I'd appreciate any coments on this leadership essay I'm working on. I put a different progression from most essays I've read, using four categories instead of a chronological perspective. I also tried to specifically address what the essay command asked (Chevening is looking for individuals who will be future leaders or influencers in their home countries. Explain how you meet this requirement, using clear examples of your own leadership and influencing skills to support your answer.)
Recently I read a Harvard Business Review article about a research on leaders. According to the article, successful leaders have four specific behaviors: deciding with speed and conviction, engaging for impact, adapting proactively and delivering reliably. I figured it would be interesting to put my experiences on leadership and influence according to these four essential behaviors the article pointed out.
About the first one, when I was chief procurement officer (CPO) for XXX, I lead a team of 130 professionals, managing over 5,000 acquisition requests, 1,500 bidding process, on roughly USD 1 bi in estimates per year. My main decision as a leader was to set a vision and to implement it: I manage to reduce the overall time of procedings in 20%, and savings around 60%. On some occasions I also had to decide on tough decisions, such as to cancel biddings on medicine and other major acquisitions. Plus, not rarely I had to hamper pressure from congressman and secretaries of state, without boasting.
On engaging for impact, as special adviser, one of my duties was to map stakeholders in order to gain support and minimize resistance. I had two major experiences as influencer: creating an expenditure cut and implementing a management for results program. I manage to convince other departments to conduct a significant cut in gas, fleet, communications and surveillance, and I was able to start the New Public Management in the government. As CPO, part of my schedule was on meetings with Secretaries to explain our job and how they could help themselves to have a successful process. My current job, XXX, is all about engaging for impact, as I had to influence congressman to vote on behalf of my interest group, creating strategies and scenarios to have the right impact.
The third behavior is adapting proactively. Working in government sometimes is like sailing uncharted waters, is to adapt proactively, and this is something I have experienced. In my current position, I have to decide on what to negotiate in a given scenario. Also, political alliances are redrawn constantly these days, and we have to have strong networking skills with parliamentary assistants to help us foresee tendencies. On one occasion, what I had laid out had to be redesign due to a change on policy beyond our control; nonetheless, I secure the expected result.
Last, but not least, delivering reliably is to produce results. Across the years in the public service I've given a lot of importance to management for results, being one of the pioneers of the management for results in the government, with special projects, strategic planning and other techniques. I also completed management and leadership courses and I made for three times my successors and I have been appointed as Undersecretary substitute for more than five times, including in my current job.
I assume that given the examples above, I have proven leadership behavior as well as influence habilities, prone to develop this characteristic further, learning and improving from where I am today.
Holt Educational Consultant - / 11,224 3651
Arthur, don't present the essay this way. The reviewer is not looking for a textbook definition of leadership and how you embody those traits as per a newspaper article. Throw that out. You will only irritate the reviewer because half the time, you are boasting (even though you say you are not) without accurately developing your leadership experiences. That will tell the reviewer that you most likely are being only half truthful about what your essay is narrating You don't just offer overviews of your leadership experiences, you have to show the reviewer how you function as a leader. You don't imply that you are an influencer, you show instances of actual problems that required you to actually influence people.
You may provide 2 instances as examples in the essay to prove you qualities. The first instance, is an expanded leadership description and the second, is an influencing experience. Divide the essay word count into 2 and use half for each scenario that you need to fully depict. Indicate the problem, how your staff was trying to solve the problem, the solution you thought of, the process that it took to get approval for your solution idea, then relate how you managed to influence your staff into believing that your way was the right way. At the end of the essay, you need to prove that your solution and the inspiration you provided your staff resulted in a successful implementation of the solution and the completion of the project. You need to show a thoroughly developed discussion of your embodiment of a future leader and influencer in your country.
At the end of the essay, you can provide your own definition of leadership and influencing based upon the social norms and business practices in your country. That would be more effective than a newspaper article definition that you hope to fit yourself into the description of. The leaders and influencers of your country should be unique in function because of the special qualities of your country. Look for that definition instead and explain as to why the experiences you had and the definition of leadership and influencing in your country, based upon your actions, would assure your countrymen that you are indeed a future leader and influential figure.
You don't have to define it to the reviewer because he already knows what qualities make a leader and by doing this step by step explanation of how you fit the definition, it would come across to him as you lecturing him when he knows far more and better than you do as to what a Chevening leader should be embodying in terms of abilities and character traits.
Dear Holt, thank you very much. I'll adapt it into the format you advised!
I tried my best to adapt. What I did was to divide into two occasions in which I had leadership and influence skills in both situations. Do you think it is ok?
To lead is to inspire others to realize a vision you have. In the public service, this is essential to improve people's lives. In my career, I would like to present two occasions in which I had a major leadership role, and two I had to master my influence skills.
As a special adviser of the XXxX, my main duty was to lead part of the implementation of the New Public Management in the government, through a series of twelve special projects, considered the backbone of the government plan . The Undersecretary and the team wanted to realize a monthly monitoring of the special projects, via e-mail, and assess the evolution mainly from this data. I proposed to do an in-site weekly follow-up of the projects, creating a confidence bond with the project managers, to better understand the foundations of the projects. Although the Undersecretary was reluctant at first, I was able to convince her to allocate four analysts under my supervision and to allow me to put this model in motion to four special projects: xxxx; to build xxxx; to create more units of xxxx and to implement a model of xxxx. After that, the model I proposed proved to be better, as we found critical unnoticed flaws in the special projects and we proposed and implemented corrections to the projects, before presenting the results to the Governor. From this leadership and influence experience, I was awarded twice: first, the Governor promoted me; second, the model I proposed was expanded to all special projects.
In another role, as Chief Procurement Officer (CPO), I was the leader of all government procurement procedures, with an office of 130 professionals, processing more than 5,000 acquisition processes totaling around USD 1 billion in estimates, for more than 80 different government units. There was a general complaint that the processes were too slow and the morale of the staff was down, with lots of criticism. In my first month, I put an effort to identify the numbers of the operation, since in more than 10 years they have never done it before. It was difficult, but without the numbers, I would not be able to perform a diagnostic, a plan and a vision. In three months, I had the mean time of the procedures, with departments demanded the most amount of procedures, the recurrent errors and many more. Having the numbers, I was able to convince my bosses of my plan and I was cleared to implement my vision: to reduce the total time and to increase savings. I identified that the creation of the process was taking too much time and created a help desk to assist them; we mapped our internal operation to reduce time; I asked for funding to give executive and professional training for most of our staff and improved measures against corruption. The savings amounted around USD 500 million per year; our procedures were reduced by 30% (from three months to two) and the preparation procedures from the other departments by 25% (from four months to three). With these results, I was appointed substitute Undersecretary, got my first leadership course, and helped to propose improvements in the federal law of procurements.
From those accomplishments and recognitions, I have a deep belief that no matter how brilliant you think your idea may be, you still have to communicate it well to you bosses, to your subordinates, to your colleagues and to the stakeholders. All that gave me sense to understand I have leadership and influencer skills.