When you think of a leader, what do you imagine?
When I was in school, I imagined an intimidating person in a suit; their arms crossed; and somehow, they were higher than me, as if they were standing on a platform (maybe even one with a podium in front). After entering the professional world and working with various leaders, that image changed. I began to realize that you do find those intimidating, “higher” people in our world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are good leaders.
To me, the best leaders are those who can integrate themselves into a group but also stand up for those around them and for what is right. They’re able to flourish within diversity and see different sides of every story. They can establish common ground with those they work with; build relationships; and, find that ever so important balance between listening and action. So much of our lives in the professional “real world” are spent collaborating with others and working on teams. You rarely see positions that involve no interaction with others or organizations that function well with siloed employees. Knowing how to work with a group of people; how to utilize each other’s strengths and support each other’s weaknesses; and, become a leader are invaluable skills that are not easily taught in high school or college classrooms.
Learning and practicing those skills is exactly what I’ve seen in my first few weeks at the QUAD. The QUAD is supplying a unique opportunity where students get a real example of what their life might look like in a few short years. They are getting support but not hand-holding. We are encouraging them to feel confident in themselves when talking to clients and community leaders. Students are finding their voices in diverse groups of people whose paths might not have otherwise crossed. Most importantly, students are learning the balance between listening and acting, these soft skills will make them strong leaders one day.