Human and hard work”. This vision requires me to

 

Human beings live
in a highly competent business world and whether someone wants to start a
business of his own or work in a business organisation, it is imperative that a
commitment to continuous learning is maintained. A critical aspect of this
commitment is self-reflection on an ongoing basis as one is exposed to continuous
experiences. If a person is willing to learn from the experiences and step up
the game of responding to the world in a better manner one can be good to
oneself and the world around (Kelchtermans, 2009). I chose to do this study as it
offers me immense opportunities to enhance my understanding of this world and deliver
more value as a human being to the society. Even though I do not regret my
decision, once I am in the UK, I could sense significant challenges which made
reflection and learning challenging but interesting. I am from a family which
has family business in the area of construction. This means the study of
project management is of critical significance for me and I slowly realised
that project management is applicable at individual level as it is indispensable
at an organisation level.  

The remaining sections of this study will
undertake reflective analysis of my personal observations regarding challenges
pertaining to a number of areas and where my strengths and weaknesses lie
(Appendix 1- SWOT analysis and Vision and Short and Long Term Targets), my
feelings and responses to the module materials including my learning and
challenges working in teams, discussion about difficulties and learning styles,
and how my ideas and perception particularly towards learning has changed over
time. Finally before concluding the study a critical analysis of the project
leadership competencies is undertaken connecting them with SMART.

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2. Vision

 

In order to guide the process associated
with my personal and professional development, I have created a vision which is
“To continually support personal and
professional development leading to enhanced value generation through critical
reflection, learning and hard work”. This vision requires me to be on track
in the pursuit of the achievement of my long term and short term objectives.
Since the short term and long term objectives
are clearly laid down, it is easier to follow them. However, in order to gain
more clarity, it is critical that the SMART principle is applied to the
objectives. With the presence of a vision, it is easy to sustain commitment (Mintzberg,
1994). My experiences with learning and reflection associated with such
experiences in Cardiff Met will be analysed in the light of the SWOT analysis
and the short term and long term objectives as it provides more clarity to my
reflection and subsequent action towards learning from experiences.

3. The significance of leadership for business management

 

Leadership
is gaining more and more significance due the increasing turbulence and unpredictability
in business environment (Bass and Bass, 2008). A number of leadership theories
can be found as evolved over time. The Project Leadership module introduced to
the students a number of leadership theories namely trait theories, personality
theories, transactional theories, transformational leadership theories, action centred
leadership, situational leadership, Goleman’s six leadership styles to mention
a few. From the perspective of project management, leadership can be found as indispensable
especially for certain projects due to the complexity that is involved with the
delivery of certain projects. As early as 1938, Bernard mentioned that a leader
has both cognitive and cathectic functions. 
Cognitive functions are concerned with guiding, directing as well as
constraining actions as well as choices. On the other hand cathectic functions
include emotional as well as motivational aspects of goal setting and also
developing commitment and faith to a larger moral purpose. The evolution of
leadership theories also point to the higher need for leaders to be empathetic and
as well as emotionally supportive to the subordinates. In this regard, self-management
and self-awareness are critical (Bass and Bass, 2008).  Goleman et al (2002) also suggest the
importance of social and emotional intelligence skills which to a considerable
extent is the outcome of ability to self-manage and be self-aware.  This points to the responsibility of an
individual to be more self-aware and good at self-management in order to
develop himself as a leader.

As
far as I am concerned as well, these qualities are critical since I want to be
an entrepreneur in the imminent future. To the development of self-awareness
and self-management, one theory which I found especially useful is experiential
learning theory of Kolb (1984). I will explain my experiences and reflections
associated with that
  as part of my studies in Project Leadership
module and overall study relating them to the SWOT and short term and long term
objectives which can provide insights and clarity as to the areas I should pay
attention to in overcoming my weaknesses and enhancing my strengths supporting
the achievement of my short term and long term objectives.

 

4. Kolb’s experiential learning

 

Kolb (1984) maintains that experience plays
a critical role in the learning process. This model has four main stages namely
concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and
active experimentation.

Figure
1- Kolb’s experiential learning

Source: Adapted from: Kolb (1984)

 

 

4.1Concentre experience: This is the first
stage of an experience. Identifying this is possible only if one is self-aware.
Otherwise one should be faced with some accidents. Nevertheless, taking that experience
as an opportunity to learn may not take place. Thus Kolb (1984) maintains that
noticing the experience is the first step. As far as I am concerned, the Project
Leadership module exposed me to some of the new concepts of leadership and project
management and amongst with other modules required me to work in teams. These
are really new experiences to me. English is the communications language used
as well. These new experiences are so striking that it is impossible for me to
notice them. However drawing from the experiential learning theory in order for
me to really capitalise on the experiences, I should guide the learning process
to the other three stages as well. Fortunately for me I have set a vision and
even before that identified SWOT as well as short and long term objectives.
This means that I have identified areas that require attention and the new
experiences can be very useful in the enhancing my strengths and mitigating my
weaknesses and thereby enabling me to achieve the short term and long term
objectives. My vision requires that I should pay attention to continuous
learning and this can only be achieved efficiently with experiential learning.

