The following is a narrative of my growth as a leader before transferring to university.
My first formal leadership position was as a club treasurer for our 4-H club (About 4-H) during which I budgeted, collected and disbursed money, and recorded all transactions for the year. Other than participating in leadership planning meetings and dealing with the club finances, however, I didn’t do much actual leading through this position. Any leading that I did do was informal and peer-to-peer.
My next major leadership role came through the organization Institute for Cultural Communicators. Perhaps generally recognized as a speech and debate club, ICC focuses on developing competent communicators on any type of platform. Because this organization’s headquarters was in Tennessee and their main sphere of influence on the east coast, there was no west coast chapter for us to join. Instead, my parents got together with two other families in 2009 and decided to start their own chapter.
The perfectionist and control-freak in me had to exercise patience and humility when working with my teammates, and it was worth every minute.
At first, I was only an informal leader among other students adept in leading. We took turns directing meetings and activities. Under the guidance of our parents, the seven of us challenged and encouraged each other in our various speeches, public and private.
Each year, ICC would send out a national touring intern team who would put on a long weekend of tournaments, workshops, and learning activities. By watching these older students lead and speak, we were able to follow their example within our own club. Eventually, we introduced formal leadership positions and I was chosen as the Chapter Correspondent, in charge of public relations and connecting our student speakers to public platforms. It was a great experience getting to work with my fellow leaders in organizing meetings and setting the direction for our club. The perfectionist and control-freak in me had to exercise patience and humility when working with my teammates, and it was worth every minute.
The next year — my final one as a member of our chapter — I was named as the Chapter Chair. In this capacity, I practiced impromptu speaking every week as I led our group in activities, exercised conflict management when issues arose, and developed judgement when making executive decisions that affected others. I also learned much from my fellow student leaders across the country through our monthly conference calls when we shared our success stories and the lessons we’d learned.
One of the best parts about this entire experience was the opportunity to mentor younger students in public speaking and develop their capabilities as leaders.
One of the best parts about this entire experience was the opportunity to mentor younger students in public speaking and develop their capabilities as leaders. It was amazing watching their self-confidence grow as they grew comfortable speaking in front of others and realizing that what they had to say was worth listening to. I would love to reengage with this organization post-graduation because of the growth I witnessed in myself and others.
In 2011, I started classes at my local community college where I participated in various group projects. Because it was a community college, these projects were a great introduction to inter-generational group dynamics. Followership, co-leadership, and formal leadership were all required of me, depending on the class and group. Fortunately, many of my groups worked well together and the experience was smooth and competent. But there were also several learning opportunities in dealing with different opinions and preferences. Looking back now, after completing a minor in leadership, I can identify various missed opportunities to exercise appropriate leadership responses. Those experiences, however uncomfortable at the time, came in handy as real-life examples to reference throughout my leadership minor.
During this time, I became involved in an online game called Game of War which focused heavily on teamwork and group communication within ‘alliances.’ Although I am not proud to admit to this period of life (I would play 8+ hours a day and stopped interacting with friends and family), in hindsight it taught me a lot about leadership and how I interact with others. By chance, I joined an alliance with many heavy-spenders who were determined to rule the ‘kingdom.’ I did not spend any money in the game and quickly fell to the bottom of the power list within the alliance. When many of my teammates were kicked to sister alliances for not keeping up with the big dogs, I was somehow allowed to stay. Although by far the smallest player in both age and in-game power, I was admitted to the inner circle of leadership and strategy.
Those experiences, however uncomfortable at the time, came in handy as real-life examples to reference throughout my leadership minor.
My responsibilities included recruitment and promotion management among the sister alliances as well as coordination and execution of critical operations involving up to twenty members over an online chat platform while tracking potential external threats from enemy alliances.
I learned that loyalty and dedication were my strengths. Because I was so involved, I knew peoples’ personal stories and could engage with them beyond in-game politics. These relationships ended up being the largest source of withdrawal I experienced when I eventually quit the game after nearly a year of playing. My alliance did end up conquering the kingdom and we held it for nearly two years. As silly as this example may seem, the leadership lessons I learned during that time made a bigger impact on my growth as a leader than I could ever have anticipated.
The final step in my leadership growth before transferring to university came through the director of the community theater, a talented and full-hearted woman who has spent the past 30 years dedicated to developing ‘personal integrity, respect for others and an acceptance of responsibility’ in young people throughout the county. For 8 weeks, I participated in rehearsals and performances of “Anne with an ‘E,'” telling the story of the beloved Anne of Green Gables. Throughout this experience, I was only a leader to the extent I was a role-model to the younger students. However, I learned much from the directing team.
Gail, the small-framed yet authoritative director was the most powerful mix of strict and caring I’ve yet encountered. She clearly communicated her sky-high expectations and set each person up for success. In keeping with the three organizational values mentioned above, she set the same high expectations for the leadership team and herself and held each person accountable for their own actions. When necessary, she was a sharp tongue and allowed no nonsense, yet after the time for seriousness had passed, she expressed a deep care for her students and their struggles. She was quick both to forgive and to encourage. The way she led, I was internally-motivated to do my personal best and not let her or my teammates down.
Hopefully I can get the chance to pour into others the way others poured into me.
Because of each of these formative experiences, the idea of adding a leadership minor to my accounting degree appealed to me. I hope to combine my love for people with my love for numbers throughout my career and in my volunteer roles. I get joy out of seeing young leaders blossom in confidence and competence. Hopefully I can get the chance to pour into others the way others poured into me.
That’s me, folks!