Rule #13: Laugh at Yourself, It Builds Character
Leadership is more than just having power, more than having followers, more than having control. Leadership is a concept that continues to change and continues to test individuals on how they could lead a revolution. This is most true for Leadership students who speak up and don’t back down. We’ve learned ways in how to be effective leaders and those skills will help us in our future endeavors. Effective leadership is never the person who dominates the room and dictates the actions of their followers. It’s being able to motivate a group, have them think critically of a problem, and have them execute their ideas. As MacGregor Burns states, “true leaders induce followers to act in accord with the values and the motivations of both leaders and followers. Leadership is meaningless without its connection to common purposes and collective needs within the members of society.” You cannot be a leader if you do not have individuals who believe in your message and are willing to fight with you for that common purpose. Leadership is a collaboration with constituents and other leaders not a command-and-control process disregarding others ideas.
Interestingly enough, looking back at what I defined as leadership in my application is similar to what I think now with a few modifications. I wrote that “the balance, between power and the leader’s capability to see the larger picture and assemble suitable arrangements is necessary in order to accomplish the task at hand. Furthermore, obtaining the ability to successfully and adequately perform a task or project using delegation, making the appropriate decisions, listening to others opinions, and working together as a team displays qualities of a leader.” This definition of leadership helped me as a freshman in college work with strong-minded and intelligent women in my Environmental Sustainability issue group. Our different leadership skills helped us complete our social action project which focused on reducing the pollution in the Anacostia River by repairing the riparian area and educating students. In that issue group, we were able to delegate tasks, respect each other’s opinion, hold one another accountable, and work collaboratively as a team. We each played to our strengths and rose up as leaders when the time called for it. One important concept I learned was accountability because without it, you won’t be able to trust your colleagues which can affect the integrity of the movement.
What I see as a leader now, is to motivate and encourage people to support the vision you all came up with as a community. Again, MacGregor’s vision of leadership resonates over me because it moves towards valuing everyone’s opinion and working together shifting away from the one leader, one voice structure. He states that “leadership over human beings is exercised when persons with certain motives and purposes mobilize, in competition or conflict with others, while using resources to arouse, engage, and satisfy the motives of followers. This is done to realize goals are mutually held by both leaders and followers because leadership is inseparable from followers’ needs and goals.” This is so important because if leaders and followers have the same vision and goal they will work to find ways to achieve it in the most efficient and beneficial way for all constituents. If you are able to leave an organization and have your “followers” succeed and improve after you, then you succeeded as a leader because you delegated and gave them the autonomy to succeed and fail which helped them become leaders in their own way. Now they can continue with your legacy and improve on it with new thoughts and ideas.
The Leadership program has helped me grow in a way that allows me to negotiate, defend my opinions, and be comfortable in my leadership strengths. It has helped me grow into a more confident individual because of the skills learned in this program. I know for a fact that my whole college experience would have been completely different if it weren’t for the Leadership Program and not for the better. I would not have gotten to where I am today if it wasn’t for the support, friendships, and challenges faced in this program. If it wasn’t for my experience in my first year issue group I wouldn’t have gotten the job at the Department of Justice. The skills of working in a team, writing policy memos, grant applications, and managing school and leadership were skills they valued in a worker. My whole trajectory in college was shaped by the Leadership Program and working at the DOJ because they both put me in the path of advocating for the disadvantaged communities. Working at the federal government can be defined as stable and prestigious; however, I realized that I want to work with communities of color and writing policy that will actually make a difference for them. I want to be able to motivate and encourage these communities that they can also make a difference regardless of the obstacles they face.
We’ve learned about transformational leadership which has been the theme of what I’ve come to learn these four years in leadership. The best type of leader is when they are able to engage with others in a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality because people are coming together for one purpose. Through this program I have developed as a transformational and authentic leader because those are the qualities and concepts that I’ve learned as effective leadership. Completing two social action projects, being coordinator for steering committee, and being a sophomore TA has helped me become an adaptive leader because being able to foresee a problem and handle a crisis with ease and collectiveness is a skill that is crucial but is only made stronger by different experiences.
I’ve learned to laugh at myself in this program for my mistakes and goofiness and that has been what kept me sane through college. One assignment that I remember from my sophomore year was creating my own Tao te Ching in which I created rules that I abide by as a leader and person. My favorite one is “Laugh at yourself, it builds character” and I include leadership in this concept of character because at times when there is stress and anxiety laughter is able to relieve that intensity and clear your judgement. Laughing is something I always did in issue group, steering committee, TA meetings, and in class. My best memories of college are laughing with others, at myself and enjoying myself in Leadership. My philosophy is that a leader should always be able to laugh at themselves because it makes them see their limits and weaknesses as a person, understand them and improve on them for the future.
Although I learned about leadership in and out of the classroom these four years, I will never stop learning to be an effective leader. Now that I have a certificate in Leadership Studies, I am knowledgeable on the different theories on how to act in the workplace, how to handle certain crises, how to motivate people and see the value of strong leadership skills. The experiences and moments throughout my life makes me a stronger leader because I will constantly be learning and developing as a person and this all started because of the Leadership Program.