Leadership Essay, Research Paper
I can remember the moment like it was yesterday, I was standing in the parking lot of a small shopping center hugging my Dad tight and saying good bye for what would be at least four or five months. I was leaving on a journey that would be the start of a learning experience that would have a tremendous influence on the way I perceive, treat, and work with people from diverse backgrounds. After saying my good-byes, I boarded the bus bound for Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. I was going there to attend the six-week basic training course that is required for everyone entering the U.S. Air Force.
It was 3 am in the morning when I finally arrived at the base where a burly, muscular, shaved-headed man who had a very bad temper greeted roughly sixty other young males and me. We where given instructions to enter a large room where we were to fill out numerous forms dealing with our in processing. While sitting there nervously filling out the papers, I began to be aware of the people surrounding me. I realized at that time that I was part of a group that was very diverse in the sense of racial and ethnic backgrounds. Growing in up in the small town of Wellford, SC I was always surrounded by people who were very similar to me in aspects of race and religion. Most of all my friends were white, middle-class and Christian. It was in that environment I was introduced to negative feelings towards people of other races and ethnic backgrounds. In essence I had became a victim of stereo typing people based on the wrong things.
Sixty men of similar age to mine were gathered in a large room with no chairs where we all sat Indian style waiting instructions from the Training Instructor also known as a TI. Once the TI came into the room he began to explain how things would be organized and that there would be a system where everybody would have responsibility. At that time the TI looked out into the crowd of young men to lock eyes with mine and tell me that I would be the dorm chief. I later found out that job entailed the responsibility of ensuring the success of the group as a whole. This job would introduce me to a learning experience of Managing Diversity. Within my group there were individuals that were from all over the Untied States and U.S territories. There were blacks, whites, Asians, and Hispanics; there were Christians, Jews, Muslims and everything else mixed in this group. I was faced with the challenge of being part of this diverse group whose goal was to be productive and work well together as a team.
One example of how the diverse backgrounds of everyone influenced the outcome of completing a difficult task was when everyone had to get up out of bed, take a shower, shave, and make sure the dorm was in tip top shape in a time period of less than five minutes. The first day we encountered this task it was a complete nightmare. Some people would not get out bed, others were slow in the shower and there was no teamwork in completing the various tasks. I felt this problem occurred because of everyone s different personalities. The way some men reacted to others and the way everyone interacted was hindered because some would not communicate with others due to negative personality traits. Some men had barriers to the understanding ideas to how things should be done to complete the job. After time these personality traits began to merge for the better and people started to communicate with each other to come up with a solution of how to get everything done in a timely way. We began to organize the procedures of the morning task that best suited our time restraints and suited everyone s needs. We also individuals that had extraversion personalities that could motivate others to get up and get the task done. As a group we began to over come the differences in our personalities that hindered us from communicating and used the strengths of our personalities to encourage communication.
Different values were another trait that gave our group diversity. These values influenced us on what we perceived was right from wrong and how we dealt with solving a problem. I cam remember the instance when an individual had somehow managed to sneak a pack of cigarettes into our dorm. He was tempting men to smoke even though it was wrong. This was against the rules and would have jeopardized everyone if one person were to get caught. Some of us felt that he should get rid of the cigarettes and a few thought it was nothing to be concerned with. There was a clear difference in our values and what we thought should be done. After some dispute I convinced the majority of who was involved that is was in our best interest to dispose of the cigarettes due to the possible outcome. In this instance it was clear that we all had different values, but the resolution came about due to our personal ability to work out the problem. The differences that gave our group strength could also weaken us if we were not careful. Our attitudes played a significant part in the groups mentality and the pace of our progress of training when accomplishing various tasks. At first some men seemed to have poor attitudes when asked to accomplish certain task with someone of different race or religion. Many people choose to work with other of same descent. In many cases this barrier was over came when the men began to communicate and realized they had more in common than they had differences. Once everyone began to understand each other and communicate the attitude of the group changed from being negative to a positive team that got things accomplished. Some of the challenges that I encountered were the task of forming this group into a team and encouraging everyone to overcome the differences that originally separated us. When dealing with this diverse group I had to realize that many of my peers had personalities, attitudes, and values that differed from my own.
The way the system of management worked with in the training was that the TI was in charge of shaping us into team that would train over the six weeks to learn about various aspects of the Air Force. Some aspects were customs and courtesies of the military, drill, attention to detail, and mental and physical strength. Under the TI was the dorm chief. The chief was responsible for the flight when the TI was not present. The chief received orders from the TI and made sure that they were carried out. Under the Dorm chief was for element leaders that had ten to twelve airman in each element. Some of the daily task included everything from shinning shoes to ensuring that everyone had there T-shirts were folded to the exact measurements specified. One of my biggest challenges in managing the flight was to ensure everyone new their responsibilities and could work with others to achieve our goals. Even though everyone had different personalities we all shared the same goals of completing our training. Some differences were the way people had misconceptions about others and trusting one another. I learned that when a diversified group is forced to achieve a task that many will put aside their stereotypes and will allow they to get to know each other. The best thing about having a diverse group is having a wide arrange of skills and knowledge that can be used to enhance the way the group performs. In many cases there were task that had to be accomplished using small teams. Even though that there were many differences in the groups values, ethnicity, and personalities we all shared the common goals. I learned that instead of letting these differences hinder us, that they were a asset in the sense of bring a wide range of knowledge and could look a tackling problems in different ways only to come up with the best. Similar to the differences in personalities was the difference in values. The values of the members of my group my have been different.
My time in the United States Air Force has made one of the most significant impacts in my life. The experiences have received in the Air Force has taught me how to overcome difficult barriers of managing diversity. I
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