The beginning of the program seems so long ago, but I remember the question posed to each of the Fellows on the first day. “What are you most anxious about for this program?” My response was that I was anxious to do my best and to do what was expected of me. While I do have great material for my presentation on Thursday, I have come to realize that these 8 weeks have really been all about the process and not the result. That process has been shaped by the challenge to be a leader to others, the encouragement of living with other McKearn Fellows, the deepening of my knowledge for research in my field, the exceptional feedback from Kim Volmer, the continual guidance by the McKearn team and both of my mentors, and of course the generosity of John and Cassandra McKearn themselves. I want to say a thank you to each person listed for helping/challenging me to grow. Now that I am in the final week, I can look back and say that I managed to do exactly what was expected of me: develop myself as a leader, become proficient in presenting ideas to others, and engage in serving the community of DeKalb.
I will be able to use the skills that I learned through this program in various aspects of life, whether it be dining formally with an influential person, standing firm in my ethical principles when faced with adversity, being an example for others as a leader, presenting my future research in a concise but clear manner, or even just knowing when to take a break to recharge.
For me, the biggest take away is the fact that anyone can be a leader, although it might take some people longer than others to be an effective leader. There have been enough individuals loosely titled “leader” so that there now needs to be a distinction between the run-of-the-mill leader and an effective leader. I would operationally define “effective” as someone who is motivated to continue to enhance themselves as a leader by being committed to strengthening any of the 5 practices of a leader mentioned in a previous post. I believe that the message that anyone one can be a leader is not spoken enough, and that if more people were told that they can be a leader in their everyday life, more people could start waking up to this idea of being a leader and develop themselves to help others come to this realization as well.