The leadership challenge
Singapore, 24th June 2010
Interestingly two major “leaders” were challenged and removed from their posts today. In Australia Kevin Rudd did not survive the challenge to his leadership and is now replaced as prime minister by his deputy Julia Gilliard, now the first ever woman to become prime minister in Australia. In the USA, general McChrystal, chief military commander of all American operations in Afghanistan, was sacked after voicing his criticism towards Obama in Rolling Stone magazine and has promptly been replaced by General Petraeus. Both Rudd and McChrystal are assumingly competent leaders but sometimes it only takes a little thing to undo their leadership. As lighting designers our leadership is also continuously being challenged. We are challenged by our clients and fellow project consultants and we are challenged internally by our own staff.
Our clients need us to take the lead in lighting design and to show our expertise and determination in decision making. This means that we have to be diligent and on top of things so we can reply and clarify any challenges thrown at us by the client or project team members. We develop our designs with knowledge and with a purpose and reason, so in principle we do not have to fear any challenges. On the contrary when we are well prepared challenges are most welcome and needed to make sure we progress the design with full understanding and appreciation of the client. It is only when we are ill prepared that challenges undermine and possibly undo our leadership.
Our staff needs us to show leadership too. Confident and decisive handling of design issues rubs of to the team and strengthens the overall belief in the design concept and strategy itself. While leadership means leading it also means delegating responsibility. Responsible staff will treasure that trust and grow with you, but sometimes staff do not know how to handle that responsibility or worse abuse of it. I recently had to let go of one staff who repeatedly ignored my directions, to the effect that he changed my design to replace it with his own ideas. I am all for initiative and fully support personal thinking however as a leader it is my task to assure it is all done within our vision and company standards. Ignoring these directions is a challenge to my leadership.