"The goal of many leaders is to get people to think more highly of the leader. The goal of a great leader is to help people to think more highly of themselves."-J. Carla Nortcutt
My Leadership Philosophy
Leadership is an opportunity to support others, to empower others to take risks, and to help develop others’ self-confidence.
As a Teaching Assistant, it was my job to teach coding. Although it was not my job to develop my students’ confidence in their coding ability, I view that empowerment as a critical outcome of effective teaching and leadership. I wrote individualized comments for each of my students’ assignments: more than 850 comments for the 100 students I worked with over 4 quarters of teaching. These notes praised successes and provided personalized feedback for improvement.
I am fortunate to have had an experience where this form of leadership became so relevant to my job. As an Assistant Resident Director, I created elective opportunities for the 8 Resident Advisers I worked with to develop their skills beyond the scope of their jobs including running social media, coordinating with outside groups to plan events, and making decisions impacting the entire building.
My leadership philosophy – supporting others, empowering others to take risks, and developing others’ self-confidence – is a common thread across my recent leadership experiences, including those highlighted in this portfolio.
However, this philosophy has changed dramatically over time. I used to consider leadership through the lens of group class projects: I saw leadership as setting the direction for one’s team and doing the bulk of the team’s work. This conception of leadership as monopolizing the work and controlling the vision was affirmed by my peers in working on group projects: of course students would appreciate me if I did their work for them.
Doing work for others can be virtuous, but it is sometimes inappropriate. I had an experience with failure that re-defined my idea of leadership. In ENVIR 439: Attaining a Sustainable Society, I worked on a group assignment with the broad objective of considering responses to a particular environmental challenge of our choice.
This is a huge scope for an assignment and it was clear that creating a collective vision was important. It can be difficult to accomplish this in a team of strangers. I began the project by facilitating discussions for my team to collectively determine a vision and delegate tasks. However, I was frustrated by my team’s apparent lack of investment and our inability to make decisions. Over time, I began independently making decisions and changes for our project. At the end of the quarter, one of my team members finally let me know that they were unhappy with the way I had taken over. I found that this team member was not uninvested, they were just busy with many priorities and wished they had provided more input on the project.
Through this experience, I recognized the importance of developing consensus, providing opportunities for others, and continually requesting feedback. This failure created the opportunity for me to re-evaluate how I approach leadership and group work, pushing me towards my current leadership philosophy.