Leadership can be a tricky concept. Sure, at a surface level, it may seem pretty basic: set an example, and others will follow. But over the past few years, and especially through the course of my internship, I’ve learned that there is so much more than simply leading by example. For example, while running participants here at UCI, Dr. Kuhlman (see featured photo) has done a great job at explicitly showing me the steps needed to efficiently and successfully complete the testing. I am a visual learner, so the diagrams and directions she gave as to how to run a participant were very helpful. However, I wouldn’t have learned nearly as much if Dr. Kuhlman hadn’t been simultaneously explaining to me why we were performing each action throughout the research process. I now understand why we drew blood during the designated times, or why I must change my attitude towards the participant while collecting different saliva samples in order to create a social stressor. She has been a great advisor and leader to our research team by implementing strategies such as these. People work better and learn more when they fully comprehend each individual component of a process and the significance of the sequencing of their actions.
So while leading by example can be effective, being able to articulate why you’re doing what you’re doing is equally as important. Others will follow you not because it looks like you know what you’re doing, but because you believe in what you’re doing and are confident enough to show others how to emulate your actions. Particularly related to academia, being able to back up and explain the findings of your research efficiently and clearly is vital in order to validate your findings to the academic community. And while it’s relatively simple for me to sit here and type all of this, it’s much more difficult to implement it into daily life. For example, sometimes I struggle with self-assurance, so it’s hard for me to consider myself a leader. I stick to what I know and don’t feel very driven to incorporate those around me into the tasks at hand. But I’ve been trying to implement these concepts I’ve talked about, and I’m hoping the more I work at them, the more comfortable I will become having others follow my lead.
Overall, I’m grateful for the opportunity this internship has given me to explore the concept of leadership a little bit more. Dr. Kuhlman has shown me how vital it is for proper facilitation of instruction in an academic environment, and being led by someone like her has equipped me with many different strategies to, in turn, lead those around me. Major thank you to Dr. Kuhlman!!!