 

4.2 Reflective Observation: This is the stage
where a person reflects on experience. This provides an opportunity look at an
experience from different perspectives. For me the new experiences in the form
of learning new concepts and theories as well as interacting in groups cannot
be said as challenging. People from different cultures experience difficulties
in integrating to people from other cultures. There can be challenges raised in
the form of social identity and communication barriers which may be exacerbated
by 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 course
and come and study in the UK, I expected some challenges. I have been confident
that such experiences will enrich me and prepare myself better in the
achievement of my objectives. Communication in oral and written English is one
of the main challenges I faced. The need for emotional intelligence is usually
felt 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 is
critical to emotional intelligence as well as leadership. I felt a lot of
friction and a sense of uneasiness when I engaged in team based presentation
preparations. All these experiences can be better understood and managed when I
try to conceptualise them.

 

4.3Abstract conceptualisation: Coming to my main
challenge, communication skills. I studied in Oman and the main medium of
communication is Arabic. This meant that I have not gained much experience in verbal
and written communication. Thus being in Cardiff Met, I was required to
communicate in English, which put me under tremendous pressure. Because I
expected this, I could manage it considerably well. Even though I developed my
vision recently, there was a conviction in me that if I could not communicate
well, I could not capitalise on the investment I made on this. I am supposed to
work in a company and later to start a business of my own. Therefore being
aware of the value of investment is critical. Fortunately for me I believe such
an 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 supposed
to do. I could identify that watching BBC news, interacting with the people
from the UK, making friends in the class from other cultures can better equip
me in enhancing my communication skills. Further, I could sense that increasing
my vocabulary is a critical element in improving my written communication
skills. In this regard, reading business articles from the electronic data
bases and Google scholar could be helpful. 

As
far as challenges with cultural differences are concerned, I believe it is
better not to take “my culture is the best culture” attitude as this can
prevent me from properly understanding people from other culture. Higher self-awareness
is critical and there is also a sense in me that leadership about properly
understands people’s expectations. If I fail in that, I may not be successful
in integrating myself in the group, whether I act as a leader or not. I should
learn now itself cross cultural team competency as with globalisation and
increased levels of migration, the teams of many companies are cross cultural (Congden
et al., 2009). I myself is planning to start a new company in Oman and Oman has
a high presence of migrant workforce. Thus for me the development of cross
cultural competence is inevitable. With such awareness, I believe friction in
cross cultural interactions can be better understood as a learning process and with
the understanding that eventually everybody is human and it is possible to
positively influence people with patience and willingness to listen and
integrate their perspectives.

4.4 Active Experimentation:  This is one of the most delightful phases if
one is committed to learning from experiences. However, this phases requires the
application of concepts. From my own personal experiences, if the concepts are
not applied then it could be difficult to understand the meaning of behaviours
of people and therefore not understand them. For example, people from different
cultures may behave in different ways and may be more comfortable and therefore
supportive of someone from the same culture. If the concept of self-identity is
applied, then it is much easier to understand the reason behind their
behaviour. For a project manager the application of such concepts is critical as
it helps in better understanding the team members. In addition to this, the
application of concepts helps in developing self-awareness as well, which can
enhance social intelligence as well. Clarke (2010) states that emotional awareness
and emotional management influence three critical processes namely problem analysis,
theorising cause and effect relationships and action planning. As the
discussion revealed, problem analysis is a natural aspect of abstract conceptualisation.
However the real application can be challenging because one may go through numerous
emotions. However understanding cause and effect relationship can support
moderation of one’s emotions. Having an empathetic approach can also support this
kind of behaviour as the fact that nobody is perfect in this world can enable one
to be more accepting of others. I have mainly applied the concepts mentioned in
abstract conceptualisation. I always applied the principle that it is better
not to approach people with a particular agenda. Rather in team settings, one
can use the team as a common object to drive performance and I have applied
this principle to an extent.

As
far as communication skill enhancement is concerned, UK provided much more
opportunity to experiment with my communication skills. This happened quite
naturally in the class, outside when shopping communicating with the sales
people. This helped me to naturally adjust my accent as I could understand that
people were struggling to understand. Thus a continuous level of sense making
can be found as applied in the process of enhancing communication, which is
argued to support critical reflection (Dervin, 1998). Sense making in the right
way is critical. For example, when I talk to people who are native English
speakers, they tend to get uncomfortable and if I get annoyed by that, it can
hamper the learning process. I could sense that their uneasiness is quite
natural and they could not communicate properly with me. With experimental
learning, I could enhance my communication with them. Another major challenge
which required higher level of sense making and patience has been enhancing my
writing skills. To write a course work, I tend to take a lot of time as reading
lots of articles and books and checking for grammar and overall sentence construction
has been tough. I could relate this to one of the qualities of a leader that
he/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, I
must first of all be supportive of myself as otherwise, I may struggle to understand
the challenges of others when I manage a team or work in a team. Particularly when
I start a new business, I should be able to develop people and their skills and
if I get easily uncomfortable and not emotionally supportive of people, then
they will leave me. I want to be a shaper (Belbin, 2010) overcoming some of the
weaknesses of a shaper such as offending people.

