In December 2019, I applied to be a part of the North San Antonio Chamber’s Leadership Lab Program. Leadership Lab is the North Chamber’s award-winning leadership and professional development program. Every year, a class of up to 100 professionals (from varying industries) apply to become a part of a nine-month training program that focuses on five core elements of leadership: professional performance, leadership, management, community service, and self-awareness. I was grateful to have been chosen to represent ADKF in the Class of 2020 cohort - the Most Plagued Class Ever!
I began my leadership journey with a Kickoff Breakfast at the Petroleum Club in February, and shortly after (before stay-at-home orders were issued and the COVID-19 pandemic impacted group gatherings) I traveled to the Flying "L" Ranch in Bandera for a two-day retreat. The retreat was a self-reflection activity for me to focus on how to grow as a leader, and coming out of it I felt more inspired, encouraged, and excited to engage with other professionals and leaders around me.
After the retreat, the program transitioned to virtual, once-a-month, learning sessions. Each month’s session introduced some of the best practices of leadership styles and skills to become more effective leaders. One of my favorite monthly sessions was ‘The Leader as a Change Agent.’ Learning to adapt to the ‘new normal’ while trying to create a circle of influence as a leader was not easy, but this session in particular focused on developing the skills that were necessary for me to understand the evolving workplace in the unchartered waters of a pandemic. In fact, one of the most beneficial takeaways from this session was how to lead with empathy and communication with a ‘perspective taking.’ I still remember one of my favorite quotes mentioned in one of the sessions: “Empathy fuels connections. Sympathy drives disconnection.” I have learned to apply perspective taking as part of a form of communication in both my personal and professional life.
Over the past nine months I have become more aware of my leadership style and have started to apply the skills that I have learned from Leadership Lab sessions in both the workplace and my personal life. When I first started this program, I thought I knew my strengths as a leader, and I was certain that I had the professional skills and experience to lead effectively. Now that the program’s sessions have come to an end, I have strengthened my communication skills, my negotiation skills, and relationship building sills. As I prepare to graduate from the program, I am grateful for the experience, the network I built with some of San Antonio’s emerging leaders, and the professional growth I was able to attain which has helped me discover my leadership style.