Growing up I always considered myself a natural-born leader. I have always eagerly stepped into leadership positions at school, home and in my extracurricular activities. At the start of my college career I decided to add the Honors Program onto my higher education path. In my first year experience class, I first learned that leadership is not a talent that we are born with, but a skill that is grown and developed. The Honors Program allowed me to take the time to reflect upon my skills, learn about a variety of models and theories, and finally form and apply my own leadership philosophy. The myriad of leadership experiences offered to me throughout my past four years have allowed me to apply all that I have learned.

            My sophomore spring semester I took the Honors Seminar course called Exploring Leadership in the Context of Conference Development class. Before we dove into planning the Upper Midwest Honors Regional Conference, we spent significant time identifying and reflecting on our own personal leadership values as well as our strengths and weaknesses. Prior to this course, I had taken the Strengths Finder assessment as a tool to identify my strengths in leadership. I compared my second test to my first and identified common leadership strengths. The top three leadership strengths that I have are input, learner and significance. As I reflect upon my past three years in college, I have noticed how my values are deeply interwoven amongst my leadership style. Leading in input means that I have an insatiable hunger to know and collect more information.  Along the same lines, as a learner I always want to learn more to continue improving in all that I do. Lastly, leading with significance means that I push myself and others to excel rather than settle for mediocrity. On the other hand, my leadership weaknesses fall into fear and distrust. Reflecting on my past leadership experiences I found that my fear holds me back from voicing my opinion and becoming the best leader I know I am capable of becoming. I also struggled in group collaborations because I found it very difficult to trust my teammates to complete tasks to my level of expectations. As I move forward in my leadership journey, my experiences have allowed me to build upon my strengths. They have also pushed me to grow in my weak areas.

            Before fully immersing myself into meaningful team and personal leadership experiences, it was important for me to gather information on the variety of leadership styles and theories. The input quality within me needed to have an archive of leadership information before forming my own philosophy and putting it into practice. Once again, my Exploring Leadership in the Context of Conference Development class contributed to my study of different leadership models. As a class we looked at different models and theories and spent our discussions critiquing them. I learned that I personally relate to Authentic Leadership and Servant Leadership. Another class I took was Developing Mentorship Philosophy. In this class we analyzed and critiqued texts by Plato and John Dewey. In our discussion I related Plato and Dewey's perspectives on mentorship to my own lived experiences. By the end of the class, I created my own philosophy for mentorship using evidence from the works of Plato and Dewey. This class helped me especially to grow in my strength as a learner. I learned that knowledge is created in the process of experiencing an event and then reflecting on the experience.

            Next, I began to apply what I have learned through my reflections and critiques and practice it in my real-world experiences. Through my classes, work and community involvement I have gained meaningful experiences in personal leadership and group work. My sophomore and junior year I was given the invitation to join an undergraduate research team under a mentor teacher from the College of Education. I had the opportunity to work alongside a group of three other peers. As the team leader I stepped up to take the responsibility for keeping the team on track and delegating tasks. This experience truly helped me to grow in trust. I quickly learned that research is not a task I want to take on all by myself. As a team we wrote, revised and submitted proposals and abstracts. We split up the amount of literature reviews and pulled together our sources to form a solid background of knowledge before pursuing our research.  I also worked on the Student Management Team at the Annual Fund Call Center for three years. In our professional development, our team also took Rath and Conchie's Strengths Finder assessment. After seeing the great variety of strengths in our team, I began to practice building upon each person's strengths in the context of a team. I learned how our individual and different strengths made for a well-rounded management team. This experience also allowed me to greatly reflect and improve upon my own leadership values. After my first manager review, I realized many of my employees thought I was not genuine and to them it was seen as disrespect. I recalled what I learned about Authentic Leadership and made an effort to lead authentically in the workplace. I saw a great change in my next review and felt the environment around me change to a respected workplace.

            Finally, I am preparing to take what I have learned and use it to transform my future. Currently, there are two significant roles I play in my life that I see continuing on when I leave college. The first is my role as a missionary. I am currently in my fourth year of serving as a Newman Center student missionary. Growing in my faith and spreading the faith to others is at the core of my values and I know I will always pursue my faith wherever my future leads me.  Therefore, as I move into mastering the leadership competency, I look to apply all that I have learned in my important role as a missionary. I am using my strengths in input and learner to continue to learn and grow in my faith. I use my knowledge of authentic leadership and servant leadership to build relationships with the different women I encounter through bible study, discipleship and one-on-one conversations. Another vital role in my life is as an elementary education teacher. I am in my third semester of intensive upper-level courses, professional development, and continual experience in the field. My love for learning helps me to always keep researching and learning about the best research-based practices for the classroom. My strength with significance has developed strongly in my current third grade classroom. My mentor teacher is pushing me to grow as a teacher and become stronger in leading lessons. As a united front, my mentor teacher and I are also holding our students to high expectations. As a rule, our students are not allowed to fail and move on. If they make a mistake, they will learn from it and try again until they succeed. Once again, my leadership theory of leading authentically and serving others first are well applied in the classroom. Before I can begin to teach my students I need to build relationships with each child and be my authentic self. I also have learned that if I don't teach to serve my students than I will never be a successful teacher.