The leadership course last fall concluded with a Ted Talk-style presentation focused on a leadership theory of our choosing. I studied Margaret Wheatley’s book, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World. Her lessons on the importance of relationships and trust have certainly had an impact on my leadership style. However, the most significant piece of this assignment was that it began to teach me how to craft a compelling story, and the vulnerability that such a task requires.
The art of conveying ideas powerfully and inspiring people into action is embodied by narrative. When crafting a slideshow presentation on the ways the new sciences are opening up fresh ideas on leadership theory, my instructor Gary Thompson was clear on how to begin: tell a story. A story that would draw people in, show them my personal connection to the topic, and allow the presentation to feel alive. I followed his advice and chose to tell the story of when I had been in charge of a group of people but did not trust in the relationships I had with them; of the failure that followed, and how I eventually found success in leaning into the connections of my team rather than taking everything onto my own shoulders. Sharing this story meant being vulnerable in front of my peers and being honest about a time that cast me in an unflattering light. However, I found an empowerment in that vulnerability. It allowed me to connect with my work, with my audience, and lent an importance to the rest of my presentation that it would have lacked otherwise.
That may be the lesson in leadership that has stuck with me the most since giving my presentation last November. I have found strength in sharing my less admirable moments, gathered confidence in my ability to admit my faults, and cherished them for what they have taught me. I have put this new learning to use with my students as their group leader and teacher, sharing times when I have struggled or faltered. I believe it has allowed me to become more relatable to my students and gives them the opportunity to let go of the fear of making mistakes. In working with my cohort, being honest in my difficulties and failures has opened the door to being offered help and advice. I know that without their support, I would be far less proud of what I have accomplished in this graduate program. In the end, it comes back to Margaret Wheatley’s lesson, the focus of my presentation: that relationships are the foundation of a team, and that we can only move forward by trusting in them.
To watch my presentation on this topic, visit