Leadership Lessons

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Through the Humphrey Seminar, I’ve had the opportunity to think a lot about leadership. What makes a successful or unsuccessful leader and how I can be a leader myself. We’ve had a lot of discussions about leadership this semester and I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons.

In our first leadership assignment, the leadership movie, I learned about various leadership styles by watching the characters in Hidden Figures. We focused on analyzing two different leaders in that film, Dorothy Vaughan and Al Harrison. Dorothy was a very hands-on and goal oriented leader. She led her team of engineers by example, showing them how to work hard to keep their jobs. Al Harrison, on the other hand, had a more aggressive leadership style where he focused on meeting his goal no matter the cost. Both could be described as successful leaders. From Hidden Figures I learned that to be a successful leader, you must lead by example as well as the fact that leadership isn’t about recognition.

In our second project, we focused our leadership profile on Malala. I’m really glad we chose her as our global leader because she is so inspiring despite her age. One of the things I struggle with as a young student is have confidence in my voice and experience because I am so young. But she is was really inspirational to me because she is able to make such a impact even though she’s barely starting college. The biggest thing I learned from Malala is that leadership is not dependent on age.

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The cover of Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road

In my last leadership project I chose to read Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road. I first read this book in 2015 when it was first released and decided to reread it and focus on the leadership lessons that I could glean from her life. Gloria Steinem has been a personal and professional role model for me for many years, so I was interested to see how my view on her book would change now that I’m further into my career and eduction. The book chronicles Gloria’s life “on the road” as she traveled around the country working as, what she calls, an organizer. Gloria started small and made a difference to the people around her—one of the many reasons I admire her as a leader. Gloria’s leadership style, being present and listening, can be applied to a group of any size. She is an amazing example for how important listening is, a skill I think a lot of people with power lack. Gloria’s life and book taught me that leadership and making an impact rely on knowing the community you’re in and listening.

In the future, I hope to adopt lessons from all the leaders I’ve looked at this semester. I want to lead by example so that I can have a hands on approach when working with teams. I want to listen intently so that I understand the group I am leading. And I want to have confidence in leading so that despite my age, I can make an impact.