Today in class we began to talk about authentic leadership, and what that means. At the beginning of class, we were asked what we thought it meant. I wrote:
Authentic leadership is where the leader is transparent. They say what they mean and mean what they say. They truly believe in themselves and in others. They have the same expectations of everyone and of themselves, they are consistent. I believe it is the way in which someone leads and expresses their beliefs. These leaders readily show their emotions so that their followers know when they are excited, happy, or sad and angry. They are true to themselves and true to the group.
After discussing it with the class and learning more about different definitions, I added:
An authentic leader is someone who not only knows a lot about themselves, but about the others that they work with. They know what needs to be done based on the environment that they work in. They practice what they preach, but know when is a good time to share their beliefs and when to hold off. They are confident and know themselves and how they are as a person and their identity. They are willing to share themselves, or parts of themselves.
We then began to speak about the moments that changed us and affected how we began to lead. Our professor called them “Trigger moments”. The moments where you look back and know that the moment changed how you view things and how you came to hold your morals and beliefs. As an authentic leader, it is important to recognize those moments because we need to know what we believe, how we got here, and what our experiences taught us.
Well. I’m not usually one for opening myself up, but I know that this is important. So here we go!
Two trigger moments for my life actually happened before I was born:
1. My mother’s sister, my aunt, was killed in a car accident at the age of nineteen. The person who was driving the car fell asleep, and they rolled off the road and into a tree. He survived…she did not. My mom doesn’t talk about it very often but over time I’ve gathered that it was one of the hardest things she and her family ever had to go through, and I’m sure it changed them.
2. My father was picked on a lot. He was a heavier child growing up and I guess people were mean to him. I don’t really know the details because he’s never shared them, but that’s all I know.
As a result of their experiences, they brought me up kind of sheltered. I was not allowed to do many things growing up that my peers were. My father refused to let me watch Saturday morning cartoons unless they had some sort of educational value. When I turned sixteen, I was not allowed to get a job, even though I wanted one. I had a stricter curfew than my friends, and was not allowed to drive on the highway even after I got my license. My latter high school years were spent fighting for freedom, any ounce that I could get. When it came time for me to look into colleges, I was looking for a place that would feel home the second that I stepped on it. None of the state schools nearby had that feel for me. I was looking into elementary ed programs (partially because my parents wanted me to) and wanted a good program…but also somewhere that felt right. Finally we traveled to a school about 45 minutes away…and I fell in love. It was the nicest school that I had been to and luckily had a great program. However, it was out of state, which meant that it would be a lot more expensive. My parents were not sure if they would be able to swing it.
And then I got an opportunity for one of my state schools. I would be able to have a full scholarship-minus room and board. I would have to live at home. The school was only 30 minutes away. My parents, especially my father, were gun-ho about it. I, however, was not. At that time I was near the breaking point at my household. I needed to get out and experience new things, and I felt that living at home would hinder me. But all my parents could think about was the money. My father even told me that the scholarship was an answer to his prayer, and that by not taking it I would be taking the answer away. That crushed me. It was the hardest decision I had ever had to make at that point in my life, but my parents agreed to let me go for one year, see how finances were, and then determine if I could stay. When I moved in, I was so happy and I wasn’t even homesick. I had finally gained the freedom I wanted, and I learned so much about myself and what kind of person I wanted to become that year. That was my first trigger point.
Which then brings me to my next one. I had become an RA my second year at school to ensure that I would be able to continue to go to school (my father was the one who knew about RAs and suggested it to me…and so I was kind of forced into it but I’m actually glad for that one). I met so many new and different people and loved helping people. It was what I had loved about being a teacher-getting to help kids and seeing that look of “Ah-ha!” on their faces. I did face a lot of different struggles, but managed to do well in my job and in my schoolwork. During my junior year, I had heard about a group called Future Leaders in Student Affairs, which would be exploring the different options in the field. I thought that maybe I could continue doing something similar to being a RA while getting my Master’s so I joined. I learned more than I thought I would, and loved it too. I had no idea coming in that people could make careers out of it. It had me reconsidering my options, but I eventually settled on getting my Master’s in Education and having a graduate assistantship within Res Life. Then I could move into my teaching career. Well, I started going into classrooms, and at first I enjoyed it, but not as much as I anticipated. And then…I hated it.
During the fall of my senior year I decided to get a part-time job on top of being a RA to help support myself. I got a job at Starbucks, and I really enjoyed it. However, with my education program, my RA job, and the new job, it was too much. I was barely in my room anymore and wasn’t completing my programs in a timely manner. I was slipping, and on top of that I really disliked being in the classroom that I was in. I was not enjoying it at all anymore. And then, after my birthday and right before Thanksgiving, I got really sick. It knocked me out for about a week, and I had to miss a lesson that I was supposed to teach and meetings with my residents. When I say that it put me behind for the rest of the semester, I mean it REALLY put me behind. I couldn’t catch up with anything that I was supposed to be doing. Finally, I went to meet with my professor to talk about a grade, and I ended up getting a C, which was extremely unusual for me. And the thing was, I could honestly say I put as much time and effort as I possibly could have into the project and did the best that I could. After the meeting, I went to the bathroom and cried. I reflected on the past couple of months and realized that I hadn’t been very happy at all. I was wearing myself out-and for what? For something that I didn’t even really like to do. And if I was giving my all to something and all I could end up with was a C-then something needed to change. I didn’t want to give up my RA job, and I didn’t want to give up my Starbucks job either…but I could give up teaching. I already had enough credits to get an English degree…so I decided that is what I needed to do, and then go into Higher Education. That was not an easy decision by any means either. I had already visited where I would be student teaching the next semester. But I knew that it was the right one. My parents, however, were not so keen on it yet again. My father had his heart set on me being a teacher, and thought I was giving up. It wasn’t that by any means. I was deciding what was actually right for me and changing my mind. I don’t regret it for one second. I know this is going to be as rewarding a profession as teaching, and I love my students.
Moving here, however, has been another really difficult process for me. I didn’t expect it at first, but it has been four years since I’ve gone through a transition. But I recognized that and allowed myself to adjust to the change. It has been depressing at times, and I miss my friends more than I can say. However I have learned a lot yet again about myself and about my friendships. My family is supporting me, finally, and I’m happy about that at least. I have a feeling that at the end of this experience I will be able to call it a trigger moment for me.