Being An Authentic Leader
For me, taking the time to establish rapport and express a sincere desire to get to know colleagues is as important as the work to be done.
What is your leadership style, and what practices do you follow that have helped you to grow into a better leader over time?
Leadership, to me, is all about listening. One of the best ways I can show that I care is by listening with an open mind. In terms of strategy — listening, when done right, gives one control of the conversation redirecting the talker to the common shared goal. Ever wonder why many thought leaders from Japan, despite knowing English, often use a translator? It is to avoid a quick reaction and spend more time listening.
Introducing efficiency is an important metric for any leader. To achieve efficiency, it could be tempting to shorten social interaction and focus more on the agenda. For me, taking the time to establish rapport and express a sincere desire to get to know colleagues is as important as the work-to-be-done. Getting the small-talk right in a sincere manner can be tricky, awkward and messy. As a result, it may be tempting to shorten face time and use the “like”/“retweet” button with excess. I find it rewarding to embrace the uncertainty of human interaction and through repeated practice, make it as fluid as possible.
I make it a priority to remember the smallest details of the individuals with whom I work. For example, when I was given the assignment to advise 30+ undergraduate students I knew it would be difficult to remember all of their details. I resorted to maintaining a Google doc where I could add details about them over the years which I occasionally reviewed. This allowed every brief interaction with those students to be fulfilling and satisfying.
We do not realize that the most important word for any individual is their name. A simple practice like using people’s names helps us build rapport. Even when I order a cup of coffee at Tim Horton’s drive-up window, I always read the attendant’s name tag and thank them using their name. The genuine smile I receive back for being acknowledged gives me a sense of joy every morning.
It may be expected for a leader to know everything. I find it very liberating to admit as often as appropriate ‘I don’t know.’ Similarly, being vulnerable when investing in a relationship that may or may not work, and trusting people, is very important. I find addressing situations with statements such as “I trust you in …,” “I was wrong, you were right,” “I am sorry,” and “I am grateful” help cultivate relationships, and build trust.
What are some of the challenges you face in your leadership position?
Having a team that embodies and appreciates diversity of thought will always put us ahead. Building a team that truly represents diversity, broadly defined, is a challenge, and we always feel we can do better. For example, as innovators, our inventions should be applicable to everyone regardless of their gender, age, culture, language, and ethnicity. It is important that our team equally represent all the appropriate stakeholders to better understand the blind spots that our invention may miss.
What impact do you want to have in Rochester as a result of your leadership experience?
As we prepare students at the University of Rochester with skills in data science and Artificial Intelligence, many look to explore careers
As a leader, I always highlight the importance of work-life balance and how it positively impacts one’s quality of life.
I also hope that we will be able to continue to attract talent from outside of Rochester given our economic opportunities, cultural amenities, and excellent education.
We may, however, have to help students get started with winter sports though to truly appreciate the …umm… energetic winter of Rochester.
Ehsan Hoque is an Asaro-Biggar Family Fellow and Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Rochester. He holds a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dr. Hoque’s research focuses on computationally modeling many facets of human communication, with the goal of improving the lives of the disadvantaged, ill, and disabled. He is one of
Dr. Hoque is also the primary caregiver of his younger brother, age 19, who is nonverbal and has severe social difficulties.