All Leader Advancement Scholars are required to participate in a LEAD team every year. Last year my LEAD team was special events; this year it was Relay for Life. Relay for Life did not take place until March, so my team only had one meeting during first semester. As second semester rolled around, we still had not met again. I kept asking my friends on the team when we were meeting and no one had a clue. Finally, about a month before the event, I received an email from a young woman who works with the Leadership Institute. She told me that my original LEAD team captain stepped down and the position needed to be filled; a few scholars had been nominated by the Leadership Institute staff and I was one of them. Two other scholars and I took on the role as co-chairs for the Leadership Institute’s Relay for Life team.
Part of our duty was to fundraise prior to the event. The only money that had been raised was $10. We had a team goal of $1,000 and we had about a month to do it. We called a last minute meeting with the team and decided to have a table in the Bovee University Center later that week. We were going to hand out suckers for a dollar and ask people to join our Relay for Life team. The table was not a success. We were stumped and had to come up with a new plan. With time running out, we could not organize any large events. My co-chairs and I sent out many emails to keep our team updated and gave everyone individual fundraising goals.
When the event rolled around, we had people pie our team in the face for $2. If they did that, they also received free cookies. We were also selling extra Leadership Institute clothing from previous years. At the end of the night, our team had raised $1,713.01! We were all super excited that we exceeded our goal by $713.01 and were the 7th highest fundraising team at the event.
I really learned from this experience that leaders can come together in a short amount of time and still be effective. My co-chairs and team members were superstars and I am so proud of everyone who made the event a success.
My story does not just stop there. Through it all, the janitor came up to me and asked if we could pie him in the face in front of everyone. He offered to buy us real pies during his break instead of the whipped cream pies we were using. He told me it has been a dream of his since he was a little kid to receive a pie in the face while wearing nice clothes in front of a crowd to make them laugh. I told him we would make it happen and he came back after he was done with his shift. He walked up to our table, dressed up, carrying six pies. I began to tell the people on the track that they should watch as we pied the man. A few of the walkers even jumped in and grabbed a pie, including a cancer survivor that he asked to come pie him earlier in the day. After we finished, the man was so happy. He gave me a hug and told me I made one his dreams come true. I was filled with happiness that I not only helped raise money for cancer, but also helped a man fulfil one of his childhood dreams.
Banner from the Art Reach promotional event in the Bovee University Center
At the beginning of second semester, I was brought aboard the Street Squad team, which does marketing for the student-run newspaper, Central Michigan Life. My duties include brainstorming promotional ideas and events for CM Life’s clients, run tabling and promotional events, attend weekly meetings, create presentations to pitch ideas for clients, distribute newspapers around CMU’s campus, and represent a positive face for CM Life. My first pitch I created was for Buffalo Wild Wings with a partner. We came up with ideas to increase awareness of vegetarian options and discount wing nights at the restaurant. The ideas were then put into an organized and professional presentation that I pitched by myself in front of other Street Squad members, my manager, and the Assistant Director of Student Publications. The pitch went really well, and the Assistant Director was interested in the ideas my partner and I came up with. Our ideas might even be possibly implemented in the future.
Street Squad is giving me hands-on experience outside the classroom. I am gaining real world marketing and public relations experience through trial and error right here on campus. Through advertising and promoting companies in Mount Pleasant, I am expanding my comfort zone and challenging myself with every tabling event. I am so thankful for all of the opportunities CM Life is providing me, and I plan on moving up in the office and advancing my skills as I move forward with this organization.
Simon Sinek is a speaker who talks about how great leaders inspire action on a TED Talk by explaining that people follow based on what the leader believes. He presents the Golden Circle which dissects the way leaders and companies think. The outer circle explains what products or ideas leaders or companies are trying to sell. The middle circle explains how the idea or product works. The inner circle explains the purpose and beliefs behind the action or creation of a product or idea. Most people work from the outer in, but those who are successful work from the inner out. Sinek enforces the idea that people do not buy what you do, but why you do it. People who are are successful sell to people who believe what they believe, and they hire those who are not just in it for the money.
