12 Lessons from my MA Leadership

Sitting in the lecture hall the very first night of the residence week that kicked off my 20-month MA Leadership program at the University of Guelph, I thought: “What will this mean to me. Will I be delivering the intro next year? What will be the focus of my research?”  Sitting in the convocation hall with classmates and lifelong friends almost two years later I thought: “Wow! So many stories in this room: People got married, babies were born, parents died, jobs were lost, promotions earned, people were ill and then, thankfully, healthy again… life went on still, we did it – together.” To me, this shift in focus is one of the major changes brought about by the MA Leadership program.

1. I moved from a focus on me, my dreams, needs, fears, etc. to deeply caring about my classmates’ journeys. Fundamentally, isn’t that what leadership is all about?

Through classes, reading and discussion my understanding of leadership changed in so many ways.

I used to think

Now I know that

2. Leadership is about the leader.  Leadership is about empowering followers.
3. Each leader has a style (autocratic, democratic  or laissez-faire).  Great leadership is situational.
4. It’s better and faster if I do it on my own. Empirically, groups arrive at better solutions and it’s important to build the skills and confidence within your team. Thank you Prof. Lynch
5. I’m no Ghandi! Servant leadership is just not my style. Leadership is all about service and empowering others. Thank you Prof. Caravaggio
6. A leader is decisive and keeps things on track to achieve the vision. A leader also challenges assumptions, includes those on the ‘fringe’ and views consultation as a sign and source of strength and value creation. Thank you Prof. Kurucz
7. Organizational change unfolds with a clear vision and a precise plan. Staff have no choice but to implement change. Change strategy must be viewed as a learning process. It must leave room for emergence. To endure, change must embrace, involve and become embedded in, the entire system and the culture. Thank you Prof. Gruman
8. Business ethics is just about treating people fairly. Ethical leaders have a moral obligation to scrutinize the social value of their product or service, the means of production as well as the ends. Sadly, we are falling woefully short of this obligation. Thank you Prof. Rock
9. Hard work and results will pave your way to the top. Understand organizational politics, influence tactics and the power of your network. You may not want to use them but you should be aware when those around you are! Thank you Prof. Mau
10. Study, study, study to learn, learn, learn. You must not miss the learning while you’re getting an education. Thank you Prof. Evans
11. We make better decisions with hard data. Leaders must understand what makes research valid and should question the assumptions behind the data. Thank you Prof. Islam

Thank you to the faculty and the staff of the College of Management and Economics. Of course, deepest thanks go to my classmates, my family and friends for their many contributions and unfailing support along this journey.

12. Turns out, it was never about me 😉

To change yourself and support those around you find out more about this life-changing program.

Published by Dominique O'Rourke

Public Affairs professional, City Councillor, MA Leadership graduate, problem solver and lifelong learner.

3 thoughts on “12 Lessons from my MA Leadership

  1. I’ve read this post a few times and left comments a few different places but never right on the post itself! As a fellow classmate who supports your nomination for speaking on behalf of our cohort, I am so deeply touched by the wisdom in these words, Dominique. They all resonate with and ring true for me. You are a gifted writer and I look forward to more more more…

    Best wishes always,

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Glo. You know, here I wrote about what I learned from our professors but I learned so much more about empathy, kindness, collaboration and offering support from classmates like you. You are one of a kind and a gift to everyone you meet. Your coachees are lucky indeed.

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