As immigrants to America, my parents have always wanted me to succeed, and along with success came the idea of being a leader. I was raised to believe that age, salary, and one’s position in a corporate environment defined one’s leadership potential. My parents’ teachings seemed reliable, because I had assumed one’s responsibilities grew as one aged. Little did I know, leadership was a quality I already possess.
As I grow older and enter into the professional world, I am reminded of a Chinese proverb:
There is an endless amount of information in this world, but it takes time for us to learn and obtain that knowledge. My internship at LeaderSpring Center helped me define what leadership means to me; it now no longer means ranking an individual based on what society views as most valuable, in this case, money. Leaders no longer have to fit into the stereotypical box, especially as I see people who look like me standing tall to lead others.
LeaderSpring Center creates various fellowships to improve the leadership skills of executive directors from different nonprofits. I have always seen leadership with a maximum limit, a place where nourishment and growth have an end, but these fellowships prove that a position in an organization does not represent a termination to education, improvement, and progress. During my three week internship, I stayed in the office to work on social media and Salesforce projects, but I was also given opportunities to go offsite to do outreach. I attended a Leader’s Circle, where executive directors of the Fellowship gathered to learn about the “scaling” of companies. The atmosphere was very welcoming; the fellows did not match my image of serious executive directors. Because LeaderSpring Center is launching the new Women of Color LeadStrong Fellowship, I also helped at an information session, where I met with strong women of color in leadership positions. Although leaders seem to be hidden in disguise and hard to find, their presence, confidence, and knowledge reveal their leadership abilities.
As I shift the focus to myself in this internship, I see how my decision to apply to Coro Exploring Leadership, a six week summer program that enhances high schoolers’ leadership skills, for a meaningful summer shows my initiative to discover my passions and inspire other youth to do the same. Sometimes, a leader is not someone who stands in front of the team and directs everyone towards one direction. I have opened my eyes to leadership as I interact with leaders both personally and professionally.
Leadership should not revolve around the so-called “leader,” but instead it should encourage the entire group to revolve around an outcome. This strategy is clearly used in my generation’s goal of achieving gun control. High schools all over the world have participated in walkouts hosted by students to raise awareness surrounding the issue of gun violence. Joined along with teachers, parents, and allies, March For Our Lives sprung into action as students marched in protest of loose gun laws, demanding gun reform. Teenagers, who were once seen as uneducated and immature, took on leadership positions. They spoke powerfully and without hesitation, marched confidently and without violence, and strategized cleverly and without confusion. The gun reform movement, although started years ago, gained attention and momentum as high schoolers took the lead and solidified the goal of limiting gun usage.
As I begin to see other youth in social media, I become confident and motivated to create a lasting impact within my own beloved community. Yes, my platform cannot consist the seven billion people on Earth, but I have learned that my influence cannot be measured quantitatively. No matter what I say, there is a definite impact. From this journey of self-discovery, I have come to the realization that leadership includes us all.