The School of Public Affairs leadership program is a program that allows students to learn leadership skills, tools, and knowledge to prepare for future leadership roles and opportunities before entering the workforce. Throughout the 4 years of college, students in the leadership program take a leadership class every year that has its lessons and themes. Once the program is completed in the students’ final year of college, the students receive a Certificate in Advanced Leadership Studies.
When I first applied to be in the leadership program, I was not sure what this would entail, but I can say that it is one of the best decisions I made before beginning my years at American University. Before taking SPA leadership classes, I had one idea of what a leader was supposed to be, tough and authoritative. The leadership program showed me that there is a lot more to leadership than what people think, which explains why becoming a successful leader is easier said than done. The leadership program taught me that there are multiple layers to becoming a successful leader and a leader who constantly grows and develops. The leadership program also taught me what successful and unsuccessful types of leadership look like, what it means to work with a team, leading a team, my leadership traits, and so much more. All of this combined ultimately has given me the confidence to enter the workforce prepared for leadership tasks that will come my way.
As I briefly mentioned earlier, we always see and hear about one perspective of a leader. When I used to think of a leader, I would think of an individual who gives orders. Through the leadership program, I learned that leadership is portrayed in many different ways and does not always have to be an authoritative figure, but a coaching transformational figure as well. A leader works with their followers and even uses feedback from them as a source to grow and reach the end goal.
The Leadership Program gave me presentation skills, lifelong friends, leadership opportunities outside of the classroom, working with others, understanding others, network opportunities, leadership skills that go far beyond just working with a team, but also skills that apply to running a successful company. Overall, the key thing I took away from this program is that leadership is a process that takes time, practice, empathy, and patience. Becoming a successful leader is much more than just a position, but a fulfilling and rewarding learning experience.
The leadership program and other leadership experiences have been the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences for me during my four years at American University. Before being accepted into the program and beginning my leadership journey, my idea of leadership and a leader was what we usually see on TV or on the news, a powerful individual who gives orders and has followers. Although a leader is powerful, it is much more than just that. Leadership is a process and a learning experience. To become a successful leader, one must learn from others, understand others, work with others and grow from experiences. There is more to leadership than just giving orders, but rather working with a team and developing new strategies that will ultimately benefit the entire team.
Throughout my leadership journey, I have grown to become more confident within myself, more determined, and more understanding. My leadership experiences allowed me to make mistakes and learn from them. In addition, they taught me life lessons that I can apply to all my future leadership experiences and future leadership roles. In addition to becoming a more aware and understanding leader, I also learned how to work and communicate with others, especially those I may disagree with. In my freshmen year in the leadership program, I was placed in a policy group with other members to come up with a solution to a policy problem we were passionate about. In this experience, we were a group of students who had just met for the first time, who had very different personalities and very different opinions. We learned to vocalize our disagreements, understand the other view and work together to find common ground and find a solution to the problem. This experience allowed me to become not only more aware of my personal challenges and what I need to work on in order to become a better leader, but it also allowed helped me understand others and become more aware of my group members’ opinions and views. This specific experience prepared me for the following years that came in my college experience and the other collaborative projects that I was a part of.
Overall, there are many components to leadership and successful leadership roles. Each leadership style and characteristic depends on the situation, the team, and the end goal. Leadership is a process that does not happen overnight and takes time and dedication. Throughout my college experience, I made an effort to become as involved as possible with leadership opportunities that were not only beneficial but also enjoyable. Two of my most rewarding leadership opportunities were my e-board position in the American University College Republicans and my 2-year internship at the Republican Governors Association. In addition to what I learned inside the leadership classroom, I learned valuable lessons in these two roles that I can take with me in my future endeavors. I learned to take initiative, to stand up for what I believe in, to give it my all in every task assigned, to communicate openly and honestly, and to stay dedicated and determined.
Without these leadership opportunities and these leadership experiences both inside and outside of the classroom, I would not be the person I am today. With everything I have learned in the program and my personal experiences, I feel prepared to enter my adulthood journey and begin to apply these lessons and skills.