My leadership style before coming on this trip was largely situational. I would lead differently depending on the situation, people involved and their personalities, the tasks at hand and how I felt it would be best for me to respond. Of the five major leadership styles (autocratic, laissez-faire, transformative, participative, and transactional) I have favored some over others. For example, there are very few occasions where I can see the benefits of an autocratic style of leadership. While I have specific opinions pertaining to each style of leadership my overall views are as follows: my two most preferred styles are most like the transformative and participative leadership styles. In my opinion, the transformative leadership style is most beneficial when the leader does not work closely with the group such as company managers or executives. Conversely the participative style is most useful when the leader works very closely with the other group members such as group projects in school. The nature of the group is not the only criteria I use to determine my place within the group itself. The type of work that we would be doing, the tasks assigned and my knowledge/experience with the relevant topics and information are also very important. Another major factor is the other members of the group such as if there is an individual more suited to lead in a given situation or if someone else steps into a leadership role very quickly. This would then move me into a different dimension of leadership which would be leading from a non-leadership position. This can be done in one of two ways the first being the passive strategy of a diligent follower. In this situation I would get my assigned work done to the best of my ability, help others with any of their work and be the loyal team member. The second possibility, the one I prefer, is the more active approach as a consultant. In this situation I would not be the primary leader but I would assist that leader by suggesting ideas, strategies or divisions of the workload. In either situation the key is to be a leader by setting a good example for the other group members.
So far this trip and the other similar trips that I have completed have given me dozens of opportunities to improve me leadership style and grow as a person. The first way that this trip has allowed me to grow as a leader is by showing me how leadership looks in a workplace. Leadership in a business environment can take on many different forms depending on the type of business, the structure of the organization and the nature of the tasks being completed. However, before this program I had no professional experience in my field of study. Thanks to this program I have gained some deeper insight into how leadership plays out in the workplace, what styles may or may not work, and how it is influenced by organizational structure. I work in a small office with only three other people which has helped me to see and understand leadership in such an environment. My firm is also international which has allowed me to experience leadership across international borders. This is especially interesting since language barriers, time differences and geographic distances cause some unique leadership challenges.
So far I would not say that my leadership style itself has changed too much, however, I have had no opportunity to put it to the test yet. I believe that experiencing different cultures and increasing my cultural sensitivity has given me a greater respect for other people’s opinions and diverse points of view. On this trip I have had the chance to study and observe the German culture at great lengths. I have been able to see not only Berlin but also Munich and I intend on seeing at least one other German city before I return home. I have also had the chance to travel to Croatia and I will be going to Budapest this coming weekend. Each of these unique opportunities have all helped me to increase my cultural awareness and improve me leadership style. In addition to that, my time in my internship has also given me a chance to observe leadership in action in certain situations. Hopefully, when all of these experiences and observations aggregate they will help me to respond appropriately when I am faced with leadership challenges or the task of leading in a difficult situation. I hope to use these learning experiences as a tool to make me a better leader and to further develop my leadership abilities in the future.