One of my favorite parts of being a Fellow is the leadership training we get—both in and out of the classroom. Every Friday, we have class on the principles of leadership. This Friday, we had the privilege of learning about leadership from Union University’s president, Dr. Dub Oliver. He explained that, in leadership, there is no formula. The leader is being shaped alongside those being led. Our thoughts, feelings, and actions are brought together, and it is a journey for both the leader and the led. He also taught us a model of leadership. This included a foundation of strengths, five practices of effective leaders, and integrity. He emphasized the importance of knowing your own strengths and the strengths of those you are leading and adjusting your leadership based on those strengths. He explained that the world often focuses on fixing people’s weaknesses, but effective leadership happens when we build on our own strengths and the strengths of others.

Most Fridays, we have the opportunity to get outside during Principles of Leadership class and practice what we’ve learned in the classroom. We go out to the soccer field and attempt different “leadership challenges” with our service team. This is a great opportunity to grow with our team and practice our leadership skills. During last weeks’ challenge, my team was able to see a real-life example of what Dr. Oliver taught us about strengths. Our challenge involved balancing a tower of a hammer, a ruler, and a rope off of a table. The rules were that all three items had to be connected, the ruler was the only thing allowed to be above the table, and the tower couldn’t be touching the ground— leaving the very heavy hammer dangling. This was very difficult and honestly did not seem to be possible. However, through working together, we figured it out in no time! When debriefing how the challenge went, we realized that we were each contributing our strengths in order to help each other, rather than focusing on our weaknesses. For example, one team member knew how to tie the kind of knot we needed in the rope, so we stepped back and let her take the lead on that. Another team member knew the physics, so he stepped in and helped us understand how balancing these things might work. Because we utilized our strengths, we were able to complete the challenge and learn a lesson about leadership. This was a great representation of what Dr. Oliver taught us about leveraging our strengths for good. Learning about leadership inside the classroom is great, and it makes an even bigger impact when we get to put what we’ve learned into practice.

by Leah Sutton