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Shennel’s Five Steps to Leadership

Shennel’s Five Steps to Leadership

7:00 am: wake up, prepare breakfast, pack lunch, make tea, and morning routine in general. Commute about an hour to my internship at the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center. 9:00 am starts with emails. Administrative work, meetings, and research during work time. Leave the internship at 5:00 pm. Commute “home” for about an hour. Talk to Mom and friends in between commutes. Make a light snack, sometimes take a nap when I arrive home, and prepare for class. 6:30 pm- 9:30 pm: Activism, Protest, and Social Movements class. After, return to the apartment for a home-cooked dinner. 10 pm- 11:30: the African Student Association E-Board Meeting. Midnight: double-check whether I’ve done all the essential things on my list and sleep to start the next day at 7 am. 

This is a synopsis of how my Tuesdays replay themselves. Sometimes it is quite different and sometimes it is similar. However, this tells you a little more about my story. Your story may be different. My name is Shennel, originally from Liberia, but I live in the U.S. capital, Washington, D.C, at this moment. Many times we hear stories about leadership and becoming successful. Often I read memoirs and wonder what is the magic behind these stories. What I have figured out over the years is that, how well and much you believe in yourself, would give you the answer to your question. Below are five steps I have used to become a leader:

Embrace your life story 

My story probably started earlier than I imagined, but it became a realization when I was about five years old. It all started when I saw a woman on TV advocating on behalf of Liberian refugees. I cannot 100% tell you what exactly was going through my head, but what I can tell you is that my little mouth yelled out to my mom saying, “I want to be like her.” My mom, who is my number one supporter, directed the train to my destination now. She encouraged me to put myself out there and find a seat at the table. Going back to my roots reminds me of why I am who I am, where my journey started, and who I am as an individual. Embracing my story has allowed me to lead with my heart and analyze situations logically. Embracing my story allows me to appreciate my experiences, and be authentic and optimistic.

Be true to yourself 

With the world evolving every day and technology being the center of attention, many of us run to social media for the answer to our questions of who we are or should be. Knowing who we are and being true to ourselves is one of the ways we can establish our foundation of self-love before coming across something that may damage our existence in certain ways. Yes, I know we come in different personality packages: introvert, extrovert, or ambivert. However, this step to good leadership skills will help you develop the strength to lead by accepting your values, origin, and beliefs before making decisions. The benefits of being true to ourselves give us high self-esteem, help us step into our power, and guide us in staying aligned with our unique selves. This could place you in a position to agree and disagree with things without feeling guilty and wishing you should have played both sides. It could also be a space for you to dialogue, despite your stance, and not get into an endless debate every time. Family for me is everything, God comes first, Mom directly after. Another thing that is close to my heart is being a proud African!

Establish your WHY 

Attending college again the same year I got my first bachelor’s degree would not have been something that would have crossed my mind when I was planning my future early on. Though there are many opportunities to explore. This is still the contemplation of mostly communicating or establishing a relationship with many younger individuals; especially with the fact that in my country “age” is a ‘big thing.’ That is just one of the many reasons to establish your “why.” Everyone has different answers to their why. As much as I can share my experiences with those who want to go that route, it may still be a new journey for you. To be honest, most of my planning or resolution process starts with pros and cons, but in the end, I go with what I go with. Just putting it out here, tunnel vision is a real thing. That’s why you need time to establish your “why.” No pressure, just know that you are not alone. Establishing your “why” allows you to be intentional— motivate and inspire others, and communicate with clarity. Remember, don’t let your decisions be clouded by others’ judgments.

It is okay to say NO respectfully 

Seeking validation, wanting to be better every time, fitting in, and people-pleasing are terms that exist among us. I appreciate the fact that we are available to help people out and uphold communities, but it is also essential to take care of your well-being. We can start by saying ‘yes’ when needed and saying ‘no’ when required. This is when we need to value these words: kindness and self-worth. Kindness and self-worth look good together. Needless to say, advancing to respectfully say no, we would need to create a difference and balance between these two words. Balancing your courteousness is putting yourself in a position where you would not have to sacrifice your sense of self-worth when saying yes or no. I know it is often harsh to say no, but it is always better to go through your day mindfully than go through the motions of “what if.” Respectfully saying “no” does not always need the word “no” but needs the idea of disagreeing. Don’t speak just to speak, rather speak to fulfill your purpose. A little testimony: my first big “respectfully, no” felt as if I was smiling when asleep; it was one of the “I think my mom is proud of me” moments.

Every Change you make should establish a sense of becoming better 

Attaining two Bachelors in similar majors within an eight-year back-to-back timeframe is interesting. Sometimes I wake up even surprised about the bossy move. And sometimes I wake up dancing to the beat of my own growth and achievements through this journey. All through my life change has been constant but something that was hard to achieve for me. I attended the same school from pre-school until Grade 12, had the same friends for about 18 years, and called for water or lemonade or both every time I eat out. Best believe it takes me forever to make a change. Nevertheless, I have reconciled that change is bound to happen as long as you exist. This superpower lets us move forward in life and experience exciting and new things. Definitely, it will be strange at first but I urge you to remember that change triggers progress, which actively works when evolving yourself. 

I started my leadership journey in Liberia, professionally at 11 years old. My first real breakthrough was working on the manifesto for the development of the Liberian Girl Child, highlighting the transformational power in women and young girls. Since then my leadership has expanded in many places and aspects. Why you are a leader should come from the core of your inner self. Leadership looks different for everyone. Remember– without change in your leadership routine, there would be little/no sparks that bring butterflies to your stomach.