Leadership: What I Learned During the DC Summer Institute on Leadership, Part 3

Closing Interview Comments

Mike said people working in nonprofit need to be very connected to and committed to the mission of their organization – so much so that you are invested in it on a personal level. His final piece of advice was to never be afraid to admit that you made a mistake – own your failures. This very smart piece of advice really appealed to my personal philosophy, as owning one’s own failures is, in my opinion, the key to creating success.

Sarah commented that excelling in her job and being a professional really drives her. I completely agree with this philosophy of setting a high standard for yourself and that achieving it is very motivating. Her final comment was very insightful. She said that: sometimes people think being a leader is easy because they don’t understand what it takes to be a leader. They want to be leaders for the extra pay and the title. Leaders have to make the tough calls. Leaders need to be prepared to take on the challenge of being responsible for the people they manage, objectives, the department, whatever the responsibility may be. [If you want to be a leader,] be prepared for it.

I thought this quote displayed great wisdom and maturity. If she continues working hard, solving problems, and being a professional, I can absolutely foresee Sarah as being a great candidate for Director of the CJT program in the future.


As I review the wonderful insights of both Mike and Sarah, I reflect back on my successful experience as a leader. What was I doing right? Well, I wasn’t quite at Mike’s level of leadership where I was able to convince people they were completing my objectives for themselves (as a supervisor I was trying to make sure people did what the owner wanted), but I was definitely fair, open, and just. I communicated well with my team and developed personal relationships with all of them, which made it easy for them to come to me with any issues and easy for me to go to them when there was a problem to be solved.

I upheld integrity by setting a strong example of excellence in performing my own job so the team could follow suit. Non-doctors make little money in the veterinary field, so I empathized with them when financial concerns rose and lobbied for them when reviews for pay increases were conducted. I am proud to say that the team that I trained back in 2012 to staff the front of the hospital still works there, exhibiting great loyalty. My challenge as a leader at the hospital was training and telling people twice my age what to do, similar experiences to Mike, because I was newly promoted, and Sarah, because of the age differences. I handled it like both of them did – working hard, proving myself, and letting little things that really didn’t matter not get in the way of our objectives.

Finally, as Mike suggested, I owned any mistakes I made and actually looked to the team for ways we could operate more efficiently or provide better service to our clients. As Sarah wisely noted, I initially did want to be a leader because of the title and wage increase, but I quickly learned about the additional responsibility being a leader carries. I worked harder to own that responsibility and invested myself more into our organization once I became a leader. In the end, I think that’s what leadership is truly about – investment. You yourself have to be invested in everything that accompanies being a leader – a facilitator, a decision maker, a strategist, a role model, an advocate, and a coach – but the true test is to empower your team to feel that same level of investment so that they will say: “we did it ourselves.”

Categories: Careers, Community Engagement & Service, Student Blogs, Student Leadership Development, Study Away, W&M in Washington
1 Comment
  1. Eric Johnson

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