Looking for Leadership: Reflections on Theory and Practice
Middlesex University Dubai
This preliminary research draws on reflective assignments submitted by MBA students studying at a University in the Middle East. The students on the programme are a diverse mix of mainly expatriate managers working in SME's. A particular module 'Leadership has an assignment that asks for evidence of learning and reflection as to what is most meaningful for them in terms of module topics, academic content, relevance to their work and what they will do with their reflections and conclusions. There is an emphasis on career management as an outcome. The word limit is 8,000 words. For most the assignment takes the form of a 'diary' reflecting on each week of the module and using models of reflective practice (Kolb 2006)) to consider the learning experience, engage in reflective observation, consider abstract conceptualisation and move forward with what they will do with the learning outcomes (active experimentation). Content (learning experience) of the module (inputs) includes Leadership Models and Frameworks, Management, Management and Leadership Development, Diversity, Leadership and Power, Managing across Cultures, Reflective Learning, Coaching and Leading Change. The students/managers reflect on these areas by choice i.e. they choose which are most meaningful for them. The themes emerging from 47 pieces of work were reviewed to provide an overview or 'snapshot' of what middle managers are thinking, experiencing and practicing in terms of leadership and Management in their organisation in mid-2015. Preliminary indications are that many mangers' experience of work is far from the espoused theories of leadership and management. Many cited difficulty in recognising any of the leadership practices or management styles in their organisations. Additionally there are some indications that reflective Practice whilst difficult to master can be a powerful tool in enabling leadership and Management Development in organisations. Thirdly there is some support that the 'right' leadership in the right place at the right time can make a considerable difference to individual and organisational performance. The findings suggest further research is needed in to the application of leadership in different cultural contexts, the development of reflective practice as a key leadership and management development tool and a concern as to the possible rise of 'corporate psychopathy' (Boddy, 2014) or amoral leadership and management behaviour in local organisations.
Keith Reynolds is a Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management at Middlesex University Dubai. He has a M.Sc. in Human Resources (London South Bank University, UK), a BA (Hons) Business Studies (Nottingham Tent University, UK) and a Cert. Ed. (FE; University of Gloucestershire, UK). Keith is a Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD), UK. His research interests include Global Talent Management and Mobility.
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