The Tip of the Iceberg simulation put us through two different scenarios. In the first one, we were tasked with deciding where to sell solar-powered speakers and then convincing venture capitalists to invest in them. In the second simulation, we were tasked with developing a plan for providing clean drinking water to a city in Cameroon and doing so in a way that would attract investors. In both of these simulations, it was our responsibility to compile our information in the form of four answers to questions as part of a presentation. In this first simulation, I played the role of the ops manager. In this role, I was the only other person who could speak English as well as the CEO. During the second simulation, I played the role of the Communications specialist, where I was a non-native English speaker. During the first simulation, my group was operating without knowing what we each could understand. Therefore, we as native English speakers relied mainly on each other to put together our presentation. My role was to give my CEO as much information as I could, while simultaneously attempting but struggling with coming up with ways to communicate with the non-native speakers. During the second simulation, we all understood each other’s capabilities. During this simulation, I mostly tried to get the information I had out as quickly as possible, and as simply as possible. This proved much more effective, as those in power were able to use some of my information, even though they didn’t completely understand what I was saying.
As a native speaker with access to the CEO, it was very easy to feel an overblown sense of power. Even though I wasn’t the CEO, I was the only other person that she could truly understand. Therefore, I contributed the most to the final product. This made me feel important, despite the fact that I had no more to offer than any other person on the team. This type of thinking is dangerous, and it is something I will definitely keep in mind in the future. It is in direct contrast to my experience as a non-native speaker. In that role, I had equally as much expertise to share, yet I struggled to share it. I had to learn not to get frustrated at my struggles and the lack of leadership understanding. From this experience, I learned that engagement is critical as a non-native speaker.
Like I mentioned before, global communication yields challenges. However, these challenges taught me something about perception. Just because I perceive that someone is struggling to contribute in a team effort does not mean that they have anything less to contribute. Instead, I found that it is safest to assume that everyone has valuable insight to contribute. As a leader, it is my job to try to extract these contributions from everyone, and then relay their information to everyone in an understandable way. This task may prove difficult and time-consuming, yet it is paramount to a successful final product.
During the second simulation, both sides of the language coin altered their behavior to facilitate communication. The English-speaking side made better use of universal communicators. They used numbers and emojis more frequently, elements that can be understood by most cultures. They also took more time to wait for insight from us non-native speakers, rather than moving from point to point. As non-native speakers, we altered the way we communicated with native speakers. We focused more heavily on the information that was most important to communicate. We also repeated ourselves, to ensure that our meaning was understood. We also utilized emojis, to demonstrate if we were on the same page as the English speakers. After employing these tactics communications went far smoother.
Switching over to the course as a whole, there is much and more that I want to discuss. I feel like it’s fitting then to start where we started, leadership. I learned that leadership is significantly more complicated than I ever would have guessed. It has no one definition, nor any way of consistent implementation. Leaders can find success using all different methods and roles, and they can just as easily fail in many different fashions. Yet, there are some principles that most can agree hold true when describing leadership. Communication, inclusivity, flexibility, are all general concepts that I, and many others, believe make for a good leader. Implementing these concepts is a complex task, that in itself requires adaptability, This is especially true in a global context, where change is the only constant and our most fundamental assumptions about human behavior are challenged. Why is this important? It’s important because it asserts that nobody can tell you how to be an effective leader in every circumstance. Yet, through resources like this course, we can learn to possess every tool we need to set us up for success. In the future, I’m going to acknowledge what I’ve learned in this course. I’m aware of far more common human leadership pitfalls than I was at the beginning; including biases and slanted perceptions. I’m also more inclined to question my own perspective and to seek new ones whenever I can. I feel that with this new understanding I can be a more effective leader, both in a small domestic sense or out in the larger world.
If this course has taught me to start doing anything it is to start actively practicing more. As I mentioned earlier, perfect leadership cannot be taught for every circumstance. Yet, leaders do best with preparation, and that comes with active intentional leadership practice. At the same time, I’m going to stop making the assumption that I have a better perspective than anyone. Many times I’ve led myself to believe that because I may have spent more time studying a topic, or listened better in school that my words are more valuable than those on my team. Yet, what I have learned is that everyone has something valuable to contribute to a team, and if they’re not contributing, the fault lies in poor leadership. In this regard, I will continue to try to foster environments of inclusivity, where nobody feels intimidated to share their ideas or concerns. This is key to nearly every leadership process, and it is something I have valued for some time now. Finally, I’m going to change how I judge myself after a leadership experience. In the past, I’ve fallen victim to the tendency to judge my leadership based entirely on the results of a project. If results are good, then I was a good leader, and if they were bad, then I was ineffective. From now on, I’m going to judge my effectiveness on how much potential I got out of my team, and how much I learned from an experience. Leadership can be learned yet it is impossible to master. All I can do is keep on learning and building my experience so that one day I reach my full leadership potential.