Leadership can be a very lonely world, particularly when functioning in a small, yet competitive, non-profit. While not ideal, this simple view of leadership was just a reality that I was slowly beginning to accept.
That is, until our first Emerging Leaders session back in June. I remember being nervous and excited for the first session, mainly because I had no idea what to expect from the experience. I had hoped to gain insight from knowledgable and experienced professionals who had been walking the walk much longer than me. Looking back on it, the thing I hadn't spent much time thinking about was the other participants in the program. Sure, I had been hopeful that the group would work well together and maybe even get comfortable enough throughout the year to have honest and productive conversations about the challenges and struggles we faced. But I guess I never thought about the limitless potential we truly had to grow from one another.
My mentality had totally shifted by lunch on our first day together. I was so blown away by the diversity of our professional backgrounds, yet how we could genuinely relate to one another immediately. It didn't matter if our path included multiple Ivy League degrees, corporate experience, or a global perspective; we all had common issues that we were grappling with and determined to learn more about. Leadership had become less lonely in a matter of hours.
At our most recent session in September, we had the opportunity to hear from a panel of amazing speakers. It was during this session that my heightened optimism about the possibility of a leadership community was solidified. Elizabeth Lindsey, Chief Operating Officer of Groundswell and Emerging Leaders alum, opened her discussion by emphasizing the importance of building relationships and creating opportunities to learn from those around you. I was both excited and apprehensive about asking others to take time out of their busy schedules to talk with me about leadership. As if she sensed what I was thinking, she followed up by saying we all needed to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
At that moment, I was hooked. Leadership is only lonely if you make it that way. In the past month, I have forced myself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I have reached out to others I have met along my journey and simply asked if we could talk. Some have not responded, but more have answered my request with an enthusiastic "yes". Ok, maybe I am interpreting the enthusiasm, but a yes is a yes.
Tomorrow is our fourth session of Emerging Leaders and I have already learned so much about myself and what it means to be a leader. More importantly, I have started to develop a network of support for the first time in my career. I can't wait to see everyone and continue to learn from all of you!