Posted by: nsrupidara | May 22, 2008

Continuing to Grow as a Leader 1)

Neil Semuel Rupidara 2)

Satya Wacana Christian University, Salatiga, Indonesia

This essay is about leadership development and more specific it is about my personal reflection on how UB Leadership Fellow Program (UBLFP) has contributed to my leadership development. To discuss that, a theoretical framework on leadership development is presented in first section in order to provide a foundation to the reflection I make at subsequent sections. However, literature is still incorporated in the sections followed.

Developing Leadership through Reflections on and in Experiences

Talking about leadership development, literature (e.g. Hughes, Ginnet, and Curphy 1996) simply provides us with two possibilities for leadership development. First, it may be achieved through formal education, training, and development programs which would need to be designed carefully in order to address comprehensive aspects of leadership. Secondly, leadership development could also be attained through experiences. Various literatures have discussed about formal leadership programs and we may also have known more about them. Therefore this essay focuses only on the second approach of developing leadership, i.e. growing through experience. I particularly categorize the UBLFP as a training program which is mainly based on live experiences rather than a formal programmatic training.

Developing leadership through experience may have the same root with action learning approach or what is know as critical reflection in teaching and learning literature today. The idea behind this approach is as what Hughes et al. state as “making the most of experience is the key to developing one’s leadership ability.” As they further explain, leadership growth depends not just on the kinds of experiences we all may have but also on how we use them (the experience) to foster growth. The study of McCall, Lombardo, and Morrison (Hughes et al. 1996) on a big number of highly successful executives also shows that one key success of those people is on ‘their ability to extract something worthwhile from their experiences and in seeking experiences rich in opportunities for growth.’ This research concludes that experience is the common denominator in the ability of all these individuals to lead (Conger 1992).

In order to take the advantages of experiences, Hughes et al. offer us with a reflective mechanism, which is called an Action-Observation-Reflection (AOR) model or also known as the spiral of experience. The central part of the model is on the use of one’s perceptual set in a meaning making process/activity in relation to all the experiences he or she has, in each phase of action, observing, and reflect. This would be an on going learning processes from which one could sustain use to develop his/her own-self. Therefore the AOR cycle would be a spiral of learning that moves ahead across various experiences we have had and would have and further shape our knowledge and skills sets that allow us to keep on developing.

Like the authors, I believe that this mechanism is really powerful when it is used appropriately. Hughes et al. state that the reflection can provide leaders with a variety of insights about how to frame problems differently, look at situations from multiple perspectives, or better understanding activities (p. 39). However, one may need to go beyond the reflection and take into actions to make what is possible really happen that is on doing better and better as leaders. This would be a never ending journey of leadership development. And, of course, the result would be more meaningful when it is compared to various sources of studies on leadership and also compared to the experiences of other people, including those of the great leaders. They would play a role as mirrors or benchmarks.

The question follows on this learning cycle is, “What kind person are we going to be? Here in this issue, I talk our personal and leadership qualities and in this essay, I would consider personal qualities as part of a coherent concept in leadership qualities. Many authors 3) take into account that personal qualities is part of leadership qualities, although some others would probably put a demarcation line of personal life from the leadership context which is more public. So, here I presume that growing as a leader by any mean is also growing as a person. So, I would not discuss about personal growth, including one’s spirituality, separately from leadership growth.

Back to the question above, so what would a good leader be looked like as a person? Although it is debatable, referring to Philip Sadler (1997), I enlist a number of leadership qualities which are needed from any leader.4) The qualities are charisma, presence, self-assurance (traits), courage, integrity, sincerity, honesty, and persistence (character), being able to deal with things calmly and without getting into a stake during or at moments of crisis (temperament), highly intelligent (cognitive ability), and above average on aptitudes and skills. Of course, some or probably all those qualities are debatable, but let us consider that certain qualities are still needed to enable us to bring alive our leadership. Here we have to admit that we are not super persons who have all the goods and possess no bad or the dark side of our personality (see Hughes et al. 1996). But, we intend to build ourselves toward the goods.

When we talk about leadership, it is also better to distinguish leaders from managers. According to Kotter (Conger 1992), leaders establishes direction, rather than set up detailed plan and budget; leaders align people into the missions, rather than organize and do staffing; leaders motivate and inspire, rather than control and solve (operational – authors emphasize) problem; leaders produce change, rather than produce a degree of predictability and order. At the heart of leadership lies influence and change to get better life of all. Or, according to Kouzes and Posner (Kouzes and Posner 1995; Conger 1992), leaders are expected to challenging the processes, inspiring a shared-vision, enabling others to act, modeling the way (through personal example), and encouraging the heart. This debate, leader vs. manager, may mislead us to the mentality of choosing either one or the other, although such distinction takes form in the real practices as well. However, although it would be very difficult, we are more expected now to synthesize both capabilities, i.e. practicing the genius of the and in Collins and Porras’ (2000) term, which means choosing and acting both simultaneously. Therefore, as leaders, we are supposed to build our leadership capabilities. While at same time, as also managers, we need to craft our managerial skills as well. It is and will still be one of the challenges in developing our leadership.

