My Personal Leadership Development Plan

Management and Organizational Life was one of the most beneficial courses that I have taken towards the completion of my degree, and it is a course that every person should consider taking. Although it is a business course, the content of the course provided me with valuable insights into myself and the people around me.  These insights can be applied to the manner in which I interact with others and conduct myself in the workplace, in my personal relationships, and at home.  I believe that the greatest skills that a leader needs is the ability to interact and communicate with the people around them, and the desire to understand the differences that make each of us a unique person.  A great leader is only as good as the team that he/she leads.

From working as part of a team to complete a project online I was able to learn many things about myself.  First, I learned that I am not always the most patient of leaders.  I tend to expect others to be self-motivated and show initiative by stepping up to assume responsibility for tasks without needing to be told what needs to be done.  This proved to be challenging to me primarily because the assignments were clearly written and yet others in the group seemed to approach the task with a sense of ambiguity.  To ensure the group continued to function, I had to overcome my sense of frustration with the others and learn to be a bit more tolerant and patient.  I then needed to learn methods of guiding them without being a dictator in order to allow them the opportunity to grow and develop their own leadership skills.

Moving forward, I need to embrace the opportunities that pursuing my Bachelor of Education will provide me.  In my courses I will need to actively engage in the material and contribute to discussions.  It is essential that I remain receptive to the ideas of others, as having experience as a teacher does not mean that I know everything there is to know.  I will need to ask questions to clarify things when I am unsure.  During my placements in a school I need to connect with my mentor by asking for explanations of the different approaches that he/she uses in their classroom in terms of organization, assessment, and behaviour management.  I need to recognize my mentor as being a valuable resource in my education.

I think that one of the stumbling blocks that my teammates experienced was a lack of real-life experience when it came to organizing tasks.  It was great that they had big ideas, but the ideas often faltered when they were examined in terms of practicality.  Although there were times that I felt as time was being wasted, I had to force myself to be more relaxed and allow the ideas to be explored and for time to be spent trying to develop them so that they could learn for themselves where the ideas fell short.  For me to simply point out the faults of an idea would have come across as being unsupportive to my teammates, but it also would have robbed them of the opportunity to learn.

In order to be a better leader I had to learn to connect with the other members of my team.  This was a task that was further complicated by the fact that all communication was being conducted in a text based manner through communication boards, emails, and Google chat.  Taking away the ability to visually see the other person to include non-verbal communication as part of the message it was necessary to ensure that we were clearly articulating what we wanted the other members of the group to hear, and that we were doing so in a manner that would not be offensive to the others.  This was easy if the message being communicated was giving positive feedback on tasks.  However, to give constructive criticisms without physically being with the person and having the ability to show them what you mean was more difficult and required patience on behalf of the person communicating the message and the person receiving the message.

As a leader I think it is important to know when to let your team explore concepts and ideas to come to realizations on their own and when to outright tell them when something will not work.  In the tasks that were assigned to us, I believe the true goal was for us to learn how to function as a team.  Of course in doing so we were also to come up with a fundraising plan for a charity, but this could not have been accomplished if we did not first learn to come together as a team.  The greatest lesson we had to learn was how to compromise.  Even in the development of our team goals and vision I found myself differing from the majority of the group in what I think is important, which I believe is a result of being at a different stage of life.  While my other team members are still at the beginning phases of life in which they are establishing who they are as a person and creating a life that is independent from their parents, I am in a completely different stage of life.  I am employed full time, and have been in the workforce for more than 20 years.  My goals are more about being content then with making huge accomplishments in my career and establishing myself financially.

