Something a lot of people wouldn’t know about me is that I’m a bit of a “self-help” junkie. In order to fully embrace the self-help world one must possess the ability to reflect on the parts of themselves that aren’t so perfect. As a recovering perfectionist this has been a constant struggle for me. Cultivating this ability of reflection has been immeasurably aided by this fellowship with Future Leaders in Action. I would define the primary goal and outcome of a Future Leaders in Action fellowship as being growth through reflection. From the first day of our fellowship we have been pushed not only to reflect on ourselves, but on the world. And to share those reflections and how we might use them for positive change. One of the ways we have done this is through reflection on our strengths.
Future Leaders in Action exposed me to a different kind of leadership than I was used to seeing in the world. And through a three month reflective journey I was able to become a different kind of leader too.
During the fellowship retreat we took the Clifton Strengths Finder test. Kirsten encouraged us to consider our identified strengths and how leaning into them might help us conquer our fellowship projects. I had never really considered what my strengths were before. What I had always thought about is what other people might like to see from me, or how other people might solve a problem. So I made a fellowship plan according to what I thought would be the “ideal.” I thought about what I wanted to be rather than what I actually was. Spoiler: this did not work for me.
When I went to implement this “ideal” plan I met a lot of roadblocks and was forced to realize this first plan wasn’t going to work. I had a choice to make: keep trying to make the first plan work with sheer force of will, or, reassess and start over.
I know a lost cause when I see one so I decided to reevaluate and start over. I decided to lean into my strengths and use self reflection as a way to move forward. These are the steps I took to get there:
Recognize and accept failure.
Within the first three weeks of my fellowship I had already failed. Failure is a terrifying thing to accept because when you do you’re opening yourself up to an abyss of “well what do I do now?” But if I hadn’t accepted this failure I never would have found another plan that was going to work.
Embrace the vulnerability of relying on my strengths.
The scary part about relying on your strengths is that they might still not lead to success. And that blow is far more crushing than when you’re relying on a sort of armor of the “ideal.” But the fact of the matter is, while you still might now succeed if you rely on your strengths--you will NEVER succeed if you don’t.
Take a chance on myself.
I had to make the jump and give myself, my true self, not the “ideal” self I had created, a chance.
During our retreat we defined what leaders are. I think if I could go back, based on what I know now, I would add that leaders are “willing to take chances,” “willing to admit failure,” and “willing to be vulnerable,” none of which I would have traditionally thought made someone a leader. Future Leaders in Action exposed me to a different kind of leadership than I was used to seeing in the world. And through a three month reflective journey I was able to become a different kind of leader too.