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EVOLVE-ing One Week at a Time

Posted by on Friday, September 5, 2014 in Student Leadership.

This fall, the Office of Student Leadership Development is conducting its inaugural EVOLVE program, led by Krystal Clark, Wil de los Santos, and Brandie van Order. The primary purpose of this program is to develop students’ identities as leaders, and after our kick-off meeting this week, I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this program.

The Leadership Philosophy
EVOLVE operates according to the acronym ACCESS, which stands for Accountable, Collaborative, Communicative, Ethical, Service-Oriented, and Supportive of All. Each week we’ll be focusing on a different letter/area, so I’ll write more about this so-called “leadership excellence philosophy” as the program progresses. (So we have a lot of acronyms––it keeps things interesting.)

Before the program started, each of the forty participants took an evaluative battery called StrengthsQuest. This is a test of sorts that reveals your strengths, or at least your talents that could potentially be strengths. The forty of us were then divided into eight “clusters” that balance our strengths.

For example, my top strength is achievement, which is described as follows:

This theme helps explain your drive and your a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by ‘every day’ you mean every single day—workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied. You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, to achieve more. After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. Your relentless need for achievement might not be logical. It might not even be focused. But it will always be with you. As an achiever you must learn to live with this whisper of discontent. It does have its benefits. It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges. It is the power supply that causes you to set the pace and define the levels of productivity for your work group. It is the theme that keeps you moving.”

My next four are as follows:
1. input – I collect information and am interested in almost everything
2. communication – I like to bring things to life through stories
3. activation – I am impatient for action
4. strategy – I identify problems and make a plan to fix them

Achievement falls under the “executive” domain, input and strategy are under “strategic thinking,” and communication and activation are under “influencing.”

It’s not exactly science, I must admit––it actually feels more like reading a fortune cookie––but it’s definitely interesting to ponder the accuracy and meaning of these qualities for my life, or more specifically, my work style.

My cluster represents a balance of other traits: ideation, connectedness, positivity, winning others over, learning. (Some of these sound similar but they are actually quite distinct.)

So at the kick-off session, after introducing ourselves to our clusters, the entire group did one of the classic ice-breakers: share an interesting fact about yourself. I heard about childhood experiences, sports involvement, skills ranging from bar-tending to SCUBA diving, and bilingualism and travel experiences to exotic places like Gambia, South Korea, and Argentina. I usually groan inwardly about icebreakers, especially ones that instantly make me feel like the most boring and typical person ever because I can’t think of which fact to share, but I was excited when I realized exactly what a vast store of experiences, abilities, and goals that this group of forty people represents. I eagerly await the next seven weeks’ worth of Wednesday-night meetings, primarily so that I can get to know these complex and interesting people on a deeper level.

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