Coming into this program I thought being a leader meant being the loudest voice in the room and the most confident person. However, after throughout my four years in the leadership program I recognized that to be an effective leader means gaining the trust of those around you and being open and respectful of what they have to say so as to be effective in your role as a representative of where you work and the people it directly and indirectly effects.
Throughout my four years I have been able to hold many positions such as Diversity and Inclusion Co-Coordinator and Second-Year TA for the SPA leadership program, peer tutor at the AU Writing Center and intern at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice as well as my local State Representative Michael S. Day. In each of these positions I was able to perform my leadership skills that I learned from the program as well as learn from those experiences in growing my leadership portfolio. In each of these roles, I have had to work collaboratively with people I know and those I do not. Each role allowed me to successfully work collaboratively given my friendly nature and emphasis on strong and effective communication between all parties involved so as to know what was expected of us and what each person was responsible for. In each role, I grew and learned the essence of successful leadership skills which then allowed me to build my theoretical and practical knowledge about leadership. This varied from recognizing my shortcomings and admitting to myself and others where I messed up so as to gain more trust but also to learn from those experiences and grow.
Coming into this program I never recognized or understood how leadership was a process and not a position. However, after going through freshman year’s group social action project and benefiting from so many roles both on campus and off, I realized that leaders only do well if the team behind them does well. Meaning, a leader is only as good as their team is. So often, leaders and leadership are viewed as a one man mission. However, after many case studies and personal experiences, I learned that leadership is based on groups of people coming together and supporting their leaders’ vision, while also pushing back in order to create the best solution possible.
During my four years at AU I took advantage of any and all opportunities that were offered to me. Rarely saying no allowed me to get exposure to different opportunities that would then teach me about myself as a leader but also view leadership introspectively so as to understand it in a more separated way to then understand it holistically. Seeing both good and bad leaders and leadership practices in these various opportunities, allowed me to take note of what to do and what not to do. Overall, I am grateful for AU and all that they allowed me to experience and learn. Without the leadership program, I would not have learned as much about myself as I did. And with that, would not have the tangible skills, I know have, to take with me into the working world.
The School of Public Affairs Leadership Program is an exclusive program designed to teach students in and out of the classroom the different styles of leadership, and how those translate into skills in the workplace. As a result of the program and all that it has provided me, I have been able to learn about effective communication and leadership strategies to help me as an individual as well as a member of a team. This program opened my eyes to all that leadership is and what it encompasses. Not only is leadership about being at the head of the ship, but it also has to do with handling and maintaining the team that is behind and beside the leader. Although leaders are viewed as solo actors in their accomplishments and work, leaders owe their success and work to the team that contributes to their mission.
Having gone through the program I have learned a lot, both from mishaps and successes. Having gone through this program through both a pandemic and pre-pandemic world, I was able to learn the essence of leadership and the need for it in all sectors of life. Although some view leaders as the heads of government or corporations, this program taught me that leaders are everywhere in everyday life. From grocery store workers to heads of state or government. To be a leader means to make a difference and exert change within a group of people. Although there are many things I will take from this program, I will only say one so as to not keep readers long. Something that this program taught me and I will take with me is the importance of respect and connecting with people. In this high-speed world that we live in, so many people view relationships and people as transactions that they will get something from. However, in order to make a meaningful relationship that lasts long and is respected, engaging with the person and staying connected while also utilizing the lessons they teach you is vital to success. The people that I have met through this program have all taught me things about myself but also about leadership as a whole. Although we might have differences, those differences should be embraced and acknowledged to learn from.
Below you can find my recorded elevator speech where I reflect on my four years in the SPA Leadership Program. Ranging from acknowledging my own straights to what I will bring with me from the program, this video encapsulates all that I have gained from this program, not only through the projects and lectures but also in the people I met and roles I served in. The powerpoint can also be accessed here.