John, a Professional Staff Member in our office whom I have gotten the chance to not only work with but also befriend over the course of these last 8 weeks, recently told me that “Leadership is not a raw position, title, or individual action; leadership is a state of mind.” I have been trying hard to find direct instances of leadership in action—with a specific focus on individuals. In recent weeks, I have found just that, but I have also found and witnessed actions that have resonated more powerfully with me. I have learned that the same characteristics and traits that are important for an individual leader to possess are equally important for everyone to possess, regardless of their career, title, or status.
There are a lot of traits and actions that I could talk about here, but for now, I’m just going to stick with one. For John himself, this means that every day, with every project or piece of legislation that he’s working on, he always takes time to look through both The Constitution (because he feels an obligation to uphold and defend it, its laws, and what they represent), and also pictures of his wife and children (because he wants to make the world a better place for them). For Trey, my supervisor, this means always referring back to three things: one, the man who stood in front of the tank during the 1989 Tienanmen Square protests, two, the tattoo he has on his left arm of Jonah and the Whale, and three, the tattoo he has on his right arm of Lady Freedom (the statue on top of the U.S Capitol). Trey does this to remind himself to stick to the vow that he made to “stand up for the little guy,” to fight to help regain freedom to those people who are oppressed by all forms of government all over the world and cannot fight for themselves. Two things that John and Trey both have in common are: one, they said their greatest work experience was having traveled for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—not because they got to expand their horizons, but because it was an honor and a privilege to represent their Senator, their committee, and the United States abroad, and because they got to touch the lives of and directly impact positive change for the people they met while they were abroad. Two, when talking to other coworkers and interns about projects or pieces of legislation that they have completed, they do not refer back to themselves in a way that highlights the project or legislation as a personal accomplishment, but rather they always refer back to the content of the project or legislation that highlights the positive change it will make in the lives of others.
What does all of this mean for everyone else, especially in the context of a leadership trait? It means that you have to “know your why”; that you have to be motivated by a calling or a sense of duty that transcends yourself and your own personal aspirations. And above all else, it means that you have to be humble. I am still trying to refine and better articulate what exactly my why/my motivation/my higher calling is, and trying to be more humble with everything that I do. However, I have also been fortunate enough over these last 8 weeks to have worked with and befriended humble leaders who know their whys, and in the process of sharing their whys with me have inspired me to want to inflict positive change on the lives of others. I only hope that this story can provide that same guidance and inspiration for all of those who read it.
Stay tuned for the next blog!