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Amy Bergstrom
SADL 5120
Dr. Maylon Hanold
March 15, 2015
Leadership Growth Plan



I love leadership education, both for myself and for sharing with the students I work with.
I have never been one who enjoys being in the spotlight, and one of the great things leadership
education has taught me is that leadership can manifest itself in a lot of different ways. As I
continue to grow as a leader, I am guided by my values of joy and community, and I work with
my strengths in enacting creative change, empathy, and commitment to growth. I view leadership
as a process of moving toward a vision for change, and I continue to seek to grow as a leader in
both formal and informal ways in order to serve my community and profession in the best ways
Personal Values
I have worked at a lot of jobs I have not loved. It took several tries in different positions
at different companies for me to decide to focus on a different field. But at every job, I also had
people I loved tremendously, both at my workplace and in the life I built around my work. I
realized that I certainly want to find work that I love, but no matter what, my work will only feel
meaningful if I am connecting with my coworkers. As I move into working in higher education,
that will also include connecting with students. This realization relates to what I have come to
understand is one of my core values: community.
I choose the word community to encompass other things I value, such as empathy,
friendship, laughter, engagement, and justice. All of those require community, being together
with others in some capacity. Even love cannot exist without community. I find community at
many levels, in small groups of friends and in my neighborhood and city. I am personally a big
Seahawks fan, but one of my favorite things about their success the last couple of years has been
the way the entire city has rallied together as a community in support of the team. I strive to



foster community in the spaces I inhabit and to think about the impact of my actions on the
people around me.
Another of my core values is joy. I choose joy not because it comes easily to me but
because it does not. People may be surprised by that, because I am outwardly a happy person. To
me, though, joy is deeper than happiness. Being happy is a response to circumstances; when
things go well, I am happy. Joy is finding peace, gratitude, and purpose in all circumstances. In
all of those jobs that I did not love, I worked to find purpose in why I was there, and that helped
me to experience joy in those places. To be guided by joy, I have to be aware of my need for it.
Valuing joy requires me to pay attention, especially to when I am not joyful, and to work through
the struggle to find that joyful place again. Choosing joy also helps me to encourage others to
choose joy. That is part of what helps me to build community, and I believe it makes me a
positive force in others’ lives.
Strengths as a Leader
Three of my biggest strengths as a leader are my ability to enact creative change, my
empathy with others, and my commitment to growth in others. The ability to enact creative
change is tied to the concept of challenging the process, one of Kouzes and Posner’s (2009)
practices for exemplary leadership. This means a leader is always looking for opportunities to
improve how things are done and fostering experimentation and innovation. I am good at
managing processes; for example, my work involves detailed tracking of students’ servicelearning in a database. However, I am always looking for better ways to do the processes I
manage. With service-learning, our online system broke down during my first quarter, and I have
spent the last four quarters experimenting with different systems to find one that will be easier
for the variety of parties involved with it.



Enacting creative change also relates to a specific element of vision that Palmero and Li
(2015) outline, stewardship, which is making decisions based on helping your organization be its
best and reach its goals. My work to find solutions and challenge the process is always in the
spirit of discovering how to accomplish things better, in pursuit of efficiency and excellence for
my organization. When I worked as a sports Web producer, I researched and proposed several
projects that could streamline our systems, such as developing an interactive timetable readers
could use for following sports on TV and the radio. This project would not only save staff time,
but I also believed it would be a better user experience, helping to keep readers engaged on our
website, which was one of the company’s goals.
On a more interpersonal level, another of my strengths is my empathy. Empathy is
sharing in another’s feelings and experiences, taking someone else’s perspective and
communicating that you recognize the emotions (The RSA, 2013). Empathy is largely
demonstrated through non-verbal cues (Hanold, 2011), a point that I find interesting because I
have often been told that my facial expressions communicate a lot. This can be a problem,
because it is harder for me to hide certain feelings such as skepticism, but I think it is helpful for
empathy, because my face is able to show that I am feeling with another person. Empathy is an
important part of emotional intelligence, which is crucial to leader performance (Galli, n.d.). In a
field like student development, empathy is particularly important as professionals balance task
management with care for students. I worked with a student last summer who came to meet with
me for a project, but immediately before our meeting, she found out her father had a heart attack.
She still came to the meeting, but my empathy allowed me to perceive right away that something
was wrong, and I supported her rather than focusing on the original purpose of the meeting.