Sinek uses an example of Apple, illustrating how they have the same resources as every other company, but they are so innovated and successful because they tell people why they sell their products first. Instead of pitching that they make computers that are easy to use, they demonstrate that they believe in challenging the status quo by making computers that are easy to use. I learned that if I want to be a good leader, I need to tell people why they should follow me. I need to state my beliefs first because that is what people truly care about. I was introduced to the Golden Circle in this TED Talk and I believe its values and think its content is important to know when aspiring to be a leader. I knew that we follow people because we want to, but I never understood why until now. It’s because we believe in not just what they believe, but why they believe what they do.
I am now going to be upfront with what I believe and my reason for initiating a plan in meetings and group work instead of saving my reasons for the conclusion. I think that stating beliefs is a real attention grabber and keeps people interested and following. Just like Sinek said, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the “I have a dream speech, not I have a plan speech” I will tell those who look up to me why I have a vision, not just how I am going to get there. For example, I want to decrease the number of people who text while they drive. Simply saying how I am going to help get the numbers down is okay, but explaining that there are too many lives taken from an easy-to-fix issue is why people would want to get the numbers down. A quote by Sinek that I am going to leave you with that I thought was insightful was, “Those who lead inspire us.” We follow those who have beliefs are similar to ours.
Have you ever had a dream that someone told you was impossible to achieve? Did you stand there and agree with them or disagree? Leading starts with creating your own path and doing what others do not do themselves. To be a leader one must differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd by standing up for what they believe in. When someone says “This is how things are going to be done,” a leader fights back by saying “No!” Good things happen for those who put themselves out there and make them happen.
Rosa Parks never got up from her bus seat and said, “Yes, you are right, I should move.”
Christopher Columbus did not say, “Yeah, it is silly of me to think I could sail around the world.”
These people said no and pushed for their goals because they truly wanted to achieve them. Being a leader is more than just a title, it’s speaking up and pursuing a dream. Leaders stand out by exploring an undiscovered route, not adding to the multiple footprints walked on a nicely paved road.
There are people in this world who truly love what they do and do what they love. The Fred Factor is a book written by Mark Sanborn about his mailman, Fred, who brought joy to his work, and to others. The four principles that Mark goes into about Fred are: everyone makes a difference, everything is built on relationships, you must continually create values for others, and you can reinvent yourself regularly. In my Introduction to Leadership class, we created a project where we represented these four principles and documented our work. My group set up a table and had people passing by write how they were going to leave their stamp on the world. They were to take that sticky note with them and keep it as a reminder how they were going to positively impact the world using the four principles. From this project, I learned that it is never too late to recreate yourself and that small acts of kindness and encouragement can completely turn a person’s day around.
I am very honored to say that I was part of the very first Spark Leadership Series at Central Michigan University. This program used to be known as the Alpha Leadership Experience, but evolved to become more effective in the development of leadership. Spark has taught me how to become a more effective leader by developing my view in a series of multiple workshops and activities. All of the participants were split into small teams of about 10 people (my team was Team Motivation). With our teams we set goals for our group as a whole, and for ourselves. My personal goal was to enhance my leadership skills and meet new people. Our team goals were to: have fun, motivate each other, develop skills as a group, be friends inside and out of the program, build each other up, and be supportive. To take advantage of the amazing opportunity we were given, we set standards on how to achieve these goals. We established a positive environment that was inclusive and free from stereotypes. Reaching out to each other was not a duty, but something we did because we cared. My group set our own definition for leadership-it comes in many forms and is unique to everyone. I personally learned my leadership style is spirited. Spirited leaders supply energy for their group and share excitement for everyone around. They make work enjoyable and motivate others to reach their full potential. I believe it is important to know my leadership style so I can coordinate with other leadership styles to work effectively. I know as a leader I excel at caring for and supporting others, but I need to work on giving feedback to others. Feedback is important because it helps individuals grow in areas where they need improvement. I am going to start letting others know how to improve instead of just what they are doing well. This will allow others to grow and expand their own horizons. Another area I am going to improve on is planning. I am going to write everything down that needs to be done that way I will finish before deadlines and ensure I have more free time. Lastly, I want to promote diversity. Not only will I reach out to everyone around me, but I will encourage my friends to reach out to others as welFollowershipl. I never want anyone to feel excluded. I will create an environment that promotes inclusion and not exclusion.
“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” -Bill Gates