This morning, Tiffany and I were running our usual route around Central Park when she asked me an interesting question: do I consider myself a leader? My natural instinct was to say yes, but I was conflicted, first, because of West Point’s leadership-development timetable, and second, because I believe there are multiple definitions of leadership.
As a rising Yearling, I’ve just left a role in which my whole purpose was to learn how to be a Follower. Plebe year is a great year to develop your own leadership style through observing others, whether it be good examples or bad. Even without noticing it, I found that since day one of Beast I’ve learned a lot about what works, what doesn’t, and what I respect from my superiors. Now that West Point is observing the fact that we’re moving into more of a leadership role, I really look forward to being a Team Leader to a plebe and helping him find out who he is as a cadet and transition into West Point’s culture. However, I have to say I don’t always agree with this idea that year one is simply one for following. There are always leaders among peers, even at West Point, and I think that you can hold different leadership positions in different situations. For example, I had more lacrosse experience than many of my teammates, even if I was only a freshman. And as one of the few defenders, I was able to help my roommate, who had never played before, get better at the game and to provide input when upperclassmen were debating how best to defend a fast break, for example. Leadership qualities that I developed during high school were not simply forgotten because we hadn’t been given a formal leadership title as plebes- just as I don’t think leadership is something that just comes when you are officially given a leadership position.
I have witnessed that, through this internship. At the end of my second day, I learned of two people’s positions, both of whom had managerial- executive roles in the company. I was completely shocked to find out they were considered one of the leaders. Based on group dynamics and their physical role, I never would have guessed it, which led me to think that even though there are many types of leadership, I still believe it involves a level of assertiveness.
In witnessing this very women-led company, I find myself thinking about the differences between men and women as leaders or bosses, and oftentimes find my thoughts centering back on assertiveness. I think that, regardless of someone’s opinion about which gender makes for a “better” boss, companies run more effectively when there is a balance of different types of thinkers, different types of leadership style- and this requires numbers of both men and women.