Leadership and Letting Go
As leaders, we tend to spend most of our time feeling as though we're caught in the heat of a spotlight at center stage. It's not uncommon to stumble under the weight of responsibility, feeling as though the continuity of your work relies on you maintaining a stiff upper lip. The success of leaders, however, is not only measured in what they do, but what they inspire others to do. As our guest this week so eloquently reminds us, it is the responsibility of leaders to build up those around them to carry on in their own way. Join us now as Chelsea Hebert illustrates the beauty of leadership and letting go.
My name is Chelsea and I’m 25 years into this life. I’m a third-year law student at Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m rarely at a loss for words, but for some reason (most likely the reasons that inspired this piece) I’ve written, erased, re-written, erased, and re-written this post. Sometimes this is just what we need to do in life—write, erase, re-write.
In December of 2008, I was pulled over for speeding for the very first time on my way to high school. By some saving grace, I was spared the discipline of my parents by my Marist College acceptance letter that had come in the mail that same day. I knew, before I even started classes, that Marist was going to be an extraordinarily special place where I would undoubtedly find my path.
Fast forward to the Fall of 2009 and my first semester. All the new students in the Marist Class of 2013 received an invitation to join the Emerging Leaders Program and National Society of Leadership and Success in the Fall of 2009. Some laughed at the invitation, hundreds joined, and I embraced the opportunity passionately. I was inspired and moved through dozens of events and found a small piece of my purpose with each opportunity. I soon went on to become a member of the e-board and was given the privilege of working with Robin Torres, Wil De Los Santos, and Ed Wozencroft. These wonderful people were, and still are, the faces of leadership and provided a foundation for students to begin paving their pathway to success.
"More often than not, leading is stepping aside and letting a multitude of passions bloom to create a movement that encourages others to do the same."
Just when I thought my involvement with the NSLS and ELP couldn’t possibly feel greater, Robin sat me down in her office in a big, regal arm chair that has been used in times of highs and lows by, what must be, hundreds who sought Robin’s compassion and guidance. It was at this moment that Robin asked me to follow in Ed’s footsteps as the new President of the Emerging Leaders Program and National Society of Leadership and Success.
In the months following my acceptance of the position, I met leaders of every kind—students, e-board members, speakers, professors, and members of a multitude of clubs, organizations, and communities. Whether leading through the process of teaching or leading through the choreography of a contemporary dance piece, we all had one thing in common: to take our deepest passions and somehow make a difference in this world. Though I questioned how I could possibly lead as well as the people before me, I knew that to make a difference in the lives of others and truly be a leader you had to embrace differences—in opinion and in passions.
More often than not, leading is stepping aside and letting a multitude of passions bloom to create a movement that encourages others to do the same. Ed referred to it as “synergy.” Synergy (noun): “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.” The ELP and NSLS ran on synergy and with every success and every set-back continued to grow.
"The path that we take in life will never be a straight line. It will be squiggly and imperfect."
In the Spring of 2010, I stumbled. I had pieces of my purpose arranged in such a beautiful picture but I couldn’t see it. You see, since I was 9 years old, I’ve battled Obsessive Compulsive Disorder where the compulsions come in the form of “catastrophic thinking” accompanied by counting and paralyzing anxiety and depression. I had to finish my semester from home in Connecticut and I felt that I had failed as a leader. Over the years I realized that it wasn’t a failure at all. When I left, the NSLS and ELP didn’t crumble to pieces. Passion didn’t cease to exist. The chain of synergy wasn’t broken. The executive board I worked with continued to act with the same fire in their hearts. They each had their own stories, struggles, purpose, and dreams. I realized that sometimes leadership is letting go and trusting others. Letting go does not mean that you are giving up, weak, or incapable. Letting go does not always have a tragic ending like in the movies where you’re keeping someone from falling off the edge of a cliff. In fact, it may just be the opposite. Letting go says, “I trust you. I need help and I trust you.”
These lessons continue to carry me through this life. There is nothing that I have done that has not been the result of synergy—some catalyst sparked in me by someone or something. Things don’t always go as planned and sometimes we need help. I am no longer afraid to ask for help and I am just as eager to provide that help to others. The path that we take in life will never be a straight line. It will be squiggly and imperfect. It will have dead ends, U-turns, K-turns, and do-overs, but no matter what, you will have made it somewhere. Wherever you end up, don’t forget the lessons, people, places, and things that keep your passion alive.