Over this past week, I accepted a unique fellowship opportunity at the Andrew Young Emerging Leader Summer Institute hosted by Ambassador Young and the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame. Within this fellowship, a group of about thirty HBCU students ranging from Class of 2020 to Class of 2017, all engaged with the distinguishing principles, theories, and realities of what it means to embody the qualities of leader. Qualities such as mental and physical health were characterized at the institute, as well as other detailed facets of leadership such as entrepreneurship, ethics, and servant leadership.
As an emerging leader, creating a leadership dynamic is possibly one of the most challenging yet most rewarding tasks to complete. After successfully eliciting these qualities in this engaging summer fellowship, I took some time to reflect on what leadership is and what it means to establish a firm leadership dynamic. Following this honorable endorsement by one of my personal inspirations in the field of foreign service, Ambassador Young, I wrote up this reflection of what it means to embody the qualities of a fully-realized leader.
Be Good to Yourself
Leadership is like a muscle. It is a rare skill because it requires realized leaders to be of sound body and mind to maintain a firm dynamic that is productive, reliable, and efficient. Taking your mental and physical health into account are two of the best ways to be good to yourself in the power of effective leadership. Understand the toll that certain pressures that are associated with leadership and find ways to protect your health and yourself from externalities that could hinder your success.
A great way to stay motivated towards maintaining your well-being is by knowing what drives you. I'm a firm believer in the theory that what people are passionate about is whatever they put most of their time and effort into, without additional motivation or gratification.
Find whatever it is that you are passionate about and find the appropriate opportunities that compliment your passion. Being in a position where you are motivated by doing what you love fosters a leadership dynamic that promotes a sense of self-assurance, which motivates others to do the same. In this regard, the next challenge of leadership is the willingness to serve others before serving yourself.
Embrace a Culture of Motivation
Another major facet of the leadership dynamic is being able to identify the underserved. Understandably often, the qualities of leadership get confused with the qualities of management.The significant difference between being a leader and a manager is that the manager is to organize, coordinate, and delegate as where a leader is able to challenge, inspire and motivate, this inherent focus on relationships and human interaction make the power of being a realized leader that much more valuable!
One of the most outstanding qualities of a realized leader is the presence of a service orientation that drives and influences others. Leadership is a muse that charges, those who engage, to do the things that need to be done, that no one else wants to do.Developing a service orientation is perhaps one of the most enlightening paths of becoming a realized leader.
Engaging in philanthropic work creates a fire of inspiration that motivates others to do more as well. In leadership, one has to be willing to be responsible for other people. The ability to influence others to understand, engage, and submit to your leadership is something that not many can do. Using these skills to benefit the underserved is perhaps one of the most noble ways to show gratitude for your gift and sustain trust in the face of adversity and skepticism.
Partnerships are Pertinent
As a leader, one has to be willing to stand alone while also being strategic enough to create partnerships based on foundations of trust and shared goals. Relationships are a critical factor of the leadership dynamic because they foster a richness to success that builds on the leadership capacity of not only you as leader, but the followers who contribute to the success of the shared objective.
Leadership is optimum with a team. It's about starting an idea and rallying people to get a goal or task completed. Remember that in some cases, you're only as strong as your network. The people that you choose surround yourself around are very strong indications of your success. I am a fond believer in the notion that the five people you spend the most time with are an accurate reflection of your character. In turn, everyday I am inspired, challenged and moved by my colleagues to become better.
Be sure to create teams that are complimentary to your goals. Be aware of the strengths that you and your team may have and be able to identify opportunities to highlight these skills and accomplishments. A lot of people feel like this requires everyone to know each other and their strengths. I believe that in different synergetic environments however, strengths could vary amongst the group. I would suggest taking this challenge on in a case-by-case basis and maintain a positive and intentional expectation.
Self-care, motivation, and partnerships are all great facets of the fully-realized leadership dynamic. Living intentionally is the piece that pulls everything together to develop a solid and meaningful purpose to drive your actions and others. Understand what role leadership plays in developing your legacy.
Being the person to pioneer or blaze a new trail is both rewarding and jarring, but learning to live intentionally is pertinent for leadership development. Living intentionally is laying the right foundations and creating practical steps towards achieving your mission or goal.
Living intentionally is knowing how to show up and be present. All too often we forget that showing up is not always enough. Being present is about engagement, willingness to learn, and having a level of "stick-to-it-iveness" that drives you from enduring the innate failures that come with leadership.
Understand that resilience is not always about how you may endure some storms, but always about how you recharge. With these challenges comes a reward that ultimately makes the realization of leadership that much more valuable.