiallearning, I will be able to get rid of my weaknesses (Appendix 1) to a greatextent. As mentioned, I have already gained some improvements in my identifiedskill development areas.
A SMART is given in Appendix3. Inorder to further look at project leadership so as to support the SMART thereby furtherenhancing the learning process, the following section analyses the keyleadership capabilities which can be applicable to project management as well. Thusthe following sections will explain the major capabilities I may need todevelop taking into account the knowledge I gained from the project leadership module. 5. Project Management LeadershipAliterature review on the presence of leadership in project management by Turnerand Muller (2005) found that leadership was not found as surprisingly absent.This is particular in the case ofleadership style or competence.
This could be because project management istraditionally considered as using the right kinds of tools and techniques tomake the project successful irrespective of the personality of project manager(PMI, 2004). Nevertheless, a study by (Kalu et al., 2013) found that leadershipcompetencies influence project management success. They maintain thattransactional leadership scales like contingent rewards and management by exception influenceproject success when compared with other leadership styles such astransformational leadership.
Thefifteen leadership competencies which Dulewicz and Higgs (2003) suggested underthe three main leadership styles namely Intellectual, Managerial, Emotional (Fig:2)can be really helpful for a project manager as well as it encompasses a wideset of aspects which an ideal leader should possess in the management of aproject as well:Figure2- Leadership competenciesSource: Adapted from: Dulewicz and Higgs (2003)Thus, overall,personal competence and social competence are two critical elements ofleadership, irrespective of the kind of theories proposed by the variousauthors. Personal competence is also related to the ability of the leader toalign the strategic objectives of a project or organisation with the reason whyemployees work inan organisation. In this regard, the use of other performance management toolssuch as performance appraisal and reward management should not be overlooked(Alagaraja et al., 2015). Ideally I feel that all the three main competencieswhich Dulewicz and Higgs (2003) mentioned are applicable in an organisationalsetting. The leader has at his disposal the use of Human resource managementdepartment to devise ways through which organisational mission can be achieved.However a leader of project can be inferred to have less control over HRM andthis is where the challenge lies.
Unless he/she gets real support from the topleadership, many of the competencies especially Intellectual (IQ) (Fig:2) maybe difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, EQ (Fig:2) is much easier to achieve inproject management settings. Thus it is the responsibility of the topmanagement leadership to empower project managers or leaders to align theproject management objectives to the overall vision or strategic objectives ofan organisation. This is one of the areas which I will pay attention to when Istart my own company or when I reach a top management leadership position.
Astudy by (Muller and Turner, 2010) on project management leadershipcompetencies found that critical thinking and influence, conscientiousness, andmotivation are critical leadership competencies that matter irrespective of thenature of a project. The complexity ofproject management requires high level of critical thinking (Ramazani and Jergeas,2015) and this may not be completely understood by me through the module. Onecan develop leadership competencies by paying more attention to how they managethemselves. However many people who are good at managing themselves are notgood leaders mainly due to the selfish values that drive their performance (Asghar,2014). Nevertheless, my preparations are in lineswith the achievement of short term and long term objectives and development ofleadership skills which are more in line with application of self-awareness tounderstand the motivations of other people and thereby being empathetic andsupportive according to the demands of a situation. 6. ConclusionsThisstudy critically reflected on my experiences in the Project Leadership andwider curriculum. In order to provide more clarity to the discussion and inorder to capitalise on this study experience, I have created a vision and undertooka SWOT analysis and outlined short term and long term objectives.
Then based myso far experience in the module, I have linked SWOT and short term and longterm objectives and analysed the prospects of applying experiential learning. Icould identify that experiential learning is one of the best ways toincorporate reflection in enhancing strengths and getting rid of weaknesses. Thishelps me in the achievement of my short term and long term objectives in anoptimal manner.
My vision is supposed to support me in continuous reflectionand learning. I could identify that there are a number of areas such ascommunication skills and leadership skills which I should continuously enhanceso as to enhance my value as a human being thereby ensuring that me as well asthe society benefits from that. In order to support my future skillrequirements associated with leadership as I want to work in an MNC and later abusiness of my own, I analysed the critical leadership qualities orcompetencies associated with project management. I could identify that emotionalintelligence, critical thinking and ability to influence are very important.Taking into account my weaknesses identified from the SWOT analysis andincorporating the findings of the experiential learning and leadershipcompetencies, SMART objectives are created. This will enable me to focus on eliminatingmy major weaknesses identified in the near future.
What I could understandbased on the preparation of this coursework is that reflection and learningshould be a continuous process. These learning should however be directed andmilestones laid in order to ensure clarity and assess progress of developmentso as to take required adjustments.