We are all involved in practices that foster personal growth; my main form of growth before college, or as I was writing about flying in a hot air balloon for my Common App essay, was through introspection. However, over the last three years in college, I have been shaped by my leadership roles and have thought about how learning what it means to be a leader can foster growth within and beyond myself.
Leadership means something different for everyone, presenting the difficulty of determining how one’s goals align with others in the organization. One of my good friends, who suffered from an eating disorder, said that leading an entire organization dedicated to advocating for mental health was like the world to her. Leading a club around her passion meant spearheading her dreams and goals. Leadership endowed a greater sense of freedom by giving her the ability to shape the direction of an organization.
Moreover, leadership for me is as much something that is driven by my passions as cultivating my team’s interests and goals with the ultimate desire of leaving a lasting impact. One example of my leadership is with a volunteer organization called Service Link, which strives to link the underserved in the community with public benefits. The nature of volunteering in a community service program meant that I was going beyond my personal space in society and wanted to make an impact on others. When I became Director of Community Sites, the additional leadership role put me in a position to direct others’ paths; a few weeks ago I organized individual coffee chats with 20 volunteers that I oversee and made them think about their experience thus far and how it could be improved moving forward. By encouraging discussion and showing that I respected their ideas, I was able to open up doors for them. In my role, I’m always thinking of new ways to engage volunteers. I think that being creative and open-minded allows me to better understand other people and see the world from others’ perspectives.
In my worldview, leadership has been an amalgam of passion, creativity, and respect for others. Being a leader forced me to analyze my own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of the organization, which enabled me to develop a better sense of reality. In this way, I think that leadership is an expression of one’s personality in pursuit of bettering his or her environment. It is important to consider the ways in which leadership has both an internal and external impact and how most things in life have two-way arrows.
Pioneered by Mounika Kanneganti | College Class of 2017