What is leadership and who can practice it? And, are leaders born or made?

17 March 2022

Distance Learning MBA* participant Khaled Salah reflects on what he has learnt about leadership during the programme so far. 

In 1997 I started practicing Volleyball professionally and ever since then I have always been impressed by the leadership style of the coaches and captains. Why are they inspiring? How do they practice leadership? Then after pursing a technical master’s degree in mechanical engineering, where we usually come with a definition for a problem and then provide evidence to solve the problem, I started to question what the definition of leadership is.

In 2021 I embarked on my Distance Learning MBA in parallel with a transition of career and team change. The first module was Leadership, I was looking forward to having a formative method or framework to articulate the art of practicing leadership, I would reflect my learning in three pillars.

Leading yourself

“The hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself” - Bill Georges

Leading can also translate as empowering people, as such, we are all leaders of our own life, so the question is not whether you are a leader or not but rather, how well do you lead? The module provided tactics to intentionally observe and influence your thinking, behaviours, and feelings to achieve your objectives. This requires a lot of self-awareness and self-regulation. I have been introduced to a set of tools which have helped me answer some critical questions: What is your purpose? Which leaders inspire you and why? What are the values that drive you? And, what is your legacy? The final step of all this reflection being to design a development plan to intentionally build the leader you want to be by mental, behaviour and emotional strategies.

Leading others

“You cannot do anything in business without followers, which is hard to maintain” – Robert Goffee

If you want a ‘silence moment’ in a conversation try asking, why would anyone want to be led by you? There is a lot of advice everywhere, countless books are published every year on leadership. At this stage in the module, one of my favourite takeaways was the art of “Becoming a sensor”, having the instinct to know when to show weakness or a difference is inspiring, while being able to observe signals in the environment and sense what is going around without a word being said. This stage also covered the understanding of the leadership styles, hierarchy, the social networks inside the organisation and the communication.

Leading a change

“Culture eats Strategy for breakfast” - Peter Drucker

No matter how solid or detailed your strategy is, if the people executing it don’t foster the appropriate culture, your strategy will fail. At this stage of practicing leadership, the module imposed a sense of urgency and its implications on the change context, while taking a deep reflection on the delegation, strategic leadership, and decision-making process. Another takeaway is responsible leadership, how to design an ethical organisation and practicing power.

Within three months of studying the leadership module, in a highly disruptive and formative environment, while debating with top notch students, professors and supported by the Warwick CareersPlus team and also my own self-development, I would argue that my view on leadership and practicing leadership have been transformed, whilst gaining the ability to be critical towards myself. Embarking on my MBA Journey with Warwick Business School has been one of the best development decisions I have made so far.

Find out more about our Distance Learning MBA courses here.

*Please note that the Distance Learning MBA is now titled Global Online MBA.

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