When I reflect back on my decision to pursue a Minor in Leadership Studies, I c...
How the GT Leadership Minor Opened the Door to Unthinkable Opportunities
Student Spotlight: Mindy Kao
When I reflect back on my decision to pursue a Minor in Leadership Studies, I cannot help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I say this because, in pursuing the minor, I not only gained a wealth of knowledge and understanding about leadership, but I also grew to know myself and my place in the world, and it opened doors to opportunities that I otherwise would have never had. In short, the program exceeded all expectations.
My journey with leadership studies began halfway through my fourth year at Tech. At that point in my college career, I had finished over half of my curriculum, completed a co-op with the Center for Transportation and the Environment, studied abroad in Australia, and held numerous campus leadership positions. Despite this wealth of experiences, I couldnâ€™t help but feel as if something was missing. I realized that although I had accomplished many tangible goals, I still sought a greater sense of purpose and desired to know how to better impact the world around me. That fall, I decided to begin studying leadership in the hopes of getting closer to the answers.
A year later, during the fall semester of my fifth and final year, the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Office held a leadership retreat for all leadership minor candidates at Camp Twin Lakes (CTL), a camp for kids with serious illnesses, disabilities, and other life challenges. While we were at CTL, I met several people on program staff and was struck by their authenticity and dedication to growing kids in their confidence and capabilities. Not only did they provide a special population of kids with the opportunity to engage in activities usually made impossible elsewhere by their condition, but they were also deeply invested in building their confidence and independence. This intentionality continued to make an impression on me long after the retreat.
The next semester, I was pleasantly surprised to see that CTL was to be one of the sponsors for the leadership minor capstone course projects. Having gotten to know some of their staff and their mission at the retreat the semester before, I knew that I wanted to work with them. This eventually led me to applying for a position to work on the farm that summer. Thankfully, I got the position and immediately accepted.
The decision to work at camp had been an atypical one. As an undergraduate environmental engineering student that was planning to pursue a masterâ€™s in city planning, this decision seemed totally unrelated to my career. However, I had always had an interest in farming; growing up, my dad was constantly dabbling in farming, and I had once tried to start my own vegetable garden. Agricultural issues, such as GMOs and sustainable farming, always interested me, and I read books like Michael Pollanâ€™s Omnivoreâ€™s Dilemma to gain a greater understanding of those issues. Thus, when the opportunity to work at a farm presented itself, I decided to take a step away from all of the career-focused decision-making that I had done thus far and do something that would hopefully be more personally fulfilling.
So after graduation, I began my summer adventure at Camp Twin Lakes, where I would help lead camp programs at the farm and assist in the daily care and maintenance of the farm. It took no time for me to feel at home at the farm and form close bonds to the other people working there. Not only did I meet countless inspirational kids, but I also met passionate doctors and nurses, proud parents, and selfless volunteers that believed in camp as a place for these kids to leave behind their diagnoses or challenges and be a kid. Some days were difficult, but they were made easier with the endless encouragement of those working at the camp.
Finding the words to describe the personal impact of my experience at the farm is always difficult. I undoubtedly achieved what I set out to do and learned an incredible amount about farming while also serving the camps that came throughout the summer. But there is a more abstract quality about it that hooked me, which I can only describe as the collective, unbreakable commitment to bettering the world. Being immersed in an environment where each and everyoneâ€™s sole purpose is to serve and grow kids affected me in a much more profound way than any of my other college experiences. To be my true self without concern of expectations or failure, to build meaningful relationships, to learn and grow daily, to understand myself- those were all personal outcomes that I gained through camp.
So when I think back on that initial decision to pursue the Minor in Leadership Studies, I cannot help but feel incredibly thankful. Through my experience, I have found that when you take a step towards greater self-awareness, you open yourself up to unthinkable opportunities. Though I had not known it then, studying and gaining leadership is not so much about building some outward skills so that you can have greater influence over people. For me, leadership brought me to understanding what I value most in life and gave me the courage to seek those things out.
Leading Edge is an intentional coaching program that adapts the real-world pr...
Leading Edge is an intentional coaching program that adapts the real-world practices and approaches of executive leadership coaching to meet the needs of both graduate and undergraduate student leaders while also preparing them for leadership positions once they graduate.
