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Leadership Confuses Me

For the past two years, with the United Nations Association of Singapore, I have organised two preparatory Model United Nations conferences at Catholic Junior College.

The four-day conferences are not huge (150 and 225 participants respectively), but I helm a very small executive team which manages everything from publicity and registration to finance and general administration. During the actual session in December, we have a wonderful student-volunteer team from the school’s Political Science Society; however, pre-event preparations are often confusing or messy, and can be extremely taxing.

I am a terrible control freak (obsessive-compulsive disorder, maybe), and so for the first edition I drove myself insane trying to be involved in anything and everything: collating the general registration list, corresponding with the teachers and schools, settling the bank payments and registration fees, contacting and inviting guest speakers, writing the study guide from scratch, purchasing the logistics and stationeries needed, printing certificates, placards, handbooks, documents, banners… I was nearing the end of my National Service stint, but that meant that I had to use my nights-out and weekends to complete the many tasks.

Second time round, the delegation of roles and responsibilities was a priority. Still, the night before the conference, there were many matters that had not been finalised, and I had to stay up till 4 or 5 to complete the registration lists, as well as the different name-tags (not to mention preparation for the Opening Ceremony, which I also emceed). I was exhausted, and thoughts of not turning up did flash across my mind. This episode, of course, got me thinking a little about the supposed notions of leadership; that is, what makes a good leader?

Had I chosen not to turn up (and you can think about situations when the one in-charge is not always present), and the operations ran smoothly, would it be a reflection of my success as a leader? Would it not mean that I have empowered my administrative and management team to the extent that they are cognisant of what they have to do without supervision? Or would they construe my absence as laziness, or apathy?

Had I chosen to turn up, and be extremely hands-on (which was what eventually happened), would the gesture be appreciated? Would they have greater respect for what I do, because I have chosen to involve myself in the processes, to run the event with them? When I am actually on-the-ground with the team, doing things, would they think that I have too little trust or faith in them?

Leadership confuses me. And the control freak within me annoys me.

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.


15 thoughts on “Leadership Confuses Me

  1. http://johnmaxwellonleadership.com/2011/08/22/what-are-the-5-levels-of-leadership/ – Hope this helps you unconfuse your thoughts a little – get the book if you can or if you like it for your birthday, let me know 😉

    Posted by jn (@fivetwosix) | April 5, 2013, 8:08 am
  2. Off the top of my head, the balance between being present and being controlling is best struck by being there in a supportive fashion.

    If the i/cs panic when an unforseen contingency arises, you apparate at the scene of confusion and proceed to direct order into the chaos.

    If all is well then you let them run the show, and if you do help it’s either with simple things (moving tables etc for servant leadership) or not at all so that their people look to them and not you, which is how delegation of authority works yes!!

    Posted by josmurftay | April 5, 2013, 10:14 am
    • So the mark of a great leader is how he performs in a crisis? Hmm haha I am thinking about my business module on management and organisation now haha.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | April 5, 2013, 12:38 pm
      • Hmmm more that you posed two scenarios, turning up and not turning up.

        and what I would do is to turn up (be it to show support/give my i/cs a go-to should things go awry) and participate in a way that wouldn’t undermine the authority that I’d previously delegated!

        That said, if you feel that you’d definitely start taking control if you try to help out, then I’d just turn up and be there for contingencies. YEP!

        Posted by josmurftay | April 5, 2013, 12:56 pm
  3. I’m pretty old-school when it comes to leadership. Back in the days of Shankly and Busby, they took charge of everything. And I mean everything, from tactics, training, player transfers, salaries, laundry, equipment and even the tea lady! But you see as a result of that is a lifetime of knowledge of a profession (in their case, football management) which is second to none. With that dedication comes success in the form of championships and trophies won by Liverpool and Man United. Both Shankly and Busby knew every trick in the industry, and even invented a few of their own! The commitment to knowing every aspect of business until you are in a position to influence how the industry moves. These respect given to them by people came without coercion because people know these two mean business. People do things for these guys willingly and were gladly able to do an extra 200 miles if they have to. That, to me, is what leadership is all about.

    Posted by This is Anfield | April 5, 2013, 4:50 pm
  4. First of all… MAN u really are a control freak haha. But that’s not entirely a bad thing. Every team needs someone who is there to manage the functions. I may not be an expert at leadership but hey just wanna say that you are definitely not a bad one because u try to be a good one. There are people who just always think they’re right and never stop to ask themselves if they are doing a good job and how they can improve themselves. You on the other hand is striving to be good and reflecting to be better as both a leader and a team player. Good job man!

    Posted by Zhao Mian | April 5, 2013, 9:08 pm
  5. Must have some hands-on, otherwise you’ll end up like some of them SAF commanders. In their white ivory towers.

    Posted by IGoCrazyBecauseOfYou | April 5, 2013, 10:51 pm
  6. I think that it’s not about the 2 extreme options. You should definitely turn up as a show of support and to assure your members, but you can turn up without being extremely hands on. I think that members are more appreciative if you entrust them with responsibilities compared to if you just take their jobs and tasks to help do it for them. I believe that leadership is about empowering your members and always being there for them, not as a supervisor but as a supporter.

    Posted by peiqi | April 8, 2013, 12:02 pm
  7. My opinion is that the result of leadership, is an action. An action taken by the team to achieve whatever result.

    The type of leader probably determines how the team solves the problem. Do they solve it by relying on you, to please you or by their own motivation?

    Also, no style of leadership is perfect. Some times when the ship is sinking, the autocrat needs to step up to ensure survivability, and sometimes when charting into the unknown, a consensus needs to be drawn and to tackle the infinite black as a team, and to depend on each team member’s strengths and cover each others’ weakness.

    Posted by brian leery | December 16, 2015, 12:52 pm


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