Leadership Development, Leadership Education

Leaders Connecting With Leaders

I think most people demonstrate leadership daily whether we realize it or not. Everyone takes lead at some point in society. Whether it is a mother raising her children or a father going to work to support his family, these are acts of leadership. The difference between people who realize they are leaders and people who do not see themselves as leaders makes a world of difference in the lives surrounding those people. For people who know that they are leaders, I think we can all agree that there is no moment where you realize this; it just happens.

For me, I always knew that I was a leader. I had always found myself stepping up and leading even when I was younger and I had grown up being told that I am a leader. I did however have a day when I realized that this actually makes a difference in the people that you surround. Even if you aren’t changing someones life, just being in the presence of a natural leader can change the atmosphere. I realized this the day that I listened to the 2016 Central Michigan girls soccer team speak to our Introduction to Leadership class.

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The captains of the girls soccer team came in to speak with us and automatically I connected with them. I was a captain of my high school soccer team. The difference between my soccer team and theirs was that theirs was very successful. The CMU girls team had a very good record and they owed their success in part to their captains for their leadership. My soccer team in high school was growing and very young so we weren’t as successful on the score board. I was however also a captain of my volleyball team in high school which was very successful in making it to the state semi-finals for two years. I could connect with them in this aspect as I had been on a team that really and truly didn’t need my skills on the court as much as my leadership abilities. I saw both aspects of the spectrum.

The captains of the soccer team said that in their role, they didn’t need to be controlling on the field; that’s not what the team needed. What the team needed was someone to create and maintain a positive atmosphere and relationships with each other. The captains told us that this was their biggest job, not to control the field. I found myself thinking back to my volleyball team where this was also my role. My team did not need me to tell them what to do, they needed me to encourage them and maintain a positive environment.

soccerI then began thinking to my soccer team in high school. When reflecting back, I did not see myself doing that as much as trying to help the team learn more about the game. At the time, I saw my role as making sure everyone knew what their job on the field was. Almost like a coach on the field. While I don’t think that the role I took on on this team was wrong because each team is different and needs different things from their leaders, I think that listening to the captains speak reminded me that their is also more than just a score board.

I think I did a very good job on my volleyball team as my role as captain. I gave my team the things that they needed to be successful. As a captain of my soccer team, I probably could have done more. It was important for me to help my younger teammates as much as I could on the field but I think I forgot to keep the positive fun environment. It is important as a leader to stay focused on the task at hand, but if you aren’t creating a positive atmosphere that makes people want to reach those goals then your goals become even further away from you.

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What I took away from the soccer team captains speaking is that it is important as a leader to evaluate the group/team in which you are working with and what they need from you as their leader. Sometimes people need you to just encourage and that’s it. Sometimes people need you to direct them and tell them exactly what to do and when. But a lot of the time, people need both. People need direction from their leader in what they should do but they also need encouragement in completing these tasks and goals.

After this lecture, my goal is to remember that each group, team, and individual needs different things from their leaders. In order to get the best from the people that you are leading, you need to create a relationship with them to figure out what exactly they are going to need from you in order to be the most successful. I would also like to self reflect on myself after working with a team to see if I did a good job in giving them what they need and what I could do differently to be even more successful.

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Community, Leadership Development

“…Exit a Leader”

LAS in the D was an experience that I wish everyone had the opportunity to do. LAS in the D is considered a service trip. We are supposed to go and do things that service those in Detroit. I really and truly did not feel like this was a service trip. I felt like Detroit was doing things for us. Detroit was changing me more than I was changing it.

img_1557In Detroit our first stop was at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. At Jalen Rose we were split into groups and asked to help facilitate ice breakers with the high school students. Ultimately I thought that this was going to be cheesy and awkward but it actually turned out to be some of our students’ favorite parts. We were able to learn more about the students and make connections before we even began doing any real activities. After we spent some time getting to know our students we helped facilitate and participate in some activities working on teamwork and communication. These activities were actually a challenge for me because I found myself over participating in some of the activities. I had to keep reminding myself to let the students have their turn to lead. We then did some debriefing and after just a short time with the students we said our goodbyes and hit the bus.

