“I’m a student of leadership.”
My fingers stop typing, and I look up at the presenter. I’m sitting in a leadership training, and before me stands a well-established professional woman. She is a credentialed, self-employed business woman who facilitates leadership trainings to countless teams and individuals, all of whom are eager to glean new skills and insights from her expertise. She is the kind of person twenty-somethings like me often drool over and hope we, too, will someday be so successful, so striking, and so put-together.
And yet, this woman still refers to herself as a student of leadership. This strikes me. I admire the concept of a lifelong learner, but I had never seen someone in the business of leadership development embrace this identity so fully. As a student, it seems she never crosses learn, discover, and revise ideas off her to-do list. She may teach people about leadership, but there is something about her that isn’t finished forming yet.
Hearing her say this fills me with energy.
When I came to El Pomar as a 1st Year Fellow in 2014, I had a vague inkling about what I wanted to do with my future. Throughout my year and a half at the Foundation, I’ve day dreamed about different career possibilities: hopscotching my way from legislative intern to politician, a career in law, living and working abroad, graduate school, consulting, marketing, working in organizational performance and development, joining the armed forces…the list goes on. I’ve looked into what feels like a thousand job opportunities and career paths. I joke with my parents that my career aspirations seem to come and go like flavors of the month at an ice cream store.
However, the idea of being a student of leadership sparked something in me. It suggested making a career out of studying leadership and helping to unlock other people’s leadership potential is a viable option.
Before coming to El Pomar, I often shied away from leadership opportunities. I figured it was someone else’s job – and one I didn’t want. Better to get out of the way and not trip the real leader up when they took center stage. In my time at El Pomar, I’ve realized that for me, leadership is more than the act of taking charge for all to see. Leadership is a discipline, a spiritual journey, a practice, and a process of self-discovery. It’s about trial and error, discovering and rediscovering values as I grow and change. Leadership is simultaneously about the self and the rest of the world, and I draw energy from creating situations where people can discover their own leadership and learn to lead to their full potential.
After a year and half of exploring, I still find myself unsure of a clear career path. Uncertainty usually makes me feel anxious. But for now, I’m excited to have a better grasp on what gives me joy and energy.
I’m a student of leadership.