Allow yourself the room to grow. When I started my fellowship journey with my first application more than two years ago, I focused on a single facet of my leadership- my role as an elected official. During the first six months of my fellowship, the reflection, coaching, and interaction with current and past fellows have given me a more profound realization of my leadership. One of the biggest lessons I learned as a new fellow was to accept the opportunity for personal growth and focus on oneself. Doing so can feel unnatural to those who are accustomed to focusing their leadership on serving others. Your fellowship is a once in a lifetime opportunity to focus on you. Accept this moment. This may feel self-centered, but your fellowship is about you. Your community will benefit from this investment in you. Give yourself what you need to enable this to happen. Don't limit yourself by what you assumed was your leadership journey, but allow for adaptive growth. Think outside the box. Take chances. You may never have such an opportunity again. Take advantage of the resources that are available to you. Not just the financial support but the community of support within the Bush Foundation and the community of prior year recipients. Knock on doors; you will be surprised which doors are open. People want to help you, and you should let them. Being a Bush Fellow is a tremendous honor. You are now and will always be part of a respected fraternity. And understand that with the privilege comes responsibility. Most of all, enjoy yourself.
For me, the divisions within my community have widened over the past four years. The efforts of my Bush Fellowship are centred on bridging these divides. One of the biggest lessons I have learned during my fellowship has been recognizing and accepting where my community is at versus where I wished them to be. A challenge is this work has been balancing the efforts to cultivate relationships among statewide leaders with the action needed locally. There is a tension that exists in my leadership around this issue that I am continuing to navigate. I believe I am viewed as to the "right" of most of my Bush and Humphrey School colleagues, whereas in Fergus Falls, I am considered by many as "way to the left". This presents challenges in presenting an authentic and consistent voice.
My understanding of authenticity as the critical component of my leadership has been a gradual recognition. Accepting that I do not have to be perfect and that I will not please everyone has allowed me the freedom to make mistakes and the ability to evaluate myself honestly. I am learning and growing in my acceptance to let go and not control all situations. I have acknowledged the liberty that comes with realizing that I may never be on a ballot again. This allows me to do what I believe is right without political considerations. I am growing more aware of the leadership opportunities this presents. I still am focused on bridging the divides in my community and our state, but I no longer view my role as mayor as the most critical factor in me doing this work. In fact, with the polluted environment of our politics, my role as mayor may get in the way of affecting the change I want to see. I remember vividly a question I was asked early in my fellowship: what is your greatest fear as a leader? I instinctively responded that my greatest fear was that one day I would regret the toll that my leadership efforts placed on my wife and children. Facing that fear has been the biggest accomplishment of my fellowship. I have found that focusing on my family, myself, and the qualities that I want to improve as a leader have provided a sense of purpose beyond a political office. I can prepare the soil for something more significant than any wins or losses I might achieve as an elected official. This has been releasing, as I acknowledge that I am not in control of the destination, but I can control how I prepare myself for the journey. I am a better leader when I am confident of who I am as a father, husband, and friend. As I continue the task at hand, I will focus on what makes me a better person and worry less about the things I cannot control and more about being prepared for those I can.