MGMT 370 – QUALITY OPERATIONS – Traverse City – FALL 2013

Thoughts and reflections of undergraduate students from MGMT 370 Class – Ferris State University Traverse City, Michigan

Posts From Students:

Geoffrey Robinson –  Joshua Mason –  Rosa Cude –  Cynthia Green –  Kevin Kurkowski –  Ashley Lamont

I Believe in a Leader Still

A leader can be summed up in so many ways, from a person who innovates to a person that creates a vision, comparing to the quote of Warren Bennis. “The point is not to become a leader.  The point is to become yourself, and to use yourself completely – all your gifts, skills and energies – to make your vision manifest.  You must withhold nothing.  You must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and to enjoy the process of becoming.”  This is a great quote that summarizes a leader as someone who is simply being them self, an individual who believes so strongly in them self they inspire other individuals to believe in them as well. There are so many great leaders to accompany this quote that I will only name a few from Ghandi to Hitler, whether they were loved or loathed, they were able to inspire, innovate, envision, and lead.

Becoming a leader is not something that happens overnight, it can take years for an individual to develop the skills and knowledge to lead. One thing that I have learned is a leader strives for excellence and excellence is contagious. A leader is continuously improving the quality of work and moral of the team. This continuous goal for improvement infects the rest of the team and improves the quality of the work and the relationships that a team builds.

I am still becoming myself so I do not think of myself as a leader just yet. Do I think I am on the right path? Yes. I know that I can lead on many levels but have not envisioned, inspired, and innovated to be a true leader. “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”  A quote from another famous leader, John Wooden, characterized my style of leadership at this point. I truly believe this quote is a great expression for a leader because a leader will do what it takes to complete a task, and will look at any roadblock in the journey and find a way around it. This can also be applied to any type of team or group who is in search of a leader.

The structure of having individuals work as head managers from each department is a great learning tool for the real life work force. The work force operates in this manner on a daily basis and whether heads of the department have anything in common personally or not, they have the goals of the company in common professionally. Excellence can be achieved at any level and reinforces the lessons I have learned so far, however I have learned that you cannot complete the entire task by yourself and utilizing the strengths of the team, employees, or group can help develop your true leadership potential. A leader is able to complete all the tasks at hand but has the expertise to delegate the tasks to the team’s strengths to strive for a type of excellence that only a leader can provide. I believe in a leader still.

– – – Geoff Robinson, Traverse City, Mi

My Leadership View

Leadership isn’t something which can be obtained by taking courses or watching other people. It’s often said that people are “born leaders” but I believe that everyone has the possibility to become a great leader. Sometimes the term leader gets twisted and tied to mean anyone with authority over others but in reality being a leader isn’t about power or the number of followers but rather how adaptive you are to new situations. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and even Hitler were all leaders whether we agreed or disagreed with their methods. They had reason, they had the answers and if they didn’t have the answer they would work hard to figure it out.

You may ask yourself “What does it take to be a good leader?” in my opinion there’s one trait which a leader needs to have and that’s emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence includes traits such as motivation, critical thinking, empathy and self-awareness. If you can obtain a high degree of emotional intelligence than you have the ability to understand others, fully understand yourself and your thought process and finally use these to motivate not only others but yourself towards a common goal. I took a critical thinking course last semester and learned one thing above all and it was that “We are all biased and influenced individuals, unless you can separate yourself from biases and stereotypes than you can’t be an empathetic person and thus a critical thinker.” After this course, I learned that opinions are just that; opinions and unless you separate fact from opinion you can’t come to proper conclusions and make proper decisions.

I can say that this course has led me to a higher understanding of management and leadership. There was one example which stood out above all in this course which led me to perceive a difference between a leader and authority. Frank was telling us about a new young manager who was basically fresh out of college, this manager walked in and said okay “I’m the new manager, you folks are pretty messed up and I’m here to fix it.” This guy was highly disliked by the workers and was gone within weeks.  Frank’s approach was to talk with the employees instead of making sudden decisions. He found the “leader” of the team of workers and asked that individual what could help them out. That individual made a simple request and it was done. This simple change completely altered moral and improved the satisfaction of the workers and productivity as a whole. The moral of the story would be that leaders don’t just lead but they listen to the needs of many and determine the best path to fulfill these needs.

