When I was younger, my dad used to tell me that I was a born leader and if I would just believe that, I’d be unstoppable. I was stubborn then, though, and didn’t listen to him. I’ve always been quiet; preferring to think things through in my head before blurting them out. I enjoy listening and watching the dynamics of situations before I insert my perspective into any meeting, gathering, and/or conversation. I think this stems from the years I spent at my grandpa’s house on the weekends, listening to my mom and her sisters talk about anything and everything. While they gossiped and cleaned my grandpa’s house, he’d always sit quietly watching TV or listening to oldies, smoking and listening, too. I always thought he knew everything; why else would he sit and listen without becoming part of the conversation? I can’t say for sure, but I think part of me wants to be seen the same way by others as I saw him. Somewhere along the way, it backfired and I started to remain quiet in certain situations out of fear. If I spoke, people would LOOK AT ME. Interesting thing about being a leader, you need to (in some capacity) be confident and able to speak aloud!
Prior to the Fellowship, I had been making strides to increase my confidence. I started doing more presentations at work, presenting at conferences, and volunteering to lead workshops for non-profits I am a part of. I knew that was something I needed to tackle in my quest to meet my goals. Going into my Fellowship, I knew that this was also something I needed to focus on. Not just public speaking but communicating in general. Communication makes the world go ‘round and good leaders are effective communicators. I’m halfway through my Fellowship, and I can see a huge difference in my ability to communicate in diverse settings. It was something I wanted to put a lot of work into during these two years and I continue to be surprised with some of these changes.
I am honestly most surprised that there are changes in my leadership that are this noticeable. I wasn’t expecting to be able to see my growth and utilize what I’m learning so quickly. It’s overwhelming, in a good way, that I can tell I’m becoming a better leader already. I’m also noticing my understanding and definition of leadership is shifting. Before, I always equated a leader with a boss or maybe a political figure. That narrow understanding probably prevented me from allowing myself to fully bloom. Thankfully, I’ve been able to see so many examples of leaders. I’m surrounded by a strong group of friends, all of them being leaders in different ways. A leader isn’t defined by a job title or a degree (although those things can help!), but so many other things that I still don’t have a full grasp on. Each day of the Fellowship, helps me get closer to figuring it out and I cannot believe that I get this amazing opportunity. It has positively impacted so many parts of my world, and during this uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 it has really allowed me to stretch my leadership muscles in ways that wouldn’t have been possible before.