Finally, I am also very committed to growth in others. There are many elements from the
leadership literature that relate to this strength. Providing followers with an identity is an
important piece of vision (Palmero & Li, 2015), and this involves being a mentor to followers
and influencing their development, as they influence mine. Commitment to followers’ growth is
also a driving factor in motivation (Palmero & Li, 2015). Related to motivation, selfdetermination theory (Stone, Deci, & Ryan, 2009) involves the core psychological needs of
competence, relatedness, and autonomy. I particularly appreciate this theory and try to
incorporate all three of those needs in motivating followers as my commitment to their growth.
I am aware of this with the group of student leaders I advise. In our weekly meetings,
there is space for relationship-building, as well as discussion of their relationships at their service
sites. Our trainings focus on helping them to feel confident in their roles and to develop
autonomy. Those two needs have been an interesting balance, as the students have often wanted
less autonomy (more direction) in order to feel more competent, so my supervisor and I have had
to experiment. For example, the students each have to facilitate a meeting, a preparation process
we have left to them to encourage autonomy, but they have not been confident in their
competence to lead the meeting. Next quarter, we are going to spend one of our meetings as a
planning session for the students. They will still have the autonomy to plan their own agendas,
but they will build competence as they feel more supported in the process.
All of my strengths are tied closely to my core values. Enacting creative change is one
way I find joy in my responsibilities. It gives me joy to do a job the best way I can, and it is
exciting to me to be able to envision new ways of doing things. It is also part of my dedication to
the community of the organization, because I am invested in the organization being the best it
can be. Empathy and commitment to growth are both important parts of community for me.



Empathy is essential to being able to build relationships with the people I interact with.
Commitment to growth is because of my commitment to community. As I am committed to
others in a spirit of community, it is important to me that I can encourage them and help them
grow. Being a mentor to followers is an aspect of my role in community.
Definition of Leadership
I think Kane’s (2015) definition of leadership is useful, but I do not fully agree with it. He
states, “Leadership is an influence relationship aimed at moving organizations or groups of
people toward an imagined future that depends upon alignment of values and establishment of
mutual purposes” (p. 4). With my alterations, based in part on previous work I have done on
leadership (Bergstrom, 2014), I define leadership as a process of collaboration and motivation of
a group toward a vision in order to create change. Defining leadership as a process rather than a
relationship is a contrast to Kane’s (2015) definition. He argues that defining leadership as a
process loses the human element of leadership. I appreciate his focus on human connection, but I
think that this element is represented in other ways through the concept of a process. To me,
leadership as a relationship creates an implied hierarchy between leader and followers. It invokes
an image to me of a single leader in this relationship as the only one influencing others.
Leadership as a process keeps the focus on how the group as a whole is relating and
functioning in order to move toward their vision. A process leaves room for the leaders of a
group to be fluid. There may be positional leaders who have legitimate power (French & Raven,
1959, as cited in Mind Tools, n.d.a) to direct the group. However, there are also likely other
leaders who have expert and referent power and are influencing the leadership process. Their
work together is all important to the process. I believe strongly that anyone can be a leader, that
anyone can “work effectively with others to accomplish change from any place in the



organization” (Komives, Longerbeam, Owen, Mainella, & Osteen, 2006, p. 405). Leadership as a
process does not focus on who the leader is but on how the group is working together to reach
their goals.
Relationship is also embedded in my definition of leadership because I base leadership in
a group that is collaborating with and motivating each other. A group, of course, implies several
people who are in relationship with one another in some capacity. And that relationship is one
focused on collaboration and motivation, so these are not merely individuals working parallel to
one another. Motivation, whether based in McClelland’s (1961, as cited in Mind Tools, n.d.b)
human motivation theory around the needs of achievement, affiliation, and power or selfdetermination theory’s (Stone, Deci, & Ryan, 2009) needs of competence, relatedness, and
autonomy, moves the individuals in the group to be their best as well as to create a cohesive best
for the group, in particular through affiliation and relatedness. The members of the group,
whether positional leaders or not, are all able to take part in motivating one another.
The last aspect that is important to my definition of leadership is that it is about moving
toward a vision in order to create change. Vision is key to most perspectives on leadership (see
Gerzon, 2006; Hanold, 2015; Kouzes & Posner, 2009; Palmero & Li, 2015). It is one of the
factors that distinguish leadership from management (Hanold, 2015). Without a vision for the
future, the process is instead about managing the status quo. Creating change is also related to
vision; the “vision” of a group cannot be to stay the same. Organizations need to adapt in order to
survive and grow (Welty Peachey & Wells, 2015). I do not believe that change needs to be grand.
A vision for change can be as simple as a sales team’s vision to increase their sales. Movement
toward that vision for change is also necessary, because it keeps the vision from merely being an
intellectual exercise. Leadership involves taking steps to realize the vision.



