I have become much more intentional about my leadership since beginning my Bush Fellowship. Two lessons stand out from over the past year and a half. The first is a lesson I learned in my classes at the Master of Public Affairs program at the Humphrey School: Balance the mission with the people. Years ago as a young leader, one of my main goals was to ensure people liked me. That’s not a bad goal per se, but I often tried to achieve it at the expense of the mission. My objective now is to ensure that staff know that I care about them and am invested in their success. I show this by not hiding my genuine curiosity about them and how they are doing/what they need. The personal relationships you have can be a source of trust and leadership capital for when you need to prioritize the mission and difficult or unpleasant tasks.
The second lesson comes from a fellow commander at the Police Department who told me you don’t get to choose what you lead, but you can decide how you lead. He had relayed this advice to my supervisor at the time, who, unbeknownst to me, had not wanted to come to my unit. My supervisor took the advice to heart and was a phenomenal leader, solving problems that had festered for some time. Never once did his demeanor or behavior indicate that he didn’t want the job. My takeaway is that every position needs leadership and is an opportunity to demonstrate and practice leadership.
In my current position, which I have been in for about four months, I am still learning and intentionally evaluating my own performance. I am trying to figure out soon after incidents what I could have done better or differently. I am also making sure that when someone brings me a problem I work to solve it, even if it is the responsibility of another agency and I need to repeatedly ask them to take care of it.
For self-care, my biggest lesson is to say no when needed. It’s easy to say yes to things for any number of reasons: it seems interesting, you want to help someone out, it’s easier than saying no. But I my time is limited and I need to save for where I can have the most impact and get the most joy. My second lesson is to be sure to make space for leisure and joy. No matter how much I accomplish on a to-do list, there will always be more things waiting for me, so I make sure I make time for activities that restore me. For me that’s usually cooking, my wood- and metal-working hobbies, biking, and spending time with the family.