That is not to say that there are no goals that I wish to accomplish.  In fact, this course allowed me to examine a truth about myself that I would otherwise have avoided.  Throughout life I have feared being successful, and in many ways backed away from success when it was within my grasp.  The closer I became to finishing my degree the less motivated I was becoming in completing the courses.  This is likely something that others would not have actually picked up on considering the lowest mark on my degree audit was a B.  However, by acknowledging my fear of success I was able to face it and find the motivation necessary to complete the last task for achieving my Certificate III in Children Services through the International Child Care College in Australia.  Additionally, I found the motivation necessary to maintain enthusiasm in the two courses that I was taking through the University of Windsor’s distance education program, even as I faced the added challenge of an arm injury that limited my ability to type.  It was as though one last obstacle was being thrown in my way to test my newly found determination to not waiver and fail when success was so close.  So instead of allowing the arm injury to become an excuse for not completing the course material, I instead faced the challenge by learning to manipulate the mouse with my left hand and to type using just my left hand at a point in the courses when major assignments needed to be completed.  The typing was slow at first, but as I progressed through the assignments that remained I found that it was becoming easier to manage.  I think in that moment of introspection when I acknowledged my fear of success, I was able to face the factors contributing to that fear and overcome it.

So where will I take my leadership from here?  Towards the end of February I received an email from the Faculty of Education at Windsor informing me that this coming academic year would be the final year which the Bachelor of Education program would be one year and that there was still time to apply.  (Two days to be exact!)  After this year it would become two years in length.

That night I sat down and had a conversation with my husband.  When I first registered at Windsor as a student the plan had been that after I received my degree I would go to Teachers’ College.  At that time we had not known we would end up living and working in the Middle East.  At the end of the conversation I had come to the conclusion that I was in job that I enjoy and I did not want to be separated from my husband for an extended period of time.  Then I went to sleep.  When I woke up in the morning I went against the conclusion I had reached and applied to do my Bachelor of Education at four different institutions back in Ontario.  The only reason I had for doing so was that several years ago when I started to work towards my degree the goal was that I wanted to become a qualified teacher.  This was my opportunity to make the choice between accepting mediocrity or reaching for the goals that I wanted.  I decided that I would regret the lost opportunity to achieve my goals, more than I would regret leaving a job I love and being on the other side of the world from my husband for a year.

Teachers’ College is my opportunity to go from being a good preschool teacher to being a great primary teacher.  I know that despite having four years of experience in the classroom that there are still strategies and techniques that I can learn to improve my abilities.  This will be an opportunity for me to build my skills while forming a network with others.  Through the teaching placements I will benefit from being paired with teachers with more experience, and through the feedback of those teachers, the other students in the Bachelor of Education program, and the professors I will be provided with the feedback and coaching needed to achieve my dreams.

The year apart from my husband will be a challenge but it will also allow me to be more independent.  Living so far away from our friends and family has caused us to become overly interdependent and I feel as though in some ways we have stopped nurturing the things about ourselves that make us who we are as individuals.  I value our closeness, but I think our closeness has also at times meant that we have shut others out.  The time apart will allow us to rediscover ourselves, and to value the times during that year when we will reconnect for a short period of time.  We will be forced to find new ways to nurture our relationship.  Being without each other will also force me to be more open towards people around me therefore allowing me the valuable opportunity to further develop my interpersonal skills.  Learning to be more approachable will only benefit me as a leader.

In addition to furthering my professional development through the Bachelor of Education program, I also plan to become involved in the community by participating in a program where I can be a mentor for a young girl or a young woman through volunteer work.  In the community that I will be living, I plan to approach the women’s shelter and see if there is an opportunity for me to volunteer in the capacity of a tutor.  I believe that education is a stepping stone for many of these women and their children to building a better life and I would like to be a part of helping them to build their confidence and believe that they can achieve what they set their minds to.  Even those experiencing some of the darkest moments of their lives deserve to have dreams of something better.  I believe that in pursuing this type of volunteer opportunity I would be staying true to my own personal vision statement by sharing knowledge with others and supporting them in a manner that helps them to improve upon their own skills.

Sometimes a person is their own biggest stumbling block to being successful or to being a great leader.  We become too comfortable in the familiar and therefore fail to push our limits to discover what we are truly capable of accomplishing.  When we acknowledge our strengths without ignoring our weaknesses we open ourselves to the opportunity for growth as an individual.  When we acknowledge our fears and face the perceived obstacles that we encounter we will break free of the barriers that block us from being successful.  When we can move forward with the confidence that we can overcome obstacles that we may encounter, then we have begun to travel on the road that will help us to discover the great leader that lives within us.

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