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Gaining Insights into True Leadership

Contributed by Andrew Flood, 2011-2012 Shinnyo Fellow at University of California, Berkeley.

My time as a Shinnyo Fellow has thus far been an incredible experience in my development as a leader and a future public servant. I have worked to discover my passions and coordinate between my mind, my heart and my actions in my own personal path to peace. I have also watched my definition of leadership transform and, in my view, mature. As a fundamental aspect of the Shinnyo Fellowship, I have spent much of my senior year deeply reflecting on the concept of leadership and its connection to service.

While leadership is traditionally portrayed as the ability to inspire others through articulate speeches and charisma, there is a much more basic and personal facet of being a strong leader. Good leadership skills lie in conviction and self-awareness. My experiences and class work have taught me that a leader understands personal purpose in his/her work and is dedicated to this mission. Furthermore, this individual must be able to commit to this passion and translate ideas into action, coordinating emotional and intellectual investment into a well-developed and organized plan.

Finally, the last and most crucial step in leadership is to share this mission with others and to encourage their involvement in the pursuit of its completion without regard to individual recognition. Leadership, at least in my experience, has usually been presented as only the last step, namely the ability to manage and inspire others in some task. However, this internal understanding of the reason “why” a leader operates the way he/she does is an underappreciated aspect of true leadership as this is the precursor to any external expression of this passion and a recruitment of followers to a leader’s cause. Additionally, understanding one’s personal reason for service allows a leader to better manage ego as a motivation for leadership, and thus he or she will seek greater responsibility for the sole purpose of devotion to the project or organization instead of as a means of recognition from others. I believe that a strong leader takes pride in his/her work, but I also realize that the ability to work with others and share successes facilitates any project and makes it much more likely to come to fruition. I look forward to continuing to develop my understanding of leadership in the future and in my career of service.