Leadership and Influence

Is it being ambitious – wanting your students to achieve some form of leadership and influence? Isn’t that the main purpose of education – to train future leaders who has the vision and skills to influence others? I am not mouthing and regurgitating the “vision and mission statement” here. I am being sincere in my opinion on this matter.

It is true, for the training of the future architect, they need to be assertive, clear and directional in their work culture. They need to take anything thrown to them and dig-in and work out on how to do the job.

Was I ever like that? Well, I was trained at North London Polytechnic before I worked in KL. It was a start-up architectural firm at that time and fresh graduates were dispensable. At RM2,000, we are worthless than the draftsman who were the backbone of the firm. I was not really into it and I doubted my ability especially when it came to drawing perspectives. I could have bluffed it and talked more like some of the young architects there, but I was so concern about my lack of ability that I could not take off.

Often fresh graduates may be saddled with their lack of ability in one area and if they have their wits about them, charm their bosses with their other abilities. For a non-start up architectural firm or an established firm, they give you time because time means money and they have got some to spare, plus nowadays its the employees market what with many going to Dubai, Hong Kong and Europe, unlike those dwindling days in the early 1990s.

What’s with this ‘ability’ thing? Well, you try to pick up on as much skills as possible when you are studying at university and be very able in the job market when you start out as a fresh graduate. I asked some of my students to grab the opportunity to work in Hong Kong as my ex-student is looking for fresh graduates. But they seems reluctant as fresh graduates. I asked myself, ‘why haven’t they grabbed this chance?’, but I guess there could be many reasons why. I cannot help thinking that one of the reasons being ‘lack of ability to compete’. You don’t want to go to Hong Kong and not able to live up to expectations, and go back home feeling dejected. But where is the spirit of adventure? Where is the adrenalin rush? I would think this Hong Kong architectural firm being an established one and taking on a Malaysian would be more reasonable by giving the fresh graduate a chance to settle-in (unlike what I had experienced before with the start-up firm…)

So where does this ‘leadership and influence’ figure in the overall scheme of things?

I could start with saying, to be a leader, you have to have confidence in your ability and knowledge. When it says on the package ‘ Part 2 graduate from UM’, it says that the graduate is able to work whatever that is thrown at him/her. And ‘how’s that’ you may ask.

It’s simple really. A graduate who is able to work on anything that is thrown at him/her is not a graduate that relies on memorizing technical details or plot ratios but knows what to do immediately after work is given. He/she analyze the question (note here, its ‘question’ not ‘problem’), and then ask more questions from that question and form a framework of ‘whatever’ – activity, what to do, themes, work area etc etc… He/she then will link them up and prioritize what to do and what to ask further, thus eventually would make the ‘problem’ clear. He/she would then create a set of strategies and objectives of the work at hand, working in the research, details, design, planning, concepts and everything else at the same time. He/she will jot this all down in a ‘notebook’ (could be a diary, notebook with paper, Blackberry, whatever…even napkins…) and plan ahead. He/she will have the answers ready when asked rather than say nothing or be ‘blank’. Yes, the graduate is ever-ready, like an Eveready Bunny, and would go the distance when challenged. He/she is the marathon-distance runner rather than the short-sprinter. When it comes to drawing 3D images or perspectives, he/she can do that too…in this day and age (unlike my time) he/she knows what the client wants and could conceptualize and visualize well. Why and how? Because he/she could do the research quickly. He/she is adapt at catering to the client’s waffling brief because he/she knows the subject well and knows how to research well….

Soon, the confidence will build-up and then he/she will be able to influence through hard-work and good ideas. And that is when the competitive edge comes to play. Hopefully by this time, his/her possible niche and identity will come to play.

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