While we certainly promote developing, coaching, and continually improving leaders – it is what our business is based upon! – we also have found, through years of assessing employees and studying their personalities and backgrounds, that some qualities are persistent and identifiable far before an individual is old enough to join the work force: qualities of a natural leader. If we were to record every attribute needed or beneficial to becoming a strong leader, the list would be limitless. Therefore, we chose 5 key qualities to focus on when selecting and spotlighting our 2018 Emerging Leaders: Commitment to Goals, Independence, Awareness of Own Strengths and Weaknesses, Positive Energy, and Effective Listening and Communication.
For our first featured student, meet Lauren Hutson! Lauren is a graduating senior at St. Pius X (SPX) High School in Atlanta, GA, currently accepted to study neuroscience at Georgia Tech next year but still awaiting answers from a few other schools – including Yale! – before making her decision. Besides being involved as a cross country runner, swim team manager, National Honor Society President, and leader of her school’s freshman assimilation program, Lauren also started her own professional photography business and her own foundation, People Not Projects, in which she has provided hundreds of refugee families with complimentary portraits.
Read more about how Lauren not only fulfills the values of an Assessment+ Emerging Leader – which, in her own words, are “work ethic, integrity, and – most of all – humility,” – but blows them out of the water.
Plus, find the link to her full interview here.
I tend to set my goals so that I can always work toward them and never become complacent with anything less, as it incentivizes me to continue my perpetual self-improvement.
But while I strive for this perfection, I’ve learned to accept a sense of accomplishment and, once achieved, set a goal with an even higher bar.
I have set an unending goal of taking care of myself. I remain extremely conscientious about what I put in my body by eating very healthy, exercising six or more days per week, and maintaining a healthy mentality as a socially-, athletically-, and academically-applied high school student. I also have three main current goals: to live so that if anyone were to say something negative about me, no one would believe it, to finish high school with my sanity intact, and to learn how to relax.
I transferred high schools my freshman year, and I made this decision independent of my parents. In changing schools I took on the challenge of reinventing myself to ensure a very gratifying high school experience. This new school has given me the continual opportunity to evolve from my introverted, self-isolating middle school self into a personable and compassionate friend, as well as a vigorous and dedicated student.
I’m very proud of myself for deciding to take this leap of faith; it was the first time that I actively sought out positive change for myself rather than settling and remaining in a place in which I knew I was unhappy.
My biggest weakness is putting everyone else first (which is definitely not wrong in and of itself), but in doing so, I have taught others that I come second. My forgiveness and kindness is free to all people, and because of such, I appear very easy to take advantage of. I’m very quick to disregard my own needs for those of others, to an unhealthy extent. To counter this, I had to work to transform my kindness from the draining activity that it once was. I no longer expect gratification for it and it no longer undermines my coping with my own problems. I’m working hard to command respect from others now.
I know that it sounds slightly neurotypical to say that “happiness is a choice,” but my positive attitude toward everything I work for in life has affected more positive change than I ever thought possible. I used to be an adamant pessimist, and I didn’t realize the degree to which one’s mentality impacts performance. I got faster in cross country when I put my head into it, reinforcing myself with positive statements rather than bombarding my self-esteem with the self-doubt, telling myself, “You will never reach your goals.”
After I applied to Yale University, I was emailed with a request to interview for the school. I showed up to a coffee shop and met one of the most intimidating men I’ve ever encountered in my life; he was disarmingly smart and quick in his speech, and started asking me questions immediately. He inquired about my use of particular words and challenged all of my opinions, sometimes just for the purpose of playing devil’s advocate.
I was so determined to make a good impression to increase my visibility to this prestigious school that words just started coming to me. I’d been taking a debate class that had made me very aware of my inadequacies in speech, but I mustered up all of the skill I had observed and held what was probably the best conversation of my life. This man was a Pulitzer Prize winner for books exposing the racial injustices of this country, and we had very different life experiences that I worked very hard to bridge and come to a mutual understanding.
Leadership is the capacity to inspire others; to try to unlock people’s potential for greatness and make them actively work toward realizing it. To lead from the back, letting others succeed in front. As their leader, your responsibility is not to strive to put greatness into them. Their greatness already exists deep within their multitude of efforts, talents, insights, and enthusiasm. Your task is to evoke it. This is what I try to put into place in my own leadership roles. I think that a leader should be first and foremost understanding and willing to become a beginner every day.