We then were headed off to Quicken Loans in Detroit. The difference between Jalen Rose and Quicken Loans was outrageous to me. Quicken Loans was a very big expensive building with high security and such nice facilities where just 10 minutes before at Jalen Rose there weren’t very many nice buildings and things. At Quicken Loans we had the opportunity to hear a presentation from the Vice President¬† of Quicken Loans. He told us of the history and what Quicken Loans stands for and all of the different things that Quicken Loans is doing for Detroit. This was an absolutely amazing and eye opening experience. For the rest of the night we had the opportunity to hangout at the Detroit Institute of the Arts and spend the night and learn about the history of the Detroit Outdoor Adventure Center.

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In the morning, we woke up and packed out bags for Cass. Cass is a community organization which helps the homeless get back on their feet. They have kitchens to feed the homeless; donation centers of food, clothes, and housing items, for the homeless; and have a shop where they make rugs out of tires that have been dumped on the street that they sell to make money for the organization. The really cool thing about Cass is that they hire mostly the homeless people that they serve. They give the homeless¬† that second chance because most other companies won’t. Cass also has apartments that they rent out to their employees once they get enough money from working. Ultimately Cass takes people from the lowest of lows and slowly helps them to rebuild their own lives. Nothing is just handed to them but they are given the chance to earn the job and earn the apartment. Cass has many employees that are able to build a resume from working at Cass to help them get out into the workforce and get better paying jobs. This really touched me because nobody ever talks about all of these organizations that are doing amazing things and doing so much to rebuild Detroit and help the people become functioning members of the community. Bringing light to these organizations is so important in making Detroit the city that it deserves to be. LAS volunteered at Cass with these workers who were able to tell us their own stories of what Cass has done for them and I think that if everyone had that opportunity, Detroit would be so different in the eyes of those who have no idea what it really is.

In Detroit we had the opportunity to facilitate leadership activities at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, tour and learn about Quicken Loans, roam through the Detroit Institute of the Arts, stay at the Detroit Outdoor Adventure Center, and then spend our morning volunteering for Cass. With so many different opportunities to learn and grow, I find myself stuck on one moment of our trip.

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Ya know those moments in chick-flicks where the girl has the realization that she loves the boy and the world starts spinning and music starts playing? Yeah I had one of those moments except mine was while I was sitting on a dusty Detroit high school classroom floor and I just realized what I had known all along. In class the week before our trip we had to discuss why we did what we did. What we were passionate about. Ultimately what gets us out of bed in the morning. We then turned this into a why statement. Everyone had a different why statement because they were personal to your passions. My why statement is “Inspire others to find the beauty in everything and seek the things that make them the happiest”. The moment that I had my ‘moment’ was when I realized that I was living and preaching this all along and didn’t even realize it.

img_1598While debriefing about the activities that we had done at Jalen Rose with the students we all got to put in our advice and thoughts. I raised my hand and pointed out the fact that the thing that continuously kept the group going was their positivity. I told them that they just kept trying and having fun with it instead of getting frustrated and angry. I reminded that them we could relate this back to situations in real life and try to find the good in bad situations and have fun with the things that could frustrate us. After I was finished talking I had my moment. I realized that I was teaching students about the things that are most important to me. As someone who is so passionate about education and learning and wants to be a teacher to realize that I am sitting there teaching students about being positive and happy and all of the other things that I’m passionate about and that are important to me was so crazy. I realized that in that exact moment I was doing the things that are the most important to me.

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After the fact I realized that maybe I’d been actually instilling these thoughts and ideas in the people around me all along and didn’t even realize it. Maybe I had been living my passions this whole time before I really knew that those were the things that wake me up in the morning. Being in Detroit gave us so many opportunities to give, and while I think that I did do my part in giving back to Detroit, I think that I took so much more.

I hope to now be more aware of leaving my mark and the things that are important to me anywhere I go. Leaving a lasting mark and impact with the things that matter the most to me on the things that matter most to me was such an inspiring act and I hope to continue doing this from now on wherever I go.

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Leadership Development, Leadership Training

Mentor/Mentee Retreat

As a freshman in college, there are many things to look forward to in the first weeks of school. As a Leadership Advancement Scholar, there are even more things to look forward to in your first few weeks of school and there is one thing that us Freshman talk about for weeks… Mentor/Mentee Retreat.

