My Approach to Leadership

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If the past few months of my life have been about anything, they’ve been about leadership. I watched my country elect new and leaders, and worked for a person who I still maintain should’ve been one of those leaders. I was lucky enough to be one of the attaches to this wonderful iteration of the Humphrey Seminar. I read Adam Grant’s leadership book Originals. I even took a class that focused on scientific theories and empirical analysis of leadership. I spent significant amounts of time philosophizing about my favorite leaders and why I’m drawn to them.  I feel more ready to be a leader than I have at any other point in my life, but becoming a leader is not so simple.

The first thing that comes to mind for me when I say leader? Steve Yzerman. A man who will always be know Red Wings faithful as simply "the captain". (via Daily Dose Sports)

The first thing that comes to my mind when someone says leader? Steve Yzerman. A man known to Red Wings faithful like me as simply “the captain”. (via Daily Dose Sports)

I have a clear cut idea of the field I want to lead in in the future, and how to get there, but the specifics of what I want to do in that field aren’t so clear. The rough outline of my career goes something like this:

  1. Finish undergrad with flying colors
  2. Get a Law degree or Master of Public Policy from a great school
  3. Break into policy analysis, research, and legislation for a progressive think-tank or government agency
    • somewhere during steps 2-3: find the policy area I’m most passionate about
  4. Become a leader in my preferred field of policy
  5. Change the national discussion on the issue, and more importantly improve people’s lives
Me leading the way on a hike (credit to my Uncle, check out his awesome photography work on Instagram @chrisrobisonphoto )

Me leading the way on a hike (credit to my Uncle, check out his awesome photography work on Instagram @chrisrobisonphoto )

When I made my leadership presentation for class one of the suggestions I kept coming across was to clearly articulate your values. Have a personal mission statement to guide you. The statement I came up with to guide me through the aforementioned steps has three parts. Make life a little easier for those who need it most. Sympathize with all. And create opportunity.

Another of my favorite leaders: US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Powers (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Another of my favorite leaders: US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Powers (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The skills I picked up the past few months are going to be instrumental in following this roadmap and sticking to my values. I learned a lot of lessons through my work for this seminar, as well as in other ways. I learned that as a leader your relationship with every individual around you matters. You need to be able to align your interests, and you also need to show that you care. The culture a leader propagates around them is also of utmost importance. Leaders need to promote creativity and truly open discussion with criticism. Good ideas can come from anywhere, but they all need to be thoroughly discussed and analyzed. And lastly, especially with the goals I have in mind, leadership is not a one way process. Leaders need to be open to influence from everyone around them, and vice versa.