My definition of leadership is closely related to my value of community. It is because I
value community that it is important for me to understand that anyone within the group involved
in leadership can be a leader and have influence on the process. Community also relates to the
collaboration and motivation aspects of my definition. Those two elements are woven into
community. I connect joy with my definition through the vision for change. In my own
leadership, joy needs to be integrated into that vision. In addition, having a vision for change
helps bring me joy, in a world where I can see that so much change is needed.
This is also why my definition of leadership helps me to be a leader for a just and humane
world. I work to have a vision for how the world can be more just and humane, and I need joy in
order to believe this change is possible. I also see my leadership as putting me sometimes into
positions where I can have a greater influence for justice, such as when I led a group of students
who were organizing service projects to engage their fellow students. But often, my influence for
justice is not through positional leadership, and I need to be a leader wherever I find myself. That
is why it is important for me to understand leadership as a process in which I as an individual
citizen of the world can be involved with others as we work for change. I am part of the global
community who is collaborating for a better world, and I need motivation from others to
continue this work that can often seem fruitless. I benefit from the ideas of others, especially
those with different identities and perspectives than me, and together we are leaders for a just and
humane world.
Future and Development
As I move to my last quarter of graduate school and prepare for my first professional job
in student development, imagining the future is exciting but nerve-wracking. I see myself in the
next five years working in a position where I am developing students as they understand



themselves as leaders, both in positions on campus and throughout their lives. I will be advising
student groups and developing and facilitating trainings in leadership and identity, helping
students to find their own voices and understandings of themselves. All of these aspirations are
based on what has been influential to me as I understand myself as a leader. Leadership
workshops I have participated in have helped me to understand how my own inherent or
socialized characteristics can be useful to me as a leader. For example, being an introvert is not
commonly acknowledged as typical of leaders, but I have learned to appreciate that this aspect of
my identity can help me as I empathize with others. As I support students in developing their
own understandings, I will continue to learn about myself and from others so that I can continue
to grow as an educator.
I do not aspire to high positions in my professional work, as I want to always maintain
direct interaction with students, but I can imagine myself as an assistant director of an office if
my daily work can still be very much with students. I will continue to draw on my strengths of
empathy and commitment to others’ growth, especially the growth of students, in all that I do. I
will seek opportunities outside of my professional work to be engaged with community, locally,
nationally, and globally, whether that is working with community-based nonprofits, involvement
in professional associations, or connecting with people all over who share my passions and
interests for changing the world.
As I continue on in my professional life, I think my current leadership strengths will
continue to serve me well, and I will also develop new strengths naturally through the
individual’s equivalent of developmental and transitional change (Welty Peachey & Wells, 2015).
However, as I move into different types of positional leadership, I will need to grow in specific
areas. It will be important for me to develop in my ability to form a vision and to communicate



effectively in a crisis. Vision, as described earlier, is important for any leadership, and in my
observation, positional leaders are particularly charged with articulating a vision for the group
they are leading. I am definitely a detail and process person, and while I believe in the
importance of vision for leadership, that is still an area for growth for me. When I was an
undergrad, I led the planning of an award ceremony, and the parts I most enjoyed involved all of
the details of the event. As the coordinator, though, I also needed to communicate an overall
vision, to help my team understand how the details fit into what we were trying to accomplish. It
was a challenge for me then, and it is still an area of growth for me.
The other goal for my personal leadership development is to become more adept and
prepared for communicating in a crisis. Not being prepared to deal with a crisis can be a disaster
for an organization and its leaders (Schroeder, 2015). The main reason I think I need to grow in
this area is simply that I have not had experience dealing with any major crises, and crisis
management is particularly important in the field of student development (Nienow & Stringer,
2009). Some of this ability will come through facing crises, but I would also like to use the plans
outlined by Schroeder (2015), such as creating a communication plan, to be prepared in my
future roles. As a person dedicated to care for others, I cannot let others suffer in a crisis just
because it is a learning experience for me.
Leadership is complicated, requiring many layers for individuals to successfully move as
a group toward a vision for the future. As I continue to develop as a leader, I will draw on my
values, especially those of joy and community, and build my strengths in order to collaborate
with others to work for change in our world. I imagine myself as a leader who is invested in

students as they learn to understand themselves as leaders, and together we will motivate each
other to grow and change.




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