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Adrienne's Leadership Journey

My journey as a continuous leader in the making

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If anyone would have asked me freshman year of college if I considered myself a leader, my response would have been an immediate “definitely not.” Throughout my life, I had never considered myself a leader in any aspect. I was always the introvert who kept to herself, never stepped out of my comfort zone, never took risks, and always was hesitant about the idea of change. However, after taking part in various experiences and in this leadership class, I now know that this perspective was all due to me looking at leadership in a different light. I always thought of leaders as the men and women who created change, the ones who weren’t afraid to take risks, to take a stand, to step out of their comfort zone and ultimately change a course of action or change the world. I always thought that to be considered a leader, you had to make a major impact in some way. However, my current perspective of leadership has shifted. I believe that leadership doesn’t have a single, concrete definition but is rather dynamic and changes based on different situations, different followers, different skills and personality sets, and different visions. Although my leadership style can alter based on different situations, I would have to say that I mostly identify as a Servant Leader because through my experiences, I am always empathetic and nurturing to my followers. I possess certain servant leader characteristics and behaviors such as listening, empathy, awareness, stewardship, and a commitment to growth in people and my community. Tying this type of leadership into my career path choice, currently I am a Health Behavior Science major with a minor in Public Health and Psychology. Rewind back to my younger days, I was the child who never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I entered college, I decided to pursue a major that combined my love for psychology and health, leading me to the position that I am in today and I couldn’t be more satisfied with my choice. For my future career and servant leadership roles, my aspirations include that I hope to inspire others, whether on an individual level or a community level, to take control of their health. I want to be able to influence the community in a positive way and help create a safe and healthy environment through programs, education, and policies for my generation and beyond. A person’s health is the most asset that they possess and I hope to help bring awareness to the health problems that our world is facing and education the world on possible solutions. Whether my career journey helps me influence the world or only leaves a lasting positive impact on a handful of people, my purpose will be fulfilled.

As a leader, I can’t highlight my strengths and experiences without giving recognition to the people in my life who have inspired me and continue to inspire me every day. There is a quote that I feel resonates with me highly. It’s a quote by Chuck Palahniuk and it says, “Nothing of me is original. I am a combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.” My life, strengths, experiences, inspirations, values, and morals as a growing leader have all been shaped by the wonderful people around me. The first person I want to recognize is my father. He is the hardest working person I know of and I admire him greatly. There are no lengths he wouldn’t take to make sure that his family is supported and safe. When I was eight years old, my mother and him both made the decision to move from their lifelong home in New York and away from our family in order to guarantee a safer and better childhood for me and my younger brother because the area that I grew up in was becoming violent. The next person I want to recognize is my mother, a woman who keeps a positive attitude through any situation and inspires me every day to keep one as well. She has always put myself and my brother first and has truly become my best friend. I know I can turn to her for anything and she is the most positive support system in my life. Next I want to recognize my grandmother as she was the biggest inspiration of servant leadership that I can think of. Throughout the years, she opened up her home to so many family members and friends who needed support or advice and I never met a woman with a heart as big as hers. She puts the needs and wants of everyone else before her own and never once complained about any situation in her life, even though she had faced many struggles. I can only hope to be half of the women she was and I hope to touch as many people’s lives as she did. Another person I want to recognize is my grandfather. I was always a very cautious child and never liked to step out of my comfort zone however my grandfather always encouraged me to do so whether I liked it or not. Whether it was trying new foods, going on adventures to new places, and just his willingness to try new things and takes risks, all of his combined efforts have influenced me as an adult and have given me a push of motivation to step out of my comfort zone and embrace change. Lastly, I want to recognize my boyfriend, as his decision to serve in the military has inspired me every day for the past 3 years. He has always been a resilient person and his willingness to serve and sacrifice his own life for the lives of other people he has never met inspires me to live for a purpose beyond myself. His service has opened my eyes and has taught me many valuable lessons about acceptance of other people’s perspectives and perseverance. Throughout my leadership journey, having the ability to be empathetic, having a great work ethic and being an over-achiever, being optimistic, putting others first, resilience, and being open to new ideas are just some of my many strengths that I owe to the people who have been beside me.

Although I feel as though all of my experiences have inspired leadership, I would say that one defining moment was when I was promoted to the Shift Lead position at my current job. After being hired at Walgreens in June of 2015, I started out as a Customer Service employee for the summer. I had excelled in my position and my managers recognized all of my hard work and potential by promoting me to a Shift Lead. At the time, I was all on board for taking the position because they were willing to work with my full-time school schedule and the hourly pay was great for a college student. Now looking back two years later, I can say that this has been one of the toughest experiences of my life and has challenged my ability to be a leader every single day. When I had started the position in September of 2015, I was given no formal training due to lack of time and other tasks being considered a priority, therefore, leaving me to learn everything on my own. Since I was and still am a full-time student and only work weekends during the school year, there was no time to train me on all of the responsibilities and leadership skills I would have to display in this position. Instead, I was thrown in to a position that I can honestly say I wasn’t ready to take on however, me being the person that I am I was determined to learn as I went along as best as I could and try to balance two very demanding roles in my life. From this job and this leadership position, I have learned how to conflict manage, coach team members, set standards and goals when I feel as though the focus is being lost, and learn how to clearly communicate with one another. Also, I have taken time to figure out everyone’s individual strengths and have use them to benefit the company, promote team work and collaboration of everyone’s ideas, learn how to be resilient when it seems as though nothing is going right, and build relationships with my coworkers, one in which they can trust and confide in me and know that I am always there to support them and help them improve and reach their goals. Referring to my team leadership qualities, I would say that the social identity that best shapes my leadership would the promotion of equality among all of my followers and the fact that everyone plays an important role in creating a team and working towards a vision. Although we all have different personalities and strengths, it’s these unique individual qualities that make up a successful team. This position has been nothing but challenging but without this challenge I wouldn’t be the leader that I am today, a leader that is still learning, growing, and pushing forward every day.

Lastly, I want to touch on one other experience that I feel has been a defining moment in my life and has shaped my leadership strengths and values. This experience refers to the fact that I am the first person in my immediate family to attend college. On my dad’s side of the family, I am the fourth oldest grandchild out of five and I am also the first grandchild to attend college. Knowing this holds such a prominent place in my heart because although I don’t take this fact into account daily, when it does cross my mind it makes me very proud and grateful because I have this opportunity that many of my family members before me didn’t have. I come from a very hard—working family and my determination and drive to succeed has always been a huge part of my life. This internal drive with no expectation of recognition for my hard work has always been one of my most prominent qualities and is what shapes my morals and values as a leader. I believe that no matter what age, race, religion, socioeconomic status, or walk of life that a person comes from, that everyone has the potential to be a leader and influence the lives of others. Each individual just needs to find out what internally motivates them to want to lead, even if in the smallest possible way. I hope that my drive to succeed influences my younger brother and that I am a leader and mentor in his eyes through my morals, values, and actions that I display daily.

If you ask me today if I consider myself a leader, I can truly say that I am one. My journey as a leader however has only begun. I have many experiences ahead of me, both positive and negative, that will only help me to grow and improve as a leader and I look forward to each one of them.

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