Flexibility in Leadership

It’s weird to think that I have been abroad for six weeks. Prior to this, I only left the United States twice before and it was for no more than two weeks. At first it felt like I was in a completely different world and had no idea what I was doing. Now, I feel comfortable in the city with the transportation system, giving directions, living with my host family, and in the office. It is nice to be comfortable in some other part of the world. I feel like I could return years from now and feel exactly the same way. It is like a part of me will always be in Madrid, and that is a really awesome thing to have.

I gave my weekend traveling a break and spent some time in Madrid. I had saved the museums for some down time within the program, but I haven’t had much! I did not want to run out of time to visit the art museums, so I made sure to visit them over this past week. I went to Museo Reina Sofía and to Museo del Prado. It was really incredible to see the different styles of artwork that I learned about in my Spanish Literature class. In class we used an online version of the Prado to find a piece of artwork and use it to compare with the literature of that same time period. I was able to find the piece of work that I wrote about, which is pretty exciting! I attempted to take a picture and then learned very quickly that they do NOT like pictures to be taken in the museum.

Throughout this program, I have learned a lot about the qualities that create powerful and successful leader. I have always been looked to for advice and instructions in group projects, in my family, the workplace, and even when making simple decisions. Therefore, my whole life I have thought of myself as a leader and often take charge in situations. My leadership style prior to this study abroad experience was always very positive, never confrontational, and inclusive of everyone’s ideas. This form of leadership may work in some situations; however, I have realized that there should be some variation in leadership styles depending on the working environment in order to be a successful leader.

For example, I normally attempt to spin any negative situation into a positive one. This may help the other group members with morale in the moment, but it is also important to reflect on negatives in order to improve in the future. I also ask for a lot of opinions when I am in leadership roles. When I was the senior vice president of my business fraternity, I was always asking for other suggestions on my plans for recruitment. Suggestions are helpful but asking for them too frequently can create more confusion than before. Since arriving in Madrid, I learned that eventually you will get to a point where you have to make the decision that is better for the whole even if it is not what everyone else has advised. My prior strategy of including everyone’s ideas all the time does not seem to work well in situations such as this one. If many people have differing opinions, it is hard to be inclusive of all of them. Therefore, I have learned that it is important to consider all opinions, but it is not necessary to act on all of them. The biggest change I have seen in my leadership style is being able to problem solve without asking for too much direction.

I was able to learn a lot over the past few weeks about the different ways people approach leadership by observing my supervisors in the office. There are many different styles that exist even within the same office, but I have learned the importance of flexibility in attitude from my observations. My supervisor is a very kind person, but she must be stern with directions occasionally in order to explain the importance of the tasks at hand. If she was too friendly with the other women in the office, then they wouldn’t place as much emphasis on efficiency. For example, inventory showed many variations between actual inventory and what was listed in the computer. When our supervisor explained how careful we must be when completing requisitions, she spoke with a very serious tone to convey the importance of being cautious. This adaptability in leadership styles dependent of the environment is important in order to receive the desired reaction from the employees.

In my internship, my supervisors were who I looked to in order to study leadership qualities. However, leadership also occurs outside of the office as well. So, I decided to take a step back from decisions for a portion of this program and let others control the situations. It was a really interesting experience and I learned a lot about different leadership strategies, what works well, and what definitely does not. I saw once again the importance of adaptability in differing circumstances. Instead of being stuck in a certain mindset, it is important to be able to keep an open mind and adapt plans dependent on the desires of the people and the situation at hand.

Overall, I have grown immensely as a leader throughout my time in this program. Viewing different leadership styles allowed me to view the qualities of a successful leader and the actions that they take. I think I am learning to be a better leader by learning how to adapt my leadership styles based on the environment I am working in. I am also gaining problem solving skills that allow for me to think for myself instead of asking for other peoples’ suggestions all the time.