Tammy Charles, Community Engagement Director
We are all called to lead in some way. Leadership is a profound call that requires us to harness our skills and passions to impact the world around us. One of the biggest lessons I have learned early in my career is that leadership is a journey. We all start somewhere, but the journey never really ends because there is constant room for improvement.
My personal leadership journey began in college. I grew in my excitement for what I was learning because I knew that each class led me closer to the career that I desired. In 2014, after receiving my Master of Business Administration (MBA), I embarked on my career in the nonprofit industry. It was one of the most terrifying and rewarding adventures of my life.
As a young, bright-eyed, and inexperienced manager, my transition from college to the real world was rocky. The office environment was entirely different from the classroom. I struggled to find my place and quickly discovered that my insecurities made me feel distraught. In this season of my leadership journey, I struggled to find my identity. My emotions got the best of me. It was hard at times to interact with others. I did not have the best work-life balance and I quickly found myself overwhelmed and almost ready to give up.
I began to realize the real work of growth and development as a leader needed to happen from the inside, out. I started to embark on a journey of finding healthy ways to address what was happening in my life. As I look back, I realized that I was implementing the five core competencies of social and emotional learning and infusing these elements into my character and identity development process.
Self-awareness was the first step into allowing me to become who I am. After that rough first six months of work, I decided that I needed to remind myself of the gifts and passions that resided in me and display them in my work. I also took strengths and personality assessments that helped me become more aware of my gifts and what made me unique. Self-discovery is one of life’s most rewarding experiences!
Self-management was critical to my healing process. I began learning to find ways to deal with my emotions. I went to therapy, talked with friends, and started learning to label my emotions. I found healthy ways of coping with them. Whether it was journaling, walking by the river, or reading my bible, I recognized that the more I could manage myself, the stronger leader I would be.
Social awareness is vital. My journey through healing allowed me to be more socially aware. I did not just focus on myself and my issues but also opened myself to others. I was able to display empathy and relate to those around me who were experiencing a similar struggle. As of late, I have even been able to build a community where I can empower women leaders to share their stories and find a place where they can embrace who they are.
Social awareness also allowed me to grow in my relationship skills. Networking is critical to my success as a fundraiser and change agent. Building great relationships meant that I needed to connect my ability to be self-aware and to manage myself to interact with others and communicate successfully.
I learned that responsible decision-making meant managing my time more effectively, knowing when to rest, learning not to take on too many responsibilities and projects, and taking care of myself. I still struggle a lot in this area. However, I am taking the active steps to grow.
What is exciting is that I have a long way to go on my leadership journey, and there are a lot of lessons to learn. I have also learned that growing as a leader meant that I did not need to go at it alone. I have my friends, mentors, and colleagues to guide me. I also have powerful tools such as emotional intelligence, a growth mindset, my faith, community, and so much more to equip me along the way.