My First Leadership Challenge
I have no problem with public speaking. In fact, I enjoy the task that can crumble even the more confident leader. I have been known to convince myself that I am the smartest person in the room to shake off any nervousness and jitters. But this situation was different. I was in front of my learning team cohort members, delivering the valedictorian speech in the chapel at Seton Hall University and to my left were the instructors from the Master’s program. My mind game of being the smartest person in the room did not work in this situation. My head filled with the lessons from the past three years and the works of Kotter, Kouzes, Posner and Collins. I had a few handwritten notes in front of me, which looked like Sanskrit under the stained-glass reflections in the chapel.
Somehow, I delivered a speech. The audience laughed, cried, and provided an approving round of applause when I finished. As I left the chapel wearing Master’s hood surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues, I declared, “I am done with school.” My mentor replied to me, “that’s too bad, because you finally learned to encourage the heart.” With all the lessons delivered from Kouzes and Posner, encouraging the heart was the one which had eluded my true understanding. I had just been given the affirmation I had worked so hard to achieve from a speech that I cannot recall one word. It was this moment that I realized that my leadership journey was just beginning. Within the year I had applied for one doctoral program, the Interdisciplinary Leadership Program at Creighton University. My promise of being “done” with school was broken and I could not be happier with my decision.
My Secret is Discipline
I am not the traditional doctoral student. I have not worked in industries where self-improvement is encouraged and supported. In fact, my professional experience has taken the opposite approach by promoting big egos, competitive workplaces, and cut-throat behavior to win the next account. This environment has been at advertising agencies. Many of these organizations breed competition within their own walls as well as make decisions based on the moves of competitors. My interest in advancing my degree, and more importantly my education, has been fueled by my desire to be a more effective leader and understand what motivates my followers. I do not think I am unique, I just think that I have not come from an environment where a terminal degree is respected or desired.
I learned quickly that having a holistic view of the world has made me a better employee, colleague, and leader. I have spent my time and resources on pursuing my advanced education without any employer assistance. My key to success is discipline. I have spent weekends reading and writing instead wining and dining. I have spent lunch hours working on my laptop instead of spending the time at the coolest lunch spots, and I have taken business trips and paid for the WiFi on flights to keep up with my studies. Many have asked me how I do it all. My response is that discipline and the commitment to finishing this journey is the secret to my success.
Jesuit Values and Contemporary Thinking
I have been able to blend the Jesuit values established thousands of years ago with the contemporary thinking of Kouzes and Posner to create the leader that I am today. The deep-rooted care that the Jesuits have for the entire person has been present in my leadership style as I work to encourage the heart in my followers. A few months before I started the ILD program, I was promoted to the department head of the public relations and social media team at SBC Advertising and joined the executive management team. I created the first vision and set of values for the team inspired by many Jesuit values. These guided my team and the rebranding of our department to reflect and honor the many changes that have impacted the industry.
In 2015, I was inducted into the “40 under 40” class presented by Columbus Business First. Each honoree was asked to share a word that helps define their character. I selected magis which drives my endless search for finding more in life-both personal and professional. For me, the teachings of the Jesuits just make sense as I work tirelessly to become a better and more effective leader.
Over the course of the ILD program, I still refer to the work of Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner (2007). The same authors I studied during my Master’s curriculum. The blending of the five leadership principles with the Jesuit values point to a leadership style that honors the relationship between leaders and followers. I truly believe that a leader without the respect of his/her followers is simply a manager with a great title. Furthermore, there are leaders throughout an organization that are not always recognized by titles or large compensations. It is my responsibility to simply find these leaders and provide them with the right tools and resources to achieve their own potential.
The Final Chapter
As I get closer to the final chapter in this formal journey, I am confident that I have achieved the desired outcomes and have the tools to complete the doctoral degree. I can also confidently state that I am done with school, at least as the student, but I will continue to be a scholar of life and leadership.