King Faisal University
King Faisal University (KFU), based in Saudi Arabia and inaugurated by the late King Faisal Bin Abdulaziz, was founded in 1975 (1395H) with the main campus situated in the city of Hofuf in Al-Ahsa. KFU is not only one of the oldest, but it also boasts as an admirable higher education and research institution in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The university offers various programs including undergraduate and postgraduate programs. Additionally, the institution has research centers and e-Learning as well as distance education. The university offers a large genre of specialties adding up to 86 academic programs. Everyone is encouraged to exhibit action-oriented leadership in whatever capacity they hold at the university. With this information, my interview with Aziz, one of the faculty staff members, began.
My interview with Aziz took place on 30th March 2017 at his office in the university. The interview covered many things including his academic background, leadership experiences, leadership approaches, challenges he has encountered in leadership, and his general views regarding leadership.
Currently, Aziz holds the rank of Assistant Professor, and his administrative title is Program Head in the Nursing Department, College of Applied Medical Sciences. While he has been working in KFU for the past three years, he has served as the Head of Nursing program for one and a half years.
Under the leadership of Aziz, the Nursing department has a vision and mission. The Department is dedicated to ensuring that the mission and vision are executed in line with the objectives set by the university. According to Aziz, the vision of the department is "Leadership in Education and Scientific Research in the Field of Applied Medical Sciences."
As a leader in the department, Aziz communicates his vision to the faculty subordinate staff as well as the teaching staff. Firstly, he ensures that all the staff members from the junior up to the executive level understand and carry out the mission and the vision of the department in line with the objectives set by the university. They are expected to carry out the mission and vision in their way of life as well as the manner in which they work within KFU. As a champion of good leadership, the top leadership in the university is led by example and none of them is authoritative. Everyone is a true leader in their chosen field.
As a departmental chair, Aziz had a valuable learning experience. To him, the most valuable experience was the “substantial amount of wisdom” he got while working as the head of the department. There are many instances that he was able to maximize his skills in many ways. One of these skills is “flexibility” wherein the circumstances in his workplace did not let him stop doing what it was to benefit the students, faculty, and the department as a whole with whatever adversities that the department faces. He also asserted that it takes a lot of courage and wisdom to handle criticisms, negativity, or unpredictable circumstances. In spite of everything, however, he remained optimistic and focused on his goals for the benefit of all. He also pointed out that it is not easy to be judged by people for something that does not reflect what is in someone’s mind and heart, or as some may say, the so-called “failed meeting of the hearts and minds.” However, since he was in a managerial position, he believes that emotional intelligence is very important to be able to stand and achieve long-term goals. Aziz believes that being positive means also doing one’s best to influence and inspire others as much as one can. In this responsibility, he was also able to manage by doing the simplest tasks such as taking minutes of meetings, photocopying exams, and complex tasks such as doing department’s reports based on the leadership structure in the department that embrace shared governance.
Ascending to his current position can be characterized by surprises and challenges. He was surprised that he was able to be appointed despite his young age. He was excited to become the departmental head. On challenges, he pointed out that being appointed to the role to handle people who are more experienced and older than him was one of the biggest challenges that he faced. Aziz makes the best use of all the experiences he has constructively and for him to learn from his mistakes. Having the courage to accept his shortcomings and also to be humble enough to move on takes a lot of heart and inspiration.
Conflict management is a requirement for every leader. In his current position, Aziz pointed out that he handles conflict management by creating positive workplace environment for every faculty and staff member. To him, communication is a very important key element. He said that everyone in the department ought to be accommodative enough to let the other side do what they want to do provided they are timely and concurred with the mission and vision of the workplace. Another thing he added is collaboration among faculty and staff members where ideas are contributed by multiple people in the department or “shared governance.” This strategy has been useful in finding a creative solution for everyone. In the department, he also said that diplomacy is very important when one is dealing with his subordinates. He contends that is the best way to settle disputes amicably, keep negative people at bay.
When it comes to the issue of staff motivation, Aziz does it by communicating constantly with them including asking the problems they are facing and the solutions they are thinking about, letting them feel that they are important part of the team, leading them by example, empowering them and delegating tasks to them, offering opportunities for their advancement, and providing them with incentives that nourish their intrinsic needs for motivation. He also said that it helps a lot that sometimes one needs to go down to their level and share his stories on how he achieved the position. According to Aziz, telling them that he also came from the ranks as they are will give further inspiration for them to do their job religiously and passionately.
As a chair of the department and a transformational leader, Aziz believes in meaningful reforms. He said that the faculty members depend on him in many ways considering their current situation. Though sometimes he thinks that he can only do so much, but often he has a helping hand should a need arise. Aziz believes in offering a genuine helping hand since it is his personality to help whoever is in need of his hand.
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