Leading Edge & The Leadership Coaching Process
Leading Edge is an intentional coaching program that adapts the real-world practices and approaches of executive leadership coaching to meet the needs of both graduate and undergraduate student leaders while also preparing them for leadership positions once they graduate. Coaching provides Georgia Tech graduate (Coaches) and undergraduate (Coachees) students with the opportunity to significantly build on eight leadership competencies via the following process:
Step 1: 360 Assessment
Before coaching begins, Coachees will be given access to Georgia Techâ€™s Leadership Development Portal and asked to complete a 360-degree assessment of their leadership skills. Coachees will assess their own leadership abilities and invite as many as 8 of their peers, advisors, supervisors, friends, and coworkers to give them feedback as well. Once the assessment is complete, Coachees will meet with their coach to review their results, identify perception gaps between themselves and their outside raters, and select two competencies that they wish to focus on during the coaching engagement.
Step 2: Determine Action Steps
After a Coachee has determined what leadership competencies he or she would like to focus on, the Coachee will meet with their coach to determine what action steps are necessary to improve their mastery of each competency. Effective action steps are specific and measurable. An example of an effective action step meant to target Collaboration with Others could be to â€śimprove communication within my senior design team by giving every member of the group a chance to speak before making a decision.â€ť
Step 3: Experiment
Once action steps have been successfully identified, Coachees will be encouraged to practice implementing their action steps via leadership experiments. A leadership experiment can be something as simple as volunteering an opinion during a group discussion or something as involved as developing a communication strategy for a group that is susceptible to conflict. The intensity of the experiment is dependent solely on the willingness of the coachee to engage in the exercise. Experimentation provides a controlled learning experience for Coachees that allows them to implement their action steps, gauge the reaction of their followers, and make course corrections based on those reactions.
Step 4: Develop Key Insights
In this step Coaches will assist their Coachees by encouraging them to dive deeper and attempt to understand the root cause of specific reaction or behavior. Once these â€śkey insightsâ€ť have been developed, Coachees will then be able to harvest the lessons they have learned from a specific experiment and integrate this new understanding into their every-day leadership practices and apply it to future engagements.
Measureable outcomes for leadership coaching for the coachee include:
The identification and understanding of the coacheeâ€™s own strengths and weakness across the common set of leadership competencies
An awareness of the role that each leadership competency plays in both personal and professional leadership roles
The ability to link leadership behavior to successful outcomes both in and out of the classroom
Recognition of the importance of self-reflection, inter-personal communication, contextual awareness, and self-monitoring
An important note for students interested in participating in leadership coaching to remember is that the coaching process, much like the process of leadership, is iterative. Coaches and their coaches will complete each of these four steps over and over again as the coachee experiments, develops new insights, and pivots their behavior based on the results of their experiments and each experiment will help the coachee reach their full leadership potential.
On March 1, Georgia Techâ€™s Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Progra...
The LEAD Program is now accepting nominations for the Spring 2014 session of Leading Edge, a leadership coaching program for undergraduate Tech students.
Leading Edge Offers Dynamic One-on-One Leadership Coaching to Undergraduates
On March 1, Georgia Techâ€™s Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Program began accepting nominations for the second year of the Instituteâ€™s newest undergraduate leadership development program â€” Leading Edge.
Undergraduates who participate in Leading Edge work one-on-one with a leadership coach to assess their leadership potential and develop leadership skills through experiential learning. At Georgia Tech, we know that leadership is something you â€śdo.â€ť Leading Edge is a program for intentional and focused â€śdoingâ€ť of leadership.
"Many of the leadership situations that students find themselves in are hit or miss and often just focused on getting a task accomplished,â€ť said Wes Wynens, director of the LEAD Program. â€śBut in Leading Edge, through careful feedback from trained leadership coaches and feedback from faculty and peers, students will gain insight into their leadership competencies and apply their new insights to a leadership action plan.â€ť
Students are expected to apply their plan in leadership roles on or off campus. The leadership coach and student then discuss how the student has been able to implement their plan and get continued feedback on their practice. "Through this 'double loop' of learning we can accelerate the leadership development of our students,â€ť Wynens said.
â€śUndergraduates should get involved with Leading Edge because it offers a practical, personal, and meaningful experience that isn't offered anywhere else on campus," said Rachel Bennett, one of Leading Edgeâ€™s 17 leadership coaches and a doctoral student in chemistry. â€śTech is known for training brilliant scientists and engineers, but Leading Edge can complement that training by developing leadership skills that will make students successful beyond the classroom.â€ť
Wynens encourages students to remember that leadership is often not about being in charge or directing, but about making difficult choices that allow leader, follower, and organization to move forward together. Leading Edge is a way for students to gain insights into that process.
There are 65 spots available for undergraduates each semester. Interested students will need to contact an advisor, faculty, or staff member for a nomination. All nominations for 2014 Fall Semester must be submitted through the LEAD Program's website by Friday, March 28, at 11:59pm. More information is available at leadership.gatech.edu.