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When you think of the word “leadership,” what immediately comes to mind? Would it be a person who is speaking on behalf of their team? Would it be someone speaking proudly and passionately at the podium? Or is it a very intelligent person who knows the answer to every question? 

There may be many more interpretations, but it all boils down to whether the title of “leader” is truly applicable to that person you’re thinking about. To me, leadership contains so many different facets that it’s really difficult to narrow it down to one single image. 

This semester, I enrolled in a high-profile, honors business class called Leadership Challenges. In this course, my classmates and I engaged in work that involved a lot of teamwork, discussion, and presentations. The main concepts we learned revolved around ethical decision-making for several real-life business situations. 

Leadership Challenges was by far the most eye-opening course I have ever taken throughout my college career, as it truly tested my skills in critical thinking, teamwork, and moral reasoning regarding leadership in business. Most of all, this class examined whether or not I have what it takes to be a true leader in all aspects of life, not just business. After a few months of working with different teams, doing independent work, and meeting with my professor to track my progress, I am proud to say that I do have what it takes. 

If you’re not quite familiar with my personality, I am an introvert at heart. It’s not that I necessarily dislike who I am, but I’ve noticed that being an introvert is not a trait admired by everyone. Based on personal experience, I know that there will always be extroverted people who prefer to talk and hang out with people similar to them. Many think that extroverts are the ones destined for leadership roles, whereas introverts may be too shy, too quiet, or too agreeable to achieve that. 

With that being said, I’d like to politely reject the latter statement. Even though I am an introvert, I have explored various ways in which I demonstrated leadership. Being a leader doesn’t always mean you have to be the talker in a conversation. 

In one of our group projects for Leadership Challenges, I can recount when my team and I were working on our slides and written recommendation a couple of hours before the deadline. Since it was late at night, we were all pretty exhausted and just wanted to submit the presentation materials ASAP. However, I knew that there were still a few things that needed refining. So, while combating my tiredness, I decided to text my team about the improvements that we should add, reasoning that they would add value to our presentation. Reluctant at first, my teammates eventually agreed to add the changes. 

The result? My suggestions paid off, after all. Of the three teams that presented in our class, my team was given the honor of the winning team. When my professor was giving my team feedback, she pointed out the improvements that I suggested to my team, telling us that they made our presentation stand out. 

Keep in mind that there was no physical conversation involved when my team and I were working on the assignment that day. We communicated and worked smoothly by just texting each other in our group chat. I was able to step back from the bigger picture and look at the small details, which is also a sign of leadership. 

Reflecting back on this experience, along with many others, I learned being a leader means you are determined for success, whether introverted or extroverted. It means having integrity towards both yourself and others by doing what you believe is right. It means doing work on your own time that would later contribute to your team’s overall success. It means being trustworthy. 

The list could go on, but my point is that leadership is not subjected to one singular image or personality. It’s not just all about talking frequently and commanding others. Remember that in order to lead others, you must be able to lead yourself first. By knowing which direction you are taking your actions, you will be able to further realize your identity as a leader. However you envision leadership right now, I hope you can take the time to reframe your perspective and appreciate that leadership comes in many different shapes and sizes. 

Gennah Penalosa is currently a social media assistant and writer for Her Campus CU Boulder. She is a senior studying finance at the Leeds School of Business. When she is not doing homework, you can find her listening to music or drawing the face of a random celebrity.
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