Leadership, while universally known, is a completely individualized concept. Growing up I have found myself to be an intentional individual; one who values deep relationships and thrives off of having my personal perspective challenged. Unknowingly, throughout my life these qualities I possess have infiltrated their way into my everyday leadership style. Through extensive self-evaluation I have discovered that the most effective way for me to guide others is to first understand them. I feel I cannot adequately lead an individual if I first do not identify their personal perspective. Expectations cannot be created until circumstances are understood, and this became evident throughout our ‘LAS in the D’ service trip. While working with students in Detroit at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, it was not hard to tell that each of us came from very different backgrounds. Without having a basis of the type of area these kids grew up in, obstacles their own city has overcome throughout their lifetime, and a general understanding of the Detroit culture, I would have not been able to relate to the ideas the students brought to the table throughout the day. Before coming to college if someone asked me to identify my personal leadership philosophy, I am certain I could not have, but now I know that mine is this; to continually invest in the people that I am leading until they learn to invest in themselves, their passions, and each other.
When I attended Spark Leadership I uncovered my leadership style to be a considerate leader, which is defined as “someone who makes sure everyone is accommodated for. They provide a sense of reassurance in difficult times, builds a loyal following through their constant support, and are skilled in maintaining a team’s harmony.” When learning this definition, it reaffirmed one of my core values; loyalty. Transitioning into college was an unnerving experience, but one of the most impactful elements on my adjustment came from my peer mentor. Loyalty is defined as ‘a strong feeling of support or allegiance’ and our relationship works because of our loyalty to one another, she made coming to college easier because of her constant encouragement and commitment toward my success. I believe that no strong bond can be built without loyalty being the basis of the relationship, and therefore I continually push myself to stay true to those who have confided in me, in hopes that they in turn will do the same. Another aspect of this definition that struck me was the idea of reassurance, reassurance is an enormous part of my personal learning style, and because of that I attempt to reassure other people’s opinions, questions, and values that they relevant and important.
With leadership comes power, and power is often paired with a connotation of demand and superiority. Rather than viewing leadership as tyranny, I view it as teamwork. To lead is not to pull people up to the top with you, it’s working alongside them to help them reach it themselves. Something I have realized over the course of my leadership development is that the leader is not the sole teacher, followers often bring to the table ideas I have never considered. I first learned this my senior year of high school when I was captain of a very young varsity girl’s tennis squad. The younger girls, while still needing guidance and support, often looked at things that had been done in the program throughout my four years and developed ideas to strengthen them. This goes along with another core value that I withhold which is flexibility, and the ability to take control when necessary, but also being comfortable with the idea of others stepping in and allowing them to develop on their own. Life is unpredictable, and an important attribute is to invest in the people, not the tactic. This way, when obstacles arise, you have made the unit strong not the strategy, ultimately making them easier to overcome. My first semester of college my business class required a thirty-minute presentation on a company we were trying to bring to the Mt. Pleasant area. We worked for weeks on the project, and when we showed up to class to present the projector wasn’t working so we were unable to use our visual aids. Despite this inconvenience, our group had spent the past four weeks building up each other’s confidence, playing off of each other’s strengths and overcoming weaknesses, therefore we were able to pull it off without the PowerPoint. This proved to me that if you are loyal and flexible with your followers, you can accomplish anything no matter what the circumstance.
The biggest takeaway from developing my personal leadership philosophy is that the leader does not create the success, and the leader doesn’t necessarily have to be the expert. The responsibility of the leader is to believe in the people so that they can believe in themselves. It is to enable others to work toward a common goal, to inspire others motivation, to reassure that failures lead to success, and to simply never give up on the those who look up to you. I have found that the deeper I divulge into the lives of my followers, the greater the unit we create. I will continually invest in the lives of others until I know that they are strong enough to invest in themselves, in hopes that one day everyone I meet realizes that they too have the capacity to lead.