Leadership Lessons from my Little Buddies

For the majority of my life, I have felt the need to serve others and this has come in the form of volunteering and serving as a mentor. Volunteering has shaped who I am today and has taught me valuable life lessons. There have been times in my life when I haven’t volunteered due to work and school obligations takeing precedence. During these times I have only served myself, I have felt a huge void in my life. My spirit sinks into the ground and I don’t feel I am contributing to making the world a better place.

My first volunteer experience entailed being a “Big Buddy” to six “Little Buddies” when I was a senior in high school. As I sat at the head of the table every week, I felt a bit unsure of myself as six impressionable freshmen peered up at me, hoping I would provide words of “senior” wisdom. This was one of my first experiences of being a leader and let me tell you, it was uncomfortable. I felt I had to be serious and pretend that I had my life figured out at the mere age of 17. I thought, “What can I teach these young kids when I can’t even decide which college to attend?”

At the end of the semester, my little buddies completed evaluations of me. To this day, their feedback still rings loud and clear in my mind. They said I was most effective as their Big Buddy when I allowed them to get to know me. WOW! Powerful stuff if you ask me. There were times when I would let my guard down and be my fun-loving self who would share the trials and tribulations of high school. Then other times I would resort back to my awkward self –  the self who wasn’t quite sure how to act as a leader to young kids with such impressionable minds.

What I learned from being a Big Buddy is that you are most effective as a leader when you are authentic. When you pretend to be someone you are not, a barrier is put up between you and your employees. As a result, you do not fully own your power, which ultimately prevents you from being the best leader you can possibly be. When you are comfortable with you are, your employees will feel comfortable and confident with you as their leader.

Colleen Canney is a Career, Life, and Wellness Coach based in Seattl, WA. For more information on Colleen, please visit her website at: www.colleencanney.com.

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