One of the really special things about LAS is the Mentor/Mentee pairings that you receive throughout your college career. When you get accepted into LAS as a senior in high school, there is a process set up so that every incoming freshman receives a mentor throughout your college career. As a sophomore, you will receive your own mentee to help guide through their years here at CMU. This is one of the most fun parts of LAS.

Within the first few weeks of being at CMU, the freshman and sophomore mentor/mentee pairs go on a retreat weekend to Eagle Village to get to know their mentor/mentee and learn how to work with and support each other. This experience is something that I know I will never forget and I’m so excited to take my mentee to next year.

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My mentor is Morgan Clark. Morgan and I are a special duo because we are pretty much a hot mess all of the time. I actually had the opportunity to hangout and get to know Morgan before the retreat which made my experience so much more fun because I was already comfortable with and loved Morgan. We discovered before retreat that we have awful luck and are both physically incapable of doing anything remotely athletic so we knew that retreat would be a struggle. The best part is that we were excited to do it anyways.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned from Morgan at retreat and simply from having her in my life it is to push yourself. Like I said before, Morgan and I knew that we would struggle on most activities at retreat. I mean if it puts it in perspective for you, Morgan and I each counted 30+ bruises and scratches on our bodies after that weekend. But our motto was that if we were going to do bad, we might as well try our hardest. So yes, if there was a way to make any activity more difficult for us, we shrugged our sholders and and said “why not” even though there are a thousand reasons that two unathletic girls should not try to be athletic.

One way that Morgan and I pushed ourselves was rock climbing. I have not been rock climbing since age 6 and at gymnastics class.. I knew that this would not be easy. But we decided to do it anyways. And to make things better, we chose to tie ourselves together while climbing. If we’re going to go down hard, why not go down trying our hardest, am I right? The best part about this was that we actually didn’t fail. Morgan and I made it all the way to the top of the wall tied together. While it wasn’t easy and there were multiple times that the words “Morgan I literally can’t do it” came out of my mouth, Morgan continued to encourage me and help me figure out a way I could do it.

img_0030The next thing that we did that I’m still not quite sure how was “the wall”. The wall was an activity that we did with other mentor/mentee pairs where we have to get everyone over a giant wall using just our teammates. This may sound easy but let me tell ya…. no. While at this point Morgan and I had already said we don’t care what it is that we’re faced with this weekend, we’re trying everything, I really really did not think this one was going to happen. And to my surprise with these doubtful thoughts rolling through my head, Morgan volunteers to go first. This is a shining of example of where Morgan has taught me to step out of my comfort zone. Morgan knew how difficult this activity was in general but then she stepped out of her comfort zone and pushed herself to go first.

So if you ask me about my absolute most memorable moment from mentor mentee retreat, it would be the high ropes course. Morgan and I were both to say, at the least, scared as Hell. We tried to make jokes about it and laugh it out but lets be honest, nobody enjoys dangling in the air on cords trying to walk across thin ropes. So what did Morgan and I do? Well… we said we are already freaking out so why not just go all out and blindfold ourselves in the air too. Everyone told us how ridiculous we looked and how loud our screams were when we would fall because we could not see anything. We were also told good job for pushing ourselves to do things that we aren’t comfortable doing. I am extremely confident in saying that I would never have done that without Morgan and I’m so happy that we did. While there were times when being able to see would have helped us a lot, completing an obstacle successfully without seeing, I felt so accomplished doing something I never would have thought I could.

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One thing that Morgan and I tried that we didn’t necessarily excel in but I give us points for trying was the ladder in the high ropes course. The ladder was just a bunch of 4 by 4 pieces of wood hanging from cables in a ladder that dangled and swung from the ceiling. perfect-picWe saw it and, again, shrugged our shoulders and thought “why not”. There were 8 bars on this ladder from floor to ceiling. We made it to the fourth and while it was physically draining, our goal when starting was just to make it to the third bar. We really did almost give up. I mean really we sat on the third bar for twenty minutes contemplating attempting the next level. We then spent 30 minutes trying to get to the fourth. Then, when we decided that we had already exceeded our goals and wanted to go down, Morgan fell on the wrong side of the ladder and there was no way for us to get down except do it all over again so that her cord was on the right side of the ladder to be able to get down. Literally writing this blog right now I am laughing because we were so amused by the fact that we had to do it all over again that we just laughed for 10 minutes. We barely made it to the 4th level the first time.. how were we going to do it again.. Honestly this was a disaster and took way longer than it should have, but we did it. This taught me that when things go wrong, you laugh about it, and you pick yourself up and keep going. Although I think this ladder was where all 30+ bruises of ours came from and we were sore for the week following, this was the most fun part of mentor/mentee retreat.

