Emerging Leadership Training at KCI

By Kui Lin, PE, LEED AP, Environmental EngineerLin-Kui

I thought I unmistakably understood what it took to be a leader. You know, the hard-working, leading-by-example, persuasive, intuitive and never-back-down born leader. Not until I had my first class at KCI’s Emerging Leaders Program did I begin to ponder what it really meant to be a leader, and how I could potentially emerge as one.

This program was structured over a two-year span with bi-monthly coursework – the course schedule was just right for me. Looking back I’m really thankful that the program allowed a 2-month break between modules so I could juggle between a bazillion things I was going through at that moment (being a new dad for one). Coupled with group projects and upper management interaction, the program delivered a unique learning experience that I truly enjoyed and cherished.

Being immersed in the multi-dimensional learning environment, the first and foremost thing I learned was that while there certainly are natural born leaders, leaders can be made. Leadership is an art; nonetheless your leadership and management skills can be refined and perfected over your life long journey by training and experience. What’s more interesting – you don’t even necessarily need a title or position for folks to follow your lead. Realizing that to lead is to establish a direction and to align, motivate and inspire people helped me greatly in transforming my understanding of leadership. Thanks to the interactive training exercises throughout the program, I was able to recalibrate myself to better align with the vision of the whole KCI team. Then I became re-energized, empowered, and more eager than ever to challenge myself to emerge as a successful leader in my career.

As the program progressed, it became evident to me that team building and empowerment were central to leadership development. In a variety of team exercises during the program we were strung together, physically and/or mentally, to perform as a team. It didn’t take us long to realize that without a well-thought-out strategy, clear team communication and close team collaboration, we would have never won any given exercise. Applying what I learned from these fun-filled exercises, it didn’t take me too long to figure out in my daily work that a well-structured and well-communicated game plan is essential for smooth project execution. Some of the role-playing exercises were in fact very tricky, and for me, it was lots of fun to watch folks rolling up the sleeves and exhausting all the means to compete for a can of candy. Through all these kinds of team exercises and group projects, I could tangibly feel that a deeper bond had been formed among all of us, empowering us to be stronger, do better and go further as a whole – and I figured that was the chemistry of team building.

Another aspect of the program I truly appreciated was that it helped push me beyond my limits and break down my barriers. It wasn’t easy for me to stand in front of people and give a one minute speech. I didn’t see it inviting to stand up and pitch a wild idea to the room. I didn’t feel it comfortable to role play a tough negotiator. But I did it, with the help and encouragement from the instructor and my fellow participants. It was really a great feeling and I’m grateful that this program inspired and empowered me to take baby steps to improve my leadership as well as management skills.

Looking back, I surely did have a wonderful time and it was a truly rewarding experience. It was a great honor for me to be part of this phenomenal program at KCI. Now, since I have emerged, a new journey has begun.