My internship is unique in that my boss is often out of town, so I am responsible for managing myself a lot of the time. Some may view this situation as a negative – if your boss is out of town, how can you ask questions, learn, or receive guidance? I, however, view my boss’ travels as a positive – with my boss out of town, I am learning the value of personal dedication, time management, and independence.
Grassroots organizing involves a lot of decision-making, so I feel lucky that my boss’ schedule allows me the chance to weigh my options and make my own choices without the pressure to defer to his judgment. The ability to make decisions and to communicate clearly with others are extremely valuable skills to have in any career, especially grassroots organizing.
Though my boss is often out of town, he is never out of touch. I know that, if a situation arises and I need his help, he will be available. My supervisor this summer has shown me how to lead without becoming too involved. By allowing me the freedom to make many of my own decisions, my supervisor has given me the opportunity to grow in new ways.
I, personally, am guilty of micromanaging and of inserting myself. In high school, while working on a major project in a history class, I wrote a section that had been assigned to somebody else because I did not believe they would finish it on time. Though I was correct that they would not finish it, it was not my place to make that assumption. My boss this summer has shown me that a good leader does not expect somebody to fail, but instead helps guide them to a level of self-sufficiency where failure is no longer an option. My boss trusted me and my abilities, and his trust encouraged me to work harder and better than before because I did not want to let him down.
In addition to what my boss has taught me, I also learned a lot about leadership when working on the intern thank-you party. At the end of the summer, interns throw the staff a thank-you party where we reflect on the summer, eat, and mingle.
While planning for this party, I learned the power of decisiveness. Too often in group settings, people are afraid to speak up or to advocate for/against ideas. When people do not speak up, things happen passively instead of actively, and everybody winds up with an end product that they are not proud of.
Instead of allowing my opinions to be ignored, I was assertive in advocating for my ideas but also willing to listen to others. I encouraged people to speak up when I thought they had something they wanted to say, and I believe the environment for party-planning improved because of it.
Because my cohort of interns worked together and respected each other’s opinions, we wound up planning a successful nautical-themed party and everybody enjoyed themselves!
I have learned so much more about leadership this summer, but it is difficult to put into words things that are better expressed through action.