Overall,
I can state based on critical reflection that I have made some improvements
associated with skill development required for the achievement of my short term
and long term objectives (Appendix 2). With the application of experiential
learning, I will be able to get rid of my weaknesses (Appendix 1) to a great
extent. As mentioned, I have already gained some improvements in my identified
skill development areas. A SMART is given in

 

Appendix
3.

In
order to further look at project leadership so as to support the SMART thereby further
enhancing the learning process, the following section analyses the key
leadership capabilities which can be applicable to project management as well. Thus
the following sections will explain the major capabilities I may need to
develop taking into account the knowledge I gained from the project leadership module.

 

 

5. Project Management Leadership

A
literature review on the presence of leadership in project management by Turner
and Muller (2005) found that leadership was not found as surprisingly absent.
This is particular in the case

 

of
leadership style or competence. This could be because project management is
traditionally considered as using the right kinds of tools and techniques to
make the project successful irrespective of the personality of project manager
(PMI, 2004). Nevertheless, a study by (Kalu et al., 2013) found that leadership
competencies influence project management success. They maintain that
transactional leadership scales like contingent rewards and management by exception influence
project success when compared with other leadership styles such as
transformational leadership.

 

The
fifteen leadership competencies which Dulewicz and Higgs (2003) suggested under
the three main leadership styles namely Intellectual, Managerial, Emotional (Fig:2)
can be really helpful for a project manager as well as it encompasses a wide
set of aspects which an ideal leader should possess in the management of a
project as well:

Figure
2- Leadership competencies

Source: Adapted from: Dulewicz and Higgs (2003)

Thus, overall,
personal competence and social competence are two critical elements of
leadership, irrespective of the kind of theories proposed by the various
authors. Personal competence is also related to the ability of the leader to
align the strategic objectives of a project or organisation with the reason why
employees work

in
an organisation. In this regard, the use of other performance management tools
such as performance appraisal and reward management should not be overlooked
(Alagaraja et al., 2015). Ideally I feel that all the three main competencies
which Dulewicz and Higgs (2003) mentioned are applicable in an organisational
setting. The leader has at his disposal the use of Human resource management
department to devise ways through which organisational mission can be achieved.
However a leader of project can be inferred to have less control over HRM and
this is where the challenge lies. Unless he/she gets real support from the top
leadership, many of the competencies especially Intellectual (IQ) (Fig:2) may
be difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, EQ (Fig:2) is much easier to achieve in
project management settings. Thus it is the responsibility of the top
management leadership to empower project managers or leaders to align the
project management objectives to the overall vision or strategic objectives of
an organisation. This is one of the areas which I will pay attention to when I
start my own company or when I reach a top management leadership position.

 

A
study by (Muller and Turner, 2010) on project management leadership
competencies found that critical thinking and influence, conscientiousness, and
motivation are critical leadership competencies that matter irrespective of the
nature of a project.  The complexity of
project management requires high level of critical thinking (Ramazani and Jergeas,
2015) and this may not be completely understood by me through the module. One
can develop leadership competencies by paying more attention to how they manage
themselves. However many people who are good at managing themselves are not
good leaders mainly due to the selfish values that drive their performance (Asghar,
2014).

 Nevertheless, my preparations are in lines
with the achievement of short term and long term objectives and development of
leadership skills which are more in line with application of self-awareness to
understand the motivations of other people and thereby being empathetic and
supportive according to the demands of a situation.

 

6. Conclusions

This
study critically reflected on my experiences in the Project Leadership and
wider curriculum. In order to provide more clarity to the discussion and in
order to capitalise on this study experience, I have created a vision and undertook
a SWOT analysis and outlined short term and long term objectives. Then based my
so far experience in the module, I have linked SWOT and short term and long
term objectives and analysed the prospects of applying experiential learning. I
could identify that experiential learning is one of the best ways to
incorporate reflection in enhancing strengths and getting rid of weaknesses. This
helps me in the achievement of my short term and long term objectives in an
optimal manner. My vision is supposed to support me in continuous reflection
and learning. I could identify that there are a number of areas such as
communication skills and leadership skills which I should continuously enhance
so as to enhance my value as a human being thereby ensuring that me as well as
the society benefits from that. In order to support my future skill
requirements associated with leadership as I want to work in an MNC and later a
business of my own, I analysed the critical leadership qualities or
competencies associated with project management. I could identify that emotional
intelligence, critical thinking and ability to influence are very important.
Taking into account my weaknesses identified from the SWOT analysis and
incorporating the findings of the experiential learning and leadership
competencies, SMART objectives are created. This will enable me to focus on eliminating
my major weaknesses identified in the near future. What I could understand
based on the preparation of this coursework is that reflection and learning
should be a continuous process. These learning should however be directed and
milestones laid in order to ensure clarity and assess progress of development
so as to take required adjustments.