When I first applied to the Laidlaw program, I believed that leadership wasn’t just about raising attention to important issues or being in charge but about creating the best team possible to accomplish a goal. Now, stemming from the experiences that the Laidlaw programme have provided to me, I have affirmed my belief that leadership is a dynamic process of listening from others and integrating their perspectives and experiences into the way I bring myself to collaborative environments. While this understanding of leadership greatly aligns with what I thought going into the program, I have been able to take my beliefs and enact them. This definition became clear to me throughout my experience as a Laidlaw scholar. I found a great deal of leadership opportunity, perhaps counter-intuitively, in learning to listen from my boss in my Leadership in Action project, as she had a great deal to teach me about the international non-profit sector and strategies in the women’s development. From this opportunity, I was able to learn what I didn’t know and integrate the knowledge of an expert into my approach to the project. Experiences such as this have better allowed me to embody and define the crucial Laidlaw scholar attributes of leading without authority, conveying purpose and building coalitions, and developing a capacity for empathy and cultural understanding. I know that these Laidlaw qualities will be crucial to my future success and am thankful to the Laidlaw foundation for giving me the opportunity to develop these skills.
My development as a leader began with my experience working for the Wonder Foundation in my Leadership in Action project. Coming from a history and international relations degree that is much more theoretical, I felt entirely out of my depth and unsure how to proceed in working from London to support women’s development across Central Africa. I was lucky to have fantastic mentorship in the staff, who taught me about the context of ethical international development and how to engage in the particular projects that they worked on I found my work meaningful, particularly when I worked with young girls at the local community center, as I was able to directly discuss issues facing young women in my community. I further developed as a leader through my group research project, and I have rarely felt like more of a leader and more affirmed in my role as a leader than when I was able to fairly contribute to my group research project. The experience being surrounded by other intelligent, capable, and determined leaders instead of making me shrink away, helped me to build my confidence and take ownership over my portion of the project. From these experiences, I feel that I have developed the Laidlaw attributes of making things happen through my expanded ability to work collaboratively and across boundaries through my emotional intelligence and awareness of my own limitations. I am grateful to the Laidlaw foundation for providing me with the chance to hone these Laidlaw values, as I am certain they will be essential to my success in the future.
I think that the opportunities provided by the Laidlaw Foundation to expand my leadership abilities will serve me well, no matter what sector I enter. Hopefully, from these experiences I will be able to find further, connected opportunities in high impact jobs that enable me to help others and act at my leadership potential.