It feels like yesterday that I was starting my fellowship journey, but I'm finishing up my first year. The fellowship has been a roller coaster of learnings, emotions, and moments that have helped me become stronger, smarter, more humble, and thoughtful. At first, the pure excitement of being awarded the fellowship solidified this feeling that "yes, I am a recognized leader in my community." I still continue to struggle with the impostor syndrome but am learning to "lean in."
I've come to realize that I am an extroverted introvert. I love interacting with people, speaking, networking, but it takes a lot of energy to do that. I find myself "turning on" and need time to reboot before the next interaction. It's in this reboot time, I've learned about the importance of self-care and reflection. Often, I find that my time with my cohort or peers is the most valuable time for my development. Because of this, I have created a "personal board of directors- PBoD." These are peers, mentors, other Executive Directors, former bosses, and a spiritual leader. When I'm handed an issue, need advice, or just a sounding board, I tap into this PBoD for guidance and advice. They genuinely care about my well-being and want to see me succeed. Which leads me to realize how I'm a mentor of so many young women in my community. Part of leadership is being able to groom the next generation of young rising stars. It's being able to spot talent, hone it, and have a succession plan. I truly enjoy uncovering talent in my circle of influence and connecting it to the right work, and watch mentees take off.
One of the most important things I have learned in my fellowship is the necessity of self-care. Google self-care and you learn, "Self care is care provided “for you, by you.” It's about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. It is taking the time to do some of the activities that nurture you. Self care is about taking proper care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others." Earlier this year, I started to feel the toll that the fellowship and my new start-up had on my personal life. I felt the imbalance of my worlds but realized that I needed to take control and bring order back into my world. I took 3 months to recenter myself, focus on my spirituality, pay attention to my physical health and spend more time with family. Those three months had a tremendous effect on me. I feel energized, not as overwhelmed and have measures put in place to sustain balance.
I've been tapping into my parenting skills to help with my leadership style. As a parent, discipline and routine have been important aspects of raising children. It teaches respect and sets expectations. Parenting also teaches me to "lead by example," which has been a critical role I've played as I model the behavior I am asking others to do. It provides accountability. Showing up on time, taking responsibility for your actions, and feeling an obligation to uphold your word by doing what you say you will, are all qualities that parents want to instill in their children. And, these qualities all transfer over to leadership skills. Just like children love praise, my employees, teammates, and allies all deserve recognition for the amazing work they are doing. I remind myself constantly to thank others, show gratitude and appreciate everyone. This builds self-confidence which translates to high-performance and results.
Another aspect of leadership that is awe-inspiring is how to have civil discourse with someone from the opposing view. How do we continue to abide by values of moderation, civility and dialogue with those that don't share the same perspective as us? Given the current political climate, the divisive policies, it is so critical to develop skills of empathy, the art of listening, and compromise in order to solve problems and move the work forward. I expect others to understand my lived experience and so need to meet them half way.
Learner is one of the top 5 signature themes according to my Strengths Finder. My leadership development is not a destination but a journey of sorts. The learner in me reminds me that I will continue to develop my leadership skills for the rest of my life. And this excites me, I have a voracious appetite to consume new information, but to constantly and consistently focus on my skill building isn't a selfish motivation, but a requirement to continue to create change for my community. I am completing my first year of my fellowship and look forward to what the next year will bring in my development. It's been a great journey and I'm excited for the next phase!