 – – – Josh Mason, Suttons Bay, Mi.

I Believe That Leaders Have Vision to Create and the Ability to Inspire

Leaders have the vision to see possibilities, where others see obstacles.  It is that vision that inspires those that are fortunate enough to work for someone of this capability. A true leader does not need to yell or throw things to get employees attention.  In contrast, my ideal leader inspires by example.  He or she sets an example of caring, being an active listener and having genuine interest in what other people think.  That is not to say that the leader always goes along with others’ view or suggestions.  What it does mean is that this person instills a sense of ability in others to become courageous in their thinking.  When others’ suggestions are adopted by this leader, he or she is not only happy to recognize the person responsible, but also proud that this individual had the vision to arrive at a solution. This leader is not concerned about their turf because they know that by helping others grow everyone wins.

By expanding our views and considering various options we can arrive at answers that some might have thought were impossible.  It is this natural curiosity that leads to thoughts of, “what if……”

My leadership style has evolved over the years.  Having been a reasonably young supervisor I can now look back and evaluate my performance. Time gives way to clarity.  I probably would have given the young me an ‘A’ for effort as I did try to do right by my people.  However, being young and without the knowledge that one can only gain through life experience, I would have given me a “B-” for execution.  I was too rigid in my approach.  As time went on I did become a better leader.  I learned from my mistakes and trusted my group to do a great job.  They were excellent workers that were patient and kind enough to help me evolve into a better leader.

If we’re lucky we continue to evolve.  I feel that I have grown and continue to do so, most recently as a student.  I have had the opportunity to take several classes that are team based. What this has taught me is patience.  Patience to step back and not take over as would have been my inclination year’s back.  I understand the importance of not stepping in and letting the younger students possibly make a mistake, not to the detriment of the team, but as a learning experience.

It is through all types of experiences that we get closer to becoming the person that we were meant to be. Going forward, I am confident that I will use my cumulative experiences, abilities and curiosity to be the type of leader I would want to follow.

– – – Rosa Cude, Central Lake, MI

I BELIEVE truly great leadership is a scarce commodity.

            Legitimately great leaders lead by showing those around them how to conduct themselves honorably and prudently in all that they do; but, their genuine contribution is the greatness to which they inspire others.  An inspirational leader does not focus on the goal of becoming a leader.  Instead, as the quotation from Warren Bennis stated, the inspirational leader puts all of their strength and spirit into accomplishing their objectives.  It is their goals and vision that drives their actions and not the desire to obtain a management position in order to make more money, as it unfortunately is with so many individuals in management positions.  Instead, a confident leader understands that the end results are what are important and realizes that the monetary benefits will materialize if they obtain their objectives successfully.  Through hard work, perseverance and dedication, they set an example for others around them.  It is this consummate example that those around them respond to and attempt to emulate.

Great leaders are also the first to attest to the fact that they cannot accomplish their goals without help.  They are quick to give credit to those employees, soldiers, group members or other support that helps them achieve their objectives.  I have not witnessed successful leaders who when congratulated didn’t instead praise those that worked with them on the project.  I have, unfortunately, witnessed those managers who are not true leaders and who don’t give others credit; instead accepting greedily the praise that others should rightfully receive.

Those who are respected leaders have first given those who work with them respect.  They honestly understand that every single worker has value and brings many resources to the table.  Successful leaders are skilled at bringing those resources out of every individual.   They accomplish this by putting themselves in the position of student, extracting valuable skills and knowledge from each and every worker.  In the process, they give those workers the empowerment they need to achieve ownership in the project.  Once workers achieve ownership in a project, they become committed to the outcome and focused towards its goals and objectives.  This is the way that great leaders achieve success, through focusing workers skills, energy and commitment to the project outcome.

I believe that simply because an individual is a manager that does not automatically mean they are a leader.  In fact, I have seen a great many managers and very few actual leaders.   If an organization has within its ranks a true leader the administration should realize how fortunate they are because truly great leadership is a scarce commodity.

– – – Cynthia Green, Kingsley, Mi.

My Leadership Fingerprint

I believe leadership style is as unique as a fingerprint. Just like a fingerprint, we may share certain patterns but under close scrutiny every leader is unique. Until writing this, I have not taken the time to consider what my unique leadership fingerprint looked like. Through recent mindfulness of my thoughts and actions at home, work, and school I have discovered 3 natural traits that influence my unique leadership style: (1) my joy of teaching, (2) my ability to organize ideas, facts and figures, and resources, (3) awareness of my own weaknesses and limitations.

