My 3 lessons on self-leadership

A short read on what I was hoping for this summer and what I have learned instead.

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I always was quite good at saying what others wanted to hear. When writing my application for Laidlaw Scholarship last October (because I am obnoxious and ready two months before the deadline) I prepared a mental list of all the topics to mention. Examples of me being a leader – check. Developing my teamwork skills – check. Acknowledging my talents, but staying humble – check (work in progress). Experience – check. Self-leadership – check. Feeling quite content with myself I did not give my development process much thought until… well, until now.

The “unprecedented times” and “new circumstances” which scare us from all the mails we receive are a fact. The global crisis brought a lot of changes to our plans, hopes and a general vision of the future. A few months ago I was waiting for a summer in St Andrews, Monday lunches and joint learning sessions in the library with other Laidlaw Scholars. Instead, on the first day of the programme I was alone in my bedroom with only one thought buzzing in my mind: “If life gave me so many lemons I am going to make lemonade, lemon tart, lemon crumb muffins and lemon cheesecake”. And I did, because I like baking. And then, I opened my leadership statement, written more than half a year ago, looking for a guide on how to make the most of the time I was given.

This is how my work on self-leadership started. Over past few weeks in the effort to stay in touch with the people I value, I spent hours discussing experiences and exchanging insights with my friends and colleagues. I was trying to give much more attention to the way I work and approach new tasks and then articulate what I have observed.

Here are the three discoveries that I made:

  1. Self-leadership requires self-compassion

Being kind and understanding for others is in my nature, however for a long time I did not realize I was never treating myself quite the same way. Taking care of good atmosphere is as important in group tasks as it is in working alone. I still learn how to treat myself with kindness.

  1. Seeing progress needs perspective

My drive for developing myself is constantly fighting with my disappointment when I don’t see the results after a day. Real, structural changes need time and it is more appropriate to evaluate progress in months or even years. I try to appreciate the process and I hope it will give me more inspiration to continue developing as a leader and as a person.

  1. The balance is not easy

Although the scholarship motivates me to look for the areas for improvement, I try to give equal attention to my strengths. Appreciating how much I have already grown gives me confidence in my abilities and pushes me forward.

I am sure coming weeks will surprise me with more insights and I am glad I still have so much time ahead in my Laidlaw journey. I would like to thank the whole Laidlaw Team for supporting the scholars all over the world and making this summer a valuable experience.

Ania Bajerska

Laidlaw Undergraduate Research Scholar, St Andrews

I am a second-year student at the University of St Andrews, pursuing a Joint Honours Degree in Economics and Sustainable Development. My vision is to enable more sustainability-oriented initiatives through financial tools and market-based solutions. One of my other interests is literature, that is why my summer research project is an attempt to understand the representation of nature in current children’s environmental literature and define the relationships between “nature literacy”, education, sustainability and social transition. Outside of my studies I enjoy staying active (water sports are my favourite) and baking.


Go to the profile of Gwendoline
over 1 year ago

I love this!