How does UBLFP Matter for My Leadership Development?

Prior to the participation in this program, I believe we all might have participated in various leadership programs and/or encountered experiences in leadership position. I my self have participated in various leadership development programs and practiced my leadership since my early career at my university, even since studentship. Therefore, the UBFLP should not be a new and the only separated path, but one integrated into and even energizes the whole paths, of our leadership development. So, where would then we put the learning experiences we have had through UBLFP into our overall leadership learning experiences?

For me, first, I would like to consider UBFLP as a good retreat. Thanks to this program which has taken me out of my daily duties which might had trapped me each and everyday into a microscopic world of routine activities and concerns. As a comparison to Gardner’s view (1995), UBLFP has provided us with two periods of isolation (during the two placements, which has also enabled us to learn and reflect). Gardner believes that isolations are as crucial in the life of leaders as are immersions in a crowd (routines-author). This retreat has delivered me into facing new challenges that I know are facing our other institutional and individual counterparts abroad (include you all dear fellows) nowadays. By knowing ‘new’ things, this program has opened my horizon of thinking up to a level where I might not have imagined before I joined the program. It has also enabled me to gain ideas and conceptual frameworks on what could be done in responding the challenges. To certain extent, those stimulating ideas has been shared and introduced into the fabric of our academic activities at my home institution as discourses towards good practices.

Those knowledge and ideas mostly acquired from reading materials from both host institutions and from the discussions with various people, including the mentors, and also from various staff development programs, including the UBLF Seminar. Thanks again to UBLFP that enables me get in touch with these rich resources of both host institutions. The benefits would to some extent pay off to what I have left in my home country. When I have to go abroad and live far away from my family and all of familiar to me, I might have missed many things, but they are paid off. Therefore, the decision made to participate in this program was just right. To a great extent I perceive this program as consists of opportunities and ‘risks’ which hasve taught us to consider more on the positives/opportunities and at the same time have brought us the courage to face the hard times/negatives/risks. As just an example, I still remember my days of fighting against very cold weather in Minnesota during the winter last year when I had to attend the evening classes or discussions. It was one of the hard times I faced. And, experiencing such hardship is a very good lesson for our leadership (compare to Conger, 1992), including to strengthen our spirituality when we take our time sitting alone in a room to reflect on the query, “why should have I taken the situation?” You all might have your own feelings, reasons, and experiences that might have enriched your leadership capabilities.

The programs we had during our placements in UBLFP mostly were self-constructed, although the mentors and coordinators provided some assistance. I may consider that, we all came to our host institutions only with a spirit to develop ourselves and with expectations to have good experiences. I also expected to get conceptual some models regarding some problems or challenges we were facing at my home institution or just anything else to learn about and develop my self as a whole-person. However, I believe that nobody, like you and me, was so sure that all those would be fulfilled. Therefore, the programs contain bout chances, either to failure when all is going bad or to success when all is going well. Here, I would regard that successes and failures are always of good teacher for us, from which we could learn important lessons about how the future actions should be taken (Conger 1992, p. 30). They are also essential part of our leadership development. Therefore, here through UBLFP, again, we have learned to construct our learning experiences and daring to encounter any failure or mistake for the shake of our own good.

There might still be many things that I and you all could put on the list and share, but keep in mind that all that comes out from our reflections is needed for further and future cycle of plans-actions-observations-and-reflections which is still unknown. Therefore I would like to enter the next section that provides a bit of the challenges facing higher education today. I incorporate this in consideration that it is our responsibility to make a better future of our own institutions. Beside it is a process (Hughes et al. 1996), leadership is also more a responsibility, rather than a rank or position, privileges, or titles (Drucker, in Hesselbein et al. 1996). Therefore, understanding the challenges that we might have learned through this program may help us on continuing growing as leaders.

Facing the Future Challenges as Higher Education Leader

We all might agree that our world is becoming one that is more and more complicated and uncertain today and in the future, including the higher education context. In such a situation, many challenges will be confronting us in the (near) future. However, many people may not be aware of them.