I love it when it someone asks me a question. I get to “show-off” and demonstrate how smart I am. As a computer information systems professional I have an opportunity to share and teach others how to utilize technology to improve their business and personal life. My greatest joy comes from the “Ah Ha” moment when a seemingly impossible level of understanding is finally reached. I have found that teaching others also increases my learning, I am introduced to the perspectives and thoughts of others; I am not only the teacher, but also the learner.

Another “natural” ability I have unconsciously incorporated into my leadership fingerprint is my tendency to organize. I thrived in the military. In boot camp it just made sense to me that my underwear needed to be folded a certain way and stacked orderly on a particular shelf. The 5 S’s and Toyota Production System make sense to me. In my current role I enjoy organizing and cleaning up information technology (IT) infrastructures; I’m the guy who needs to label every cable and wrap them all in Velcro cable ties. As a leader I enjoy taking on a complicated situation or project and organizing the seemingly random thoughts into a well-defined problem and solution. This trait goes hand-in-hand with my leadership role of teacher when I can guide a client or group of co-workers into organizing and quantifying a particular issue.

Finally, the trait that may not really be “natural” (and the most difficult to admit) is my awareness of my own weaknesses and limitations. Leaders are successful when they use their natural strengths; perhaps even more important is awareness of natural limitations. Through my continued learning and professional career I have absorbed this into my leadership style. I am naturally a poor delegator; now I delegate and present this as an opportunity to teach and trust others. I am naturally a poor listener; I now intentionally take time to listen without drawing conclusions and use my natural skills to inquire and organize to find solutions.

I encourage all leaders to take stock of their natural talents and employ them. To paraphrase best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, “Successful business need to not only get the right people on the bus, but get the right people on the right seats on the bus.” There is a seat for all of us as long as we are honest with ourselves.

– – – Kevin Kurkowski, Traverse City, Mi.

I Believe in Empowerment

                As the sweat pours down the face of the young carpet installer, he mutters the words, “If I was the boss, things here sure would be done different.”  This phrase has been muttered time and time again among employees. The question we should ask ourselves is why do employees so often feel this way? Perhaps they had a good idea that was disregarded or perhaps they went above and beyond and no one noticed. The problem generally is not that the employee has done something wrong or simply has a bad attitude. Often the problem lies with the management. The management has not given the employee the tools that they need to perform. As a strong leader employees should feel comfortable enough to approach you with suggestions, and issues. In order to establish this relationship you must empower your employees.

Becoming a stronger leader requires more than the ability to give orders, a strong leader gives clear direction to their staff while setting challenging goals that are still within their reach.  Applying this technique requires consistent dedication, and frequent follow-ups. Empowering employees can only be attained in situations where management and employees share trust and respect. As a leader I will need to show faith in my team that I believe they can accomplish the tasks set before them, and in return my team needs to have a respect for me or a drive to perform the tasks that will satisfy my expectations. It is important to always be sincere and honest with my team and listen to their input. As I grow in my position as a leader I have learned that everyone’s voice matters because sometimes brilliant ideas may come from the least likely candidates.

Thru this class I have learned several quality leadership skills to apply including empowerment. Empowering employees requires me to take a step back and allow my team to complete their tasks in their own way. In order for this to operate smoothly my team must be properly trained and focused. Learning from the Chinese I will continuously be training my employees as well as training my team for multiple work stations allowing for flexibility and rotations. While this may take longer and be more expensive the end result will prove to be profitable.

Growing into my leadership position has changed the way that I view myself, my attitude and the attitudes of those around me. When I begin a work day I challenge myself in the morning to be the best employee that I can and to give those around me the best that I have to offer. I have set upon myself the standard of always being positive. Setting a standard means I will remain positive even on days when life is dreary. It is important as a leader to always strive to give your team all that you have in order to receive all that they have to offer me. Before I took operations management I was unaware of  my leadership style, now that I have identifies the skills I have to offer I will strive to improve upon the skills I have learned so that I may be the leader that my team deserves.

               – – – Ashley Lamont, Traverse City, Mi.



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