As a high school student I was outgoing because of my involvement with sports and the people I surrounded myself with. However, in larger settings I was a little more timid, especially amongst strangers. Fortunately through a program called Junior Achievement I was able to come out of my shell and gain some understanding of a leadership role and the importance of it. As a senior, my economics class asked for volunteers to become a part of the junior achievement program and visit our middle school so that we could teach the younger students financially responsibility. All of the teaching materials were given to us by our teacher and we were responsible for learning it and then teaching it to the younger middle school students. Doing such a program forced me and my peers to speak to a classroom full of strangers, even though they were only in 4th or 5th grade, it was still rather intimidating. It was also important for us to keep their attention while we were teaching them things that their 4th and 5th grade minds had never even heard of before, that is unless one of their parents were a financial consultant.
The JA program also gives insight to what it’s like in the workforce and carries with it a real entrepreneurial spirit. For myself and a friend, we were responsible with showing the kids how to build pens, for which they got to keep at the end of the program. The purpose was to show them that they could create something and then someday through having the right avenues and making the right decisions they could possibly have something they could sell. This of course built leadership on behalf of my peers and I because we were responsible for keeping 20 plus 4th and 5th graders in their seats while paying attention to our directions and also completing a task.
Although my role today is much more complex than teaching kids that they can someday be very successful entrepreneurs if they work hard and say no to drugs, I believe what I do parallels with the lessons I learned during that teaching opportunity. Today it is my responsibility to “improve the performance of followers and develop followers to their fullest potential” (Northouse 2013) just like I was doing in the classroom over 10 years ago. Hopefully today I’m a much better leader than I was back then, when I read directly from our lesson guides, I give credit to my teacher for pushing my peers and I to think outside the box and venture out into doing something that was foreign to us. The moral of this story is that at times we need to get outside of our comfort zone in order to experience things that we may never have if we stayed wrapped up in our day to day routine. I feel it is important if we want to be successful, we need to experience as much as possible so that we can lead with an open mind and help to bring fresh and intellectual ideas to the table.
Junior Achievement. http://jaconn.org/about-ja/
Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.