Practice Contemporary Leadership

Introduction

Reflective practice improves one’s ability to reflect on their actions so as to engage in processes of continuous process of learning. Many leaders find that experience helps them learn better. However, failure of the leaders in reflecting on the experience and consciously analyzing on how to better the experience next time will render the whole process ineffective. In the subsequent paragraphs is an in-depth exploration of Gibbs, Kolb and Schon’s theories in relation to contemporary leadership themes, which is our topic of interest.

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Gibbs’ Reflective cycle

The Reflective Cycle was first published in 1988 by professor Graham Gibbs in his book “Learning by Doing” (Smith and Roberts, 2015). The theory is critical as it helps people make sense of work situations in addition to comprehending what was done well and what might need improvement in the future (Husebø, O'Regan, and Nestel, 2015). The original model by Gibbs has six stages but the analysis stage can be covered in evaluation thus bringing about the five stages namely; description, feelings, evaluation, conclusions, and action as illustrated below.

Global Railway versus Air

The model can be used by leaders in exploring situations of themselves or with people they are coaching. At the description stage the leaders can questioned to describe the situations in depth that will aid in drawing conclusions. Typical questions under this stage include; where and when did this occur? Was there anyone else then? What actions were taken? Were the results beneficial? The next stage is ‘feelings’ whereby one is encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings when the experience was taking place; for instance, what were your feelings after the situation? It’s advisable to apply emphatic listening because it is usually hard to people to honestly share their feelings (Johnson and Duberley, 2013).

The third stage is ‘evaluation’ in which the leaders taking coaching are encouraged to keenly analyze the approaches that worked and those that didn’t. Typical questions include; what were the negativities? What went as planned? After evaluation follows ‘conclusions’ whereby the team members can be helped in drawing conclusions of the occurrences. Gibbs emphasized on one thinking of the situations then reflect on strategic questions such as; if faced with the same type of situation, what could be done differently? What skills require development? Lastly is the ‘action’ stage (Potter, 2015). Under this stage, the leader is supposed to come up with strategic plans that can be implemented in achieving more efficient results in undertaking the situation next time.

Kolb’s Experimental Learning Theory (ELT)

Kolb’s ELT provides a meaningful framework in coaching leaders in development of necessary skills that can be used in effectively managing complex situations thus making them fit to undertake organizational roles. Kolb’s ELT works on two aspects; grasping, and bringing about transformation of experiences (Li and Armstrong, 2015). Kolb’s framework comprises of four unique styles of learning based on a learning cycle of four modes (Concrete experience, feeling; reflective observation, watching; abstract conceptualization, thinking; and active experimentation, doing). This is illustrated as follows;

Global Railway versus Air

In line with the organization contexts such as circumstances and conditions it is critical for leaders to be conscious and deliberate in learning from past experiences. Kolb emphasized that the core of learning depends on the way people perceive experiences and more especially the feelings drawn from them. In which therefore, we posit leader development of leadership as a holistic process in adapting to the current trends in leadership themes. Linking grasping and experiences of transformation creates a synergy that aids in producing dynamic and powerful leaders.

The Reflective Leadership Development Tool (RLDT) was designed in 2008 in creating professional credentials of development in showing commitment to growth professionally and implementation of fruitful initiatives in improving schools. The tool could be used in performing individual reflection as it entails selecting, describing specific initiatives, goals or issues (McCarthy, 2016).

Donald Schon and the Reflective Practitioner

Schon’s work was an exploration of John Dewey’s theories on Reflective Practice highlighting on experience, reflection, and interaction. Schon defined reflective practice as that by which professionals are aware of the existing implicit base of knowledge and learn from their experiences. In his book Schon begins by first questioning the limits of technical rationality that appear to assume the essentialities of problem setting in activities of problem solving that lead to confidence crisis in advanced knowledge (Schon, 2017).

