Monday, February 28, 2011

Bottom Up Innovation

I think that Vineet Nayar hits the nail on the head when he says that “we need organizations that put their ‘employees first’ to drive innovation at the bottom of the pyramid. “ In order for the United States to stay competitive in the global market, it must focus on being a leader in innovation and giving individuals the space to create. There are too many other countries with the capacity to harness sheer manpower and what will set us apart is our ability to harness brainpower.
            What struck me is that Nayar envisioned a leadership style that gave each individual the power to contribute his own thoughts and ideas and have someone actually listen. I picture this type of leader being more of a facilitator rather than an authoritarian figure. As we move forward in this century, I foresee this leadership style being the most effective. It allows room for flexibility and openness in large organizations that can be slow to respond—which will be crucial in these fast paced, ever changing times.
            In public health, I see this style being particular useful. Studies have shown that the most effective interventions occur at the grass roots level, and putting more power in the hands of individuals creates more capacity for those to occur. Microfinance campaigns, like Kiva, come to mind as present day examples of this. I think it might help organizations that tend to get caught up in bureaucracy (like public health departments) the opportunity to be more dynamic.
            For me personally, this style of leadership could be incredibly useful in my future career. My goal is to give a voice to marginalized workers, and it is nice to see someone else acknowledge the benefit of giving people at the bottom creative control. I won’t be able to make any meaningful difference if I don’t listen to what works for them and any ideas they may have. Nayar’s vision of leadership is simple and elegant and I’ve always been taught that the simplest answer is usually the most practical. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

First Blog!

Wow! So here I am, officially blogging! Hopefully I say something worth reading.

A bit about myself....

I'm a Southern California girl who just moved up to the Bay Area after finishing my degree at UCLA. I started a master's program at UC Berkeley and I'm studying public health. I'm also a fellow with the Center for Health Leadership here at Cal and I'm so honored to be part of an incredibly accomplished cohort. I'm so very excited to see how this whole journey turns out. I wanted to join the fellows because I want to learn how to be an effective leader in various environments so I can make meaningful contributions in my career, with my family, and to the universe in general because at the end of the day- you get out of life what you put into it. I love dancing, reading, swimming, yoga,  hiking and spending time with my friends and family. I have a ridiculously large  extended family and we're freakishly close. At the end of the day, I want to be the best version of myself that I can be and to feel like I've given back just as much as I have received.  I guess that me in a nutshell.

For our first prompt, I have to talk about three leadership traits that resonated with me most.

From our list that we brainstormed, the traits that stuck out most with me were creativity, humor, and making the impossible things seems possible.  Creativity is something so intangible, but so critical to a great leader. The ability to think outside the box and come at an issue from a different perspective is what separates good from great.  Most products/ideas that are successful and influential are also creative. Think about facebook, or google, or even cheesboard. All of these groups are off shoots of someone's creative mind thinking of a novel idea.  I think it resonated with me because creativity is a trait that I don't really have. Some people are just innately creative and have incredibly original ways of doing things. I've never really been that way. Case in point, the hardest part of setting up this blog for me was picking a tittle. I even googled words that start with N to try and find some clever alliteration. To my surprise, I wasn't the only one who was looking for positive words that started with N (according to anyway), but alas, nothing good came up. I definitely need to work on trying to approach problems in new ways. But more than that, I think I need to have more faith in my own instincts and ideas and hopefully the creative juices will start flowing-- because in my opinion, creativity is an unabashed expression of the individual.  That might be a good place to start.

The other trait that resonated with me was humor. I remember from our session that humor was definitely a topic that got people talking. For me, humor is a great tool for a leader to use to be able to connect with the people he/she is working with. When done appropriately, humor can really make a difference. It reminds people that their leader is human too! It can break that barrier that often develops between leaders and the group they are working with. Also, I think having the ability to laugh at yourself and your mistakes is another way of expressing humility--another important leadership characteristic. Some people think differently, and would rather have a curt effective leader rather than a comedian. But, that's not the point I'm trying to make.  I don't think humor is necessary to make someone a good leader. It's one of those things that you don't notice when its not there, but you really appreciate when it is.

Last but not least, there is the ability to make impossible things seems possible. When I think of this trait, the first thing that comes to mind is my mother. She and my dad are the leaders of our family. My mother    is always the person that I go to when I'm feeling overwhelmed by my life and all the things that I need to do. She has a way of calming me down, putting things into perspective, and helping me prioritize my to do list. She also helps me break down the big tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces. All of these actions helped me to focus and were very motivating. The ability to motivate, inspire and support are all encompassed in the idea of "making impossible things seem possible." A great leader can do all three, at the appropriate time (which is also key.) At the same time, making impossible things seem possible also means holding people to a high standard and expecting good, solid work. My mom was amazing at this as well. She, like other great leaders, knows when to push for more, and I really appreciated that.  I'd like to be able to reach the right balance between all the things that this trait covers,  because it's a trait that I would like to have as a leader.

PHEW. that's all for now folks.
happy super bowl sunday!