Edit desk: Be your own leader

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Kate Morrell

It takes a special kind of person to be a true leader and role model.

But are we all truly destined to be leaders at some point in our lives?

In the past, I have genuinely had a difficult time grasping the idea that anyone could be a leader. I assumed leaders always have to accept responsibility, set examples for others and be the person one could turn to for guidance.

I didn’t believe everyone could be a leader.

From my freshman to senior year of high school, I was extremely shy and found it difficult to find a vision for my future self.

I was desperately trying to find a dream to achieve, so I set goals for myself to get more involved within my hometown community and beyond.

During the summer of 2012, while I was in high school, I was accepted into a program through the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill in New York called Girls Leadership Worldwide (also known as GLW).

At the time, I didn’t think much of the program other than that it would fill up a good portion of my summer. Little did I know it would completely change my life.

For the first time, I was surrounded by young women who were similar to me. I could honestly relate to their personal stories and struggles focused on leadership and humans rights.

Being away from my family and friends for the first time and spending 10 days with complete strangers seemed very odd at first. I was in an environment completely unfamiliar to me and was very concerned that I wouldn’t be able to run to my family and friends for guidance after conflicts arose.

But at the end of those ten days, I had gained 35 new sisters as well as many mentors who pushed me to step outside my comfort zone by being proactive.

Together, we participated in a variety of workshops that forced us to open up about our biggest fears and insecurities. We dug deep into the root of how to face these internal conflicts we had every day. We also learned how to overcome difficult situations that would challenge our morals. We worked through how we could learn from these experiences to continue our lives with integrity.

It was this opportunity that opened my eyes and made me realize there are all types of leaders in our world, regardless of what qualities and skills people possess. 

The workshops, late-night talks and great company with inspiring and trailblazing female leaders sparked my realization.

Within these ten days, I learned to be comfortable with myself and my personal definition of what kind of leader I wanted to be: positive and uplifting, but also respectful of other people’s thoughts and opinions.

Coming to Lehigh was a great challenge for me, as I was so accustomed to my group of friends in high school. I had anxiety thinking about starting over in an environment completely foreign to me with complete strangers. I challenged myself to meet people through getting involved with different organizations, like Greek life and The Brown and White

At Lehigh, we are constantly pushed by our parents, professors and peers to take responsibility for our actions. We are asked to think outside the box and to demonstrate our independence.

We’re asked to be leaders.

Since GLW, I have been through a variety of leadership programs that have continued to mold and shape me into the person I am today.

When I returned to GLW as a group leader to work with young women like myself, I felt as if I had come full circle, coming from being a participant to a leadership-based conversation facilitator.

This winter break I participated in LeaderShape and was surrounded by peers who were eager to learn about issues the Lehigh community faces, and what we can do to solve them. We worked through a series of workshops where we brainstormed ideas and solutions to solve issues, from the divide between Greek and non-Greek students to the exclusivity of party culture.

Through these leadership programs, I learned the basics of integrity, respect, discipline and discussed how to make a difference as a leader.

I realized you don’t have to be the president of a club to be a leader. You can be a leader and embody these qualities as a general member too, because everyone leads differently.

The hard part is acting upon these values, as well as staying true and honest with yourself. There are many times we are faced with difficult decisions about things that are popular among our peers.

We all have a voice that deserves to be heard. We all have the power to make positive impacts on our community and futures. Now is our time to speak up and to be our own kinds of leaders.

Kate Morrell, ’19, is a photo editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached [email protected]

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