He argues that via reflection-in-action that is responsive to the beliefs that our knowing is in our actions, then leaders can equip themselves with verifiable insight in the thought processes. Schon highlights on two fundamental aspects; reflection in action and reflection on action. Under ‘reflection in action’, the leaders reflect on the behaviors as they occur whereas in ‘reflection on action’ a reflection is undertaken after the occurrence of the events in reviewing, analyzing and evaluating the situations.

Global Railway versus Air

A useful tool can be accredited to Jeremie Kubicek in his 2015 article, Leadership freak, whereby he provided a number of tools which he called ‘gears’ that can be used in reflection and connection. Two of his critical gears that are related to contemporary leadership themes are; recharge mode in which the leader is supposed to focus on personal recharge and maintaining efficiency in tasks, and focus mode whereby the situation is task-centered so as to fully maintain focus and move quickly.

McDonald’s Organizational Factors

In line with out topic of concern, we’ll use McDonald’s (an American fast food company with its headquarters in Chicago) and highlight organizational factors in accordance with analyzing strengths and limitations of Gibbs, Kolb and Schon’s theories in reflective practices. In accordance with Kolb’s model, group learning has proven successful in cases where the leader incorporates different styles of learning. Learning objectives have also proven successful. However, Kolb’s theory is not applicable to all situations as it articulates a particular style of learning model (Bozkus, 2014).

Owing to the stiff competition and globalization in the fast food industry, McDonald’s has found itself in a very complicated business environment (Duggal and Alexander, 2018). There are numerous both internal and external environmental factors that have influenced the functions of the company and requirements for new innovations. The internal factors are but not limited to employees, products and services, and internal management. McDonald’s fully relies on its employees almost in every company perspective. However, the fast food company has in the past been criticized for high turnover ratio and lower wages.

The company has to often evolve its menu so as to attract new customers and meet emerging market needs. Decisions also made by the internal management are vital as they are the company’s asset in the long run. Externally, the company globally operates in regions with different laws and regulations in which it has to abide to. Technological advancements are another major external factor affecting the operations of the fast food company. McDonald’s has to frequently upgrade and adjust its technology to meet the new trends (Goldsberry, 2010).

Angela Merkel- Chancellor, Germany

It is with no doubt that Merkel has been one among the most successful national leaders in the current era. She is good at public speaking, convincing people, suggests innovative and profitable national ideas, played a critical role in managing debt crisis in Europe, and kept the European Union (EU) intact while also setting the pace for Greece’s road to recovery. However, she can’t lack some weaknesses. It’s worrying that everything is tied to her persona, and she too hasn’t made efforts in molding an heir that would fill her vacuum in which she very well knows this but ignores the fact (Cunliffe, 2018).

Ma from 1999 when he founded Alibaba has always exhorted his employees to ‘think big’ and work smart in achieving their dreams. He has the empowering nature with excellent skills in communication. He also knows how to effectively present his ideas. However, Jack Ma is too friendly and emotional which sometimes bring about negative results because of failing to be strict and taking strict decisions. Another weakness is in the past, he was over confident of his employees which is not advisable sometimes (Kim and Zhang, 2016). As a leader, one isn’t supposed to put too much confidence on the employees, no one is perfect and just one slight error could see a multi-billion company crumble down.

Gibbs, Kolb, and Schon Models in Improving Leadership Strengths/Limitations

Reflective Practice provides insights that are helpful through focusing on the motives, feelings and thoughts of an individual as well as the actions of others. For instance, using the Gibbs Reflective practices, enable a deeper understanding of incidents that are about to emerge which goes a long way in providing new insights that also are distinct.

To develop leadership skills that are all rounded, leaders stand to benefit from tapping into all resources that are available to them; the different reflective models allow different aspects of the intelligence of an individual to be assessed which help in facilitating even greater development (Castelli, 2016). Leaders who model reflective practices throughout their conversations and relationships with their employees could offer them support in building insight into their own behavior and further helping them to develop fresh competencies and skills. These reflective practices are however time consuming as a lot of time has to be spent in the different reflective models that are quite procedural.

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References

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