Positivity & Empathy in Leadership

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In this week’s blog I would like to debrief on a culmination of experiences that have increased my skills and emotional intelligence in leadership. During my three weeks abroad so far, I have found myself coaching and motivating others in ways that may not seem so obvious. I have also found myself leading by example more often while in Spain. In everyday life I guide my peers to make more informed decisions and to think critically with cultural awareness. The days in Spain are long, our schedules are packed, and our classes are challenging. I am one of 17 people participating in my program through Drury University. While my classmates and I face a lot of similar challenges, we also have many different issues due to being in higher or lower levels of Spanish classes, living in vastly different areas of the city, and living with different host families with different values.

Each day, I motivate my classmates to think more positively about situations that may not be so great and I push them to be problem-solvers. For example, we recently had an excursion to Santander, Spain which is along the northern coast of the country. When we arrived, we knew that there might be rain coming soon. It was cold, but we wanted to be able to have the experience of walking on the sand with our bare feet, and getting knee deep in the icy-cold Cantabrian Sea. I kept a positive attitude as I started to feel raindrops falling and urged others to quickly pack up their items so that we could get somewhere dry quickly. I made fun of myself for not bringing an umbrella and proceeded to use my beach towel and sun hat as cover from the rain. As it started to rain even harder, I told some of my peers how pretty they looked covered in rain water, keeping the mood light. We then all agreed to trek to the first cafe we could find. When we finally found a place to stay, I reminded everyone that we can officially say that we got in the ocean in Santander. We could officially say we walked barefoot on the sandy coast of northern Spain. I was miserably cold and wet, but I absolutely had a smile on my face the entire time. I think that one of the most important leadership qualities is being able to stay positive when situations seem sour.

There have been times on this trip where I’ve offered comfort to my peers as well and I consider empathy to be a huge part of leadership. No one has ever wanted a manager or boss that doesn’t care for them, so for me staying compassionate for others and considering others’ feelings is really important. I have comforted a friend who had a scary situation occur in the streets of Barcelona at night. I have sat in quiet friendship with someone that received bad news while abroad. I have offered companionship and likeness to a roommate who cried at the dinner table, because the meal made them miss their dad. It’s the challenging times like these that have been extremely rewarding for me.