I can honestly say that this was a weekend that I will never forget and I think that without this to start off my freshman year, I would not have had the same experience this first semester. I would not have pushed myself socially, academically, and physically in the ways that I have had I not learned from Morgan during the mentor/mentee retreat that I can literally do anything if I try.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” -Wayne Gretzky

 

Leadership Development, Leadership Education

Leadership Safari; Novices Ready to Learn

Novices; plural of novice- someone who is just beginning to do something; someone who is not yet a full member of a community. Synonyms: learner, beginner.

Leadership Safari is a four day program at the beginning of the year for incoming freshmen at Central Michigan University. At Leadership Safari, students have the opportunity to learn about the different aspects of leadership, how leadership is portrayed throughout campus at CMU, and to branch out of their comfort zone to new relationships and experiences. There is no other freshmen orientation that can even be compared to Leadership Safari.

At Leadership Safari, the participants were all broken into small groups of about ten participants and one student safari guide on the very first night. I did not know anyone in my group of black leopards, and I had no clue that I would spend the next four days learning about what kind of experience we were going to get here at CMU through tears, laughter, and anger. I had gone to countless leadership conferences in the past, by this time I thought I was a pro and had done all there was to do at a leadership conference, but I had no idea how all of the things that Safari has to offer can make such a huge impact on someone.

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Coming into this, we were all novices. We were new. Whether you had never attended a leadership conference, never been away from your parents for that long, or were just a new student at CMU this was a new experience for everyone. The truth is, I don’t think anyone came into this expecting what they got out.

Between talking about extremely personal topics with practically strangers, crying to slam poetry, and activities that show you who you really are, this week is hard. This week is exhausting. This week is uncomfortable. This week is sad. This week is happy. This week is only described in one word as “Safari”.

The toughest thing for me during this week was being pushed outside of my comfort zone. I try to hide it because I know that it is not a strength of mine, but I am very shy. I wouldn’t say I don’t like meeting new people or trying new things, but they scare me. Like I said, Safari is full of new things and new people. There is not one activity that you do where you don’t either try a new thing or meet a new person. So having to be out of my comfort zone this entire week was hard for me. I recognized this right away. I recognized within the first hour of Safari that this was going to be a challenge, so in everything that I did, I tried to figure out ways that I could push myself as far as I possibly could.

Recognizing ways that you can push yourself and others around you to be better is one of the most import parts of leadership. By being able to see your own strengths and weaknesses, you are able to act upon them to utilize your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses. Safari was an amazing way to practice the skill of self evaluation and stepping out of your comfort zone because we were constantly doing things to push us to our highest potential.

Leadership Safari opened my eyes to the fact that there is always more to be learned. There is always more to benefit from. There is always more to do. Like I said, the number of leadership conferences I have attended in my years is probably close to record breaking (sorry I’m dramatic, I know). So coming into Safari, I had done a lot of the activities we did. I had heard almost anything that the speakers said somewhere, sometime before; but there was something different about hearing it in a place where everything and everyone is new. There is something to be said about an atmosphere where you are surrounded by people who are there because they want to make a difference. Being in a place like that makes you see things differently. It’s hard to explain, but you realize that there are so many things that are so much bigger than yourself and you start to hear things a little bit differently and start to see things through different eyes. Safari showed that no matter how many times you hear the same speech, no matter how many times you play the same game, no matter how many times you’ve done the trust fall, you are always looking at things from a different set of eyes than you did the last time and there is always more to be taken out of these things than what you may have gotten before.

Overall, Safari is definitely one of those things where you get out what you put in. It is however an experience that is impossible to not take anything out of. I would recommend Leadership Safari to any incoming freshmen. In fact, I think I may even go back next year as a Safari Guide because I’d like to help other freshmen have an as poignant experience as I had.