Literature (e.g. D’Andrea and Gosling 2005; Hirsch and Weber 1999; anonym 2006, a work in progress) describes many challenges are facing higher education institutions. The globalization and the influence of (rapid) technology (development) are two of the major forces influencing many aspects of HE, e.g. in missions and in teaching and learning and also research activities. The emergence of online education has put threat on conventional modes of educations which requires them to shape superior pedagogical culture and practices. Research universities are also changing in response to the new comers, i.e. the independent, more specialized, but commercial research institutions. All requires universities to build new governance and financial sources and structure in order to compete better in an environment with also characterized by an increasing demands of quality and transparency. And, last but not least, internationalization has become a common pattern of strategy of many western universities. So, they are coming to us and competing with all our local institutions.

What are our feelings toward those challenges? Enthusiastic? Fear? No feeling at all? It may mean many things to each of us. Whatever the feeling is, the important lesson of this is to prepare ourselves to face the unknown future. As leaders of our universities and colleges, we are responsible to take these challenges into account and may need to respond appropriately. And, one day in the near future, we may face new characteristics of higher education enterprises that adapt them into our own context.

Closing Remark

To close this essay, let me quote this: “Many possess the potential to lead, but dwindle down to few only because most of us do not have the right opportunities or experiences” (Conger 1992), but we all have got this wonderful opportunities and experiences through our participation in the UBLFP 2004/2006. Many may not want to take the responsibilities and the hardship of being leaders and developing their leadership, but we all have taken part of the responsibilities and passed through the hardships in this journey of leadership development.

Now, as we have been transformed, at whatever the level you may perceive, the next challenge for us is to turn to transform others and our home institutions.5) As leaders we are expected to make difference in term of create a better future in our context of leadership. Therefore, our coming tasks are to shape the future mental image of ourselves and of our institutions and to be a role model by set examples for the change to happen. I suppose we are expected to be exemplary leaders to other people in our institutions, in order to enable them to act. And therefore, as leaders, we are needed to inspire them with a shared-vision of a better future. This of course needs no answer today. It is more a calling to our profession, our leadership, and our services. So keep on challenge things around you and don’t forget to reflect on and in whatever we all do and then walk the talk and the thought. God bless us!


Anonym. 2006. University Governance in the New World Economy (a work in progress, Macquarie University).

Bass, B. M. 1981. Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership: A Survey of Theory and Research. New York: The Free Press.

Collins, J. and J. Porras. 2000. Built to Last: The Successful Habit of Visionary Company. New York: Harper Business.

Conger, J. 1992. Learning to Lead. New York: Jossey-Bass.

D’Andrea, V. and D. Gosling. 2005. Improving Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: A Whole Institution Approach. Berkshire UK: Open University Press, McGraw Hill, and Society for Research into Higher Education.

Drucker, P. 1996. Not Enough Generals Were Killed, a Foreword in F. Hesselbein, M. Goldsmith, and R. Beckard.

Duderstadt, J. J. 1999. The Twenty First Century University: A Tale of Two Futures. In Hirsch and Weber. pp. 37 – 55.

Gardner, H. 1995. Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership. London: Harper Collins.

Hesselbein, F., M. Goldsmith, and R. Beckhard (Eds.). 1996. The Leader of the Future: New Visions, Strategies, and Practices for the Next Era. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hirsch, W. Z. and L.E. Weber. 1999. Challenges Facing Higher Education at the Millennium. Arizona: The American Council on Education and the Oryx Press.

——-, 1999. Surveys of the Main Challenges Facing Higher Education at the Millennium. In Hirsch and Weber. pp. 3-17.

Hughes, R. L., R. C. Ginnet, and G. J. Curphy. 1996. Leadership: Enhancing the Lesson of Experience. USA: IRWIN-McGraw Hill.

Rhodes, F. H. T. 1999. The New University. In Hirsch and Weber. pp. 167-174.

Sadler, P. 1997. Leadership. London: Kogan Page and Coopers & Lybrand.

1) A paper prepared and submitted to the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia in New York, USA for the UB Leadership Fellow Seminar in Hong Kong, July 31st – August 6th, 2006.

2) A lecturer at Management Department, Faculty of Economics. Former Deputy Dean of Student; Former Chair of Management Department, and currently Vice Dean of Academic and Student Affairs at Faculty of Economics.

3) See for example in Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership (1981) there is a section titled “The Leader as a Person. This is especially mingled when the authors discuss about traits and behavioral aspects of leadership.

4) Please refer to Stogdill’s Handbook to review the list of traits related to leadership, although many criticism are posted to the traits theories. Drucker (in Hesseilbein et al. 1996) even states that leadership traits do no exist.

5) By this statement, I don’t mean to transfer all that is good in our counterparts’ environment.



  1. A leader have a great quality to develop his/her team or company…

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