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A Lesson in Leadership – The Douglas Project

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As part of the Communications and Leadership class, we listened to TED Talks about the gender gap which inspired us to take action to change the imbalance of women leaders in the sciences (read our first blog).  We organized The Douglas Project to share our experiences as women working in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry with female undergraduate students from Douglass Residential College (read our second blog). Planning and executing this event changed our understanding of what it takes to be a leader. Here are some of the things we learned. 

What is leadership?

We thought a leader was someone who is worthy of being followed and strived to lead by example.  Now we realize there is more to becoming a good leader. 

  • Leadership requires being aware of yourself, and how you interact with others.  A good leader influences other people.
  • Leaders need to come to terms with reality and look for opportunities to create a positive change. Leaders focus on making a better future.
  • Leadership is a combination of beliefs and actions, including encouraging, inspiring, and listening to others.

How the Douglas Project changed us. After the event, we reflected on our experience how it changed our perspective of leadership.  Here are some individual thoughts from us:

  • “I identified hidden strengths. I loved mentoring people who are in the same position that I was in not too long ago. I enjoyed talking to them and sharing my experiences.”
  • “By listening to my classmates, I found aspects of my leadership style that I want to develop. I want to become bolder in the workplace and to make my voice heard.“
  • “I’ve learned the value of speaking up when I have something to say and the importance of communication.

In coordinating this event, we discovered that collaboration requires daily planning and constant communication.  We began to anticipate when we would hear back and used group emails to keep everyone up to date which helped us feel better prepared. By collecting feedback on areas which required clarification (like what Douglass Residential College is), we could fill in any gaps which might have prevented us from being successful. Clear communication allowed us to work effectively as a team.

Leadership is more than inspiring others; it is also about challenging ourselves. We began this project to help others and in the process stepped outside our comfort zones and demonstrated our ability as leaders.

Before this event, we had defined leadership as the ability to inspire and gain the trust of others to change our shared vision into reality. Now, we realize that leadership requires planning, a willingness to reach out to people and acting to make something happen. We discovered that leaders need to listen and to share. We became self-aware by listening to our peers, understanding the perspective of our student audience and sharing our experiences. 

In the Douglas Project, we put our ideas into action. We created the change we wanted to see. We became leaders!

MBS Women's Leadership Initiative (edited by Sue Weston and Karen Bemis)
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