Guest Blog from Erika Brennan,
Head Golf Coach, University of Southern Mississippi
Growing up as an only child, I was involved in countless sports and activities. We were the family that always had some place to be, and that place was nearly always dictated by whatever practice, recital or extracurricular was going on in that season. I participated in a wide-range of things: church youth group, fastpitch softball, golf, competitive dance, cheerleading, E-Team, Debate Club, and service clubs. I didn’t really know what “down time” was – and I loved every minute of it.
The adults who facilitated these activities would tell me, “You’re a leader and we need you to lead,” but to be honest, I never really asked for the title. I knew that I had a plan and I knew that I was assertive and vocal – but I never really thought much about leadership or what being a leader meant.
I continued to build my “leadership skills” in high school and college, but again, I was just learning as I went along with no clear rhyme or reason as to why I believed what I believed. I picked up tidbits on leadership theory here and there, and I began to develop a love or reading leadership and managerial books. That’s when things began to come in to focus for me – diving in to the works of respected thought leaders in the realm of confidence, momentum, optimism, management and execution.
While serving as the Women’s Golf Coach and Advisor for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at Saint Leo University, I was introduced to a program called “Leadership Saint Leo.” This program, designed for those in key leadership positions, peaked my curiosity. The caveat: I wasn’t technically qualified for the program. I didn’t have anybody who reported to me on the organizational chart and in comparison to those who had been chosen, I was merely an infant in my leadership journey.
Nonetheless, I begged our Director of Athletics to recommend me and after two full years of begging and pleading my case I was accepted in to the program – still I had nobody who reported to me. I was about to be thrown in to the deep end and I had but one choice in the cliché of “sink or swim.”
Throughout the program, we explored several leadership books and had sessions that were rich in intelligent dialogue and debate. I felt that it was at once challenging and reassuring. I began to swim and contribute by adding value to our discussions. It became a safe place to explore ideas and collect the wisdom of others as we all began to work on our culminating project – our “Leadership Point Of View.”
The Leader P.O.V. exercise was and continues to be the single-most important thing I have ever done for my personal development. It forced me to be introspective and evaluate my strengths and weaknesses. It encouraged me to hone in on those strengths and exploit them to the fullest while also solidifying the notion that I didn’t have to be all things to all people. Finally, it forced me to understand that my uniqueness was a gift to be celebrated not shied away from, and that there was most certainly a niche and necessity for my outgoing, fun-loving, people-centered yet values-based approach to leadership.
I go back to my Leader P.O.V. daily. In fact, I have it memorized and recite bits and pieces of it inside my mind every morning. It has become my mantra and a guidepost for me. In fact, I consider it a cornerstone in the way that I approach each day as a leader. I continue to “Lead From Where I Am” every day – and I have the Leader Point of View exercise to thank.
Read more from Erika at erikabrennan.com