With my sixth week in Dublin coming to a start, I have had not only a great amount of time to learn and grow, but to reflect on this growth as well. I still vividly remember my first week in Ireland, out of my element and trying to get the lay of this unfamiliar land with the few friends I made in my building initial. In the time following this unfamiliar period, I’ve made many more friends, gained new perspectives, seen new places, and learned more about the world and myself. As I have mentioned in my previous blog posts and discussion board posts, I feel as though I have grown a lot professionally and personally in the past six weeks. One of the ways I think I have grown the most so far is in terms of leadership skills.
Before my time here, I had only worked a few jobs, one of which being for around four years. I have lived in Buffalo, New York for my whole life, before moving to the University of Pittsburgh for college. On top of this, I had only been to the United States and Canada before joining the International Internship Program and coming to Dublin. Only working as a cashier at Rite Aid and as an intern at the office for a local pizza chain, I had very limited frame of reference when it came to professional leadership styles. Working in Dublin, I realized that my formerly leadership style was fairly conventional, rooted in traditional American workplace values and expectations. This past semester, I took the class Organizational Behavior, where I learned about the different behavior approaches to leadership: transformational and transactional. Transactional leadership focuses on ensuring that employees demonstrate the right behaviors on the job, which includes methods such as structuring roles and clarifying expectations, tying behaviors to rewards, and managing by exception – taking action when mistakes are made. On the other hand, transformational leadership emphasizes a purpose and a mission, treats people as individuals rather than just members of the team, inspires and motivates by talking optimistically about the future, seeking diverse perspectives for solving problems, and challenging employees to think differently. In my experience in the United States, through jobs and even sports teams, it seems as though transactional leadership is the most prevalent, even if there is beginning to be a shift towards transformational leadership. I feel like my internship at D-Light Studios has been my first time actually experiencing transformational leadership since I learned about it.
My time abroad has definitely changed my overall perspective on leadership and how you can lead effectively. I feel like there is a notion throughout the United States that in order to be a good boss you need to be strict, direct, serious, and as professional as possible at all times. Before coming to Ireland, we learned through our orientation that there is a much more casual business culture here. Starting my sixth week here, I can definitely confirm this, and I think it is extremely beneficial. In my experience and according to the experiences of my friends in the program, the average Irish workplace has a very friendly and collaborative vibe compared to the United States. I think this allows for a more transformational style of leadership, as it feels like everybody is friends or acquaintances rather than just some people that work at the same place. In my opinion, people are often more receptive of advice when they view you as a friend instead of an authority figure just telling you what to do. I believe this factor also leads to more effective teams, as genuinely wanting to do a good job so your team sees success is a better motivator than fear of being reprimanded or fired.
I think my leadership skills are improving throughout my internship this summer for a number of reasons. For one, I already had preferred the idea of transformational leadership, but seeing it in person is important, as I have a concrete, real-life example to use for future reference. Another unique part of the Irish workplace that I think will be beneficial in the future is the mix of collaborative work with open-ended, independent work. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have improved my time management skills during my internship due to the broad nature of some of my tasks. With these types of jobs, I feel like I had to become my own leader to an extent, creating my own schedule and sticking to it, asking others for advice when necessary. I think this experience will also make me a better leader in the long run.