Power and influence play a major role in decision-making, and leadership can look extremely different from positions with better credibility or ranking. Our third simulation in Leadership in a Global Context illustrated just that concept, emphasizing the point through experiential learning once again. The simulation put students at the helm of a sunglass corporation that was trying to adopt a sustainability initiative forced upon it by the request of its biggest client. The participant, either as the CEO in one scenario or a member of mid-level management in another, is tasked with persuading their coworkers to adopt the initiative. Many decisions regarding spread of the idea, ways to prove its viability, and training were necessary for full adoption.
My largest takeaway was the major point of the simulation: the impact of power and influence. In my first simulation run, in which I was the CEO, I had a lot more credibility. I was able to easily influence my coworkers to progress on the initiative through simple steps such as sending emails or holding meetings. Throughout the course of the run, I rarely had any challenges with specific individuals that were resistant. While not included in the simulation, this can be assumed to be a result of my position. With the power to control all the consequences of my employees actions, I was in a position of natural leadership. People were more likely to listen due to my reputation rather than the validity of my ideas. They acted more out of fear or respect rather than actually coming to their own conclusions. This is incredibly important. Leaders must realize their position of power and the impact it has on those in the team. Recognizing this influence is essential in a leader’s conquest to not misuse their credibility and run an efficient team. While holding the primary position in the company, I made it a point to hold interviews of my employees in order to hear out opinions. Every member of a team should be able to contribute.
In my second run, I had much more difficulty in getting my co-workers (and bosses) to adopt the initiative. While in the same role as a leader of the sustainability initiative, I held a different position, one with less credibility and reputation. As a result, I was more likely to be challenged and resisted. I found it difficult to get all of co-workers on board and spent much more time with this simulation run. Additionally, if I made bad decisions while in this role, I faced much harder consequences than if I had been in the CEO role. This further emphasizes the major issue that the simulation addressed. Being conscious of your own power and influence can make you a much better leader.
A large part of the simulation focused on change management, as the organization had to undergo major changes in order to finally adopt the initiative. The most valuable lesson was learning the most effective method of change management: to first change context, then implement a strategy which eventually leads to a change in outcomes. I learned this lesson the hard way. In my first run through of the simulation when I had not figured out this strategy, I rushed straight to implementation without creating awareness of the cause. I had projects completed and showed my own initiative before changing context. This was unsuccessful. I found more success when I first emailed the organization, held town hall meetings to raise awareness, and had consultants come in to support my ideas. These strategies helped to change the context, showing the employees that my ideas could be implemented. After raising awareness of my goals, I then focused on implementation. This strategy eventually worked out and led to adoption of the initiative.
I think many of the decisions that I made were similar to the first simulation that we did in class. As both simulations were based on corporate environments, I had to be careful to make decisions that positively impacted individuals that worked for my company. I was not just responsible for my well-being, but of all of my employees as well. I had to think with a big-picture mentality. However, where I did find some differences is that, in this simulation, I was making decisions to please other people. I was more focused on having my employees adopt the initiative and made most of my decisions based on their terms/needs. In the previous two simulations, alongside my team, I was able to freely make decisions based on what I thought was the best. This is why this simulation was so challenging. I had to juggle many conflicting personalities and opinions.
Crisis Management vs. Urgency
I believe crisis management and urgency, while they are likely linked in most cases, differ from each other. Crisis management is not based on urgency. It is based solely on results and dealing with the issue at hand. While in most cases, leaders must be able to deal with the situation quickly, crisis management involves doing what is best for the company after conversations with team members. This does not always have to be quickly implemented. In this simulation, many of the best options that made the most employees adopt the initiative were lengthy and took multiple weeks to implement. While urgency was important, I think that these decisions were made with the best intentions in mind and prioritized the well-being of the corporation over a quick solution. In terms of the previous two simulations, they prioritized urgency and crisis management needed to be done quickly because of a major design issue that was impacting human lives and a zombie apocalypse. There was no option to make better decisions and waste time with these pressing circumstances. It is this conundrum that leaders must deal with. They must be able to prioritize in order to manage